I’ve always said that I learn as much from my clients as they do from me. The insights people share with me as they work on their mental health often inspire me and I believe help me to improve as a psychologist and a person. But ever so often people will share their dreams and goals and what they aspire to change and it also motivates me to take a look at myself and how I’m doing with my own mental wellness. Although it is communicated in many different ways, I often hear a statement like, “I want to be the best version of myself”. In spite of it being a frequent comment, it never fails to move me. It makes sense that someone would come to therapy to work on finding the self inside that they connect with the most and that feels the most authentic. I believe that is what most clients mean when they say they are looking for this “best version” of themselves that they would be most in sync with.
In contrast, many people will begin therapy because they are feeling disconnected from themselves. Possibly because they have been “performing” for a long time, trying to be what others expect or responding to old messages from the past that resulted in holding onto a sense of not being good enough. People will tell me that they have spent their lives trying to please everyone, all the while taking themselves further and further from connecting with who they really are.
This lifelong battle of trying to be something we aren’t can produce depression, anxiety, sleep issues, addictive behavior and a general sense of feeling mentally unwell. Often when people first start therapy they tell me about a sense of sadness and/or anxiety they feel for “no reason”. They will speak about having a constant companion of low mood, crying, racing heart, lack of motivation or nervousness but they just don’t know why. It isn’t until we begin to dig into thought patterns and self-talk that we can really begin to understand someone’s worldview and how they see themselves in that view, that we can begin to highlight the inconsistencies between what they tell themselves they want and their actions.
I love working beside individuals during this difficult but important, even critical work. Resolving old unhelpful messages in our heads that only serve to help keep us stuck in behavior patterns we don’t want, is the work that many of us should do at some point. Allowing ourselves to break free or to unhook from a negative self belief and the destructive behavior as a result can be life changing. I am privileged to have witnessed the movement people have made in their own lives when they come to understand who they really are and to accept it wholeheartedly.
My true self, the one I was born with, not the one that has been abused, ignored or told she isn’t good enough. That is the one I want to spend more time with. Surely, that is the best version of me, isn’t it?