Written by: Sonia Heidenreich, LGSW
I’m so often struck by the courage that people bring with them into the therapy room. It takes enormous bravery to be present with your own story, and then to tell that story out loud, in front of another person, and to remain open to the possibility of change and growth.
I’ve been thinking recently about how often our own stories—and I think this is more universal than we sometimes believe—contain the overarching theme of not being enough. Whatever it is we tell ourselves—"I’m not good enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m not kind enough, I’m not ambitious enough, I’m not interesting enough, I’m not healed enough”—can provoke enormous sadness and fear in us. Of course, that’s a difficult emotional place to be. Of course, we want to avoid feeling those feelings and try to move away from them.
It is exactly that moment when instead of instinctively moving away from those feelings of sadness, fear, or shame, we make the conscious choice to notice them, that we have an opportunity to practice courage, and to move towards growth. In my job, this is the moment when I hold the utmost admiration for the person brave enough to sit across from me and make this choice to stay.
I’m reading Pema Chodron’s book, The Places that Scare You, and she has this to say:
Tapping into that shaky and tender place has a transformative effect. Being in this place may feel uncertain and edgy but it’s also a big relief. Just to stay there, even for a moment, feels like a genuine act of kindness to ourselves. Being compassionate enough to accommodate our own fears takes courage, of course, and it definitely feels counter-intuitive. But it’s what we need to do.
Why is this what we need to do, you might wonder? Your answer could be totally different from mine, but I think we need to stay and make space for our own fears so that we can develop a different relationship with them. Maybe we can notice these fears for what they are—just thoughts or feelings, not absolute truth. Maybe we can start to use these moments as opportunities to tap into our own sense of strength, or that sense of self that lives inside us (but that we sometimes lose track of). Maybe we use these moments as an opportunity to change our stories, or to tell ourselves something different. Rather than believing that we’re not enough, we can make the choice to practice telling a different story: I am enough.
And you are. You are enough.
If it’s helpful, use that as a mantra for your day. With time, you will be able to begin to broaden and expand the stories you tell about yourself.