Thursday, May 20, 2010

on love and myself

The last few months seem to have been a continuous exercise in learning to accept myself. While I hope and aspire to be a many great things in the future- great things that I am not right now (smarter, more compassionate, less judgemental, etc.), it's been a bit hard to love myself for the Sam Kelly that I am right here, right now, today. 

I often hold myself to an unreasonably high standard and when I fall short, which happens a lot, I am too hard on myself. Like this last weekend, for example. I got some results back from online student evaluations for the past semester. And while there were many, many glowingly positive comments about me and my abilities as a professor, there were also a few negative remarks. I know this is normal and to be expected. I also know that I can't please or be liked by every single person but...I still want to. I couldn't help but take the negative comments as direct personal jabs and then all but forget about the happy, good comments. I ruminated on the bad and negative for pretty much the rest of the day. When Chas sang me Winnie the Pooh it only helped a little. Yeah, it was that bad. And that's just one example. Something similar happens when I come out of leading a therapy group and, for whatever reason, it didn't feel like a lot of progress was made. Almost automatically, I start questioning my abilities as a therapist, even my ability to help people just in general. I hate that feeling. 

Erickson would probably shake his head at my still struggling with the psychosocial task of identity formation requisite for teenagers. Whatevs. I blame it on research that says my brain won't finish fully developing before age 25. I've still got a few weeks left before I hit that mark. So there. 

But have no fear, because starting with today, for some reason, things seemed a bit clearer which is to say, I'm starting to feel more grounded in who I am. Today I felt confident and, even better, comfortable in my own skin. It's slowly, very slowly, starting to sink in that just because I don't know every single thing about counseling theories and art therapy practice doesn't mean I'm a bad therapist. For being 7 months into my first professional post-grad school gig, I'm actually a pretty dang good art therapist. Correct assessments of behavior, comments, and artwork are all starting to come more intuitively. I know more than I often give myself credit for and when groups don't feel warm and fuzzy I've accepted that that's totally fine- normal, even. 

Today, my supervisor reminded me that as a therapist, I am only there as a mirror. My job is to reflect what I see back to the patient, and that's all. I don't put on the makeup, I don't brush the teeth or comb the hair. I just observe and reflect so others can begin to see and confront reality as they do their own work and strengthen their own muscles and abilities. So if a patient or group is struggling, that is not a reflection of my ability but merely a reflection of where they are right then in their own process. This realization has been a long time coming and man is it appreciated. It feels like such a weight of unnecessary responsibility off my shoulders. Speaking of which, I don't think I've mentioned what a tender mercy my weekly supervision sessions are with my amazingly brilliant supervisor. It's like being in school again only I'm the only student in the class and the class is Sam's Work as an Art Therapist 101. Love it.

And that thing about the negative evaluations comments and subsequently feeling like a bad professor? Bleh. I can just chalk all that up to whiny UVU kids. Oh yeah, and let's not forget about that one particularly difficult student, too. Man alive, she really hated my guts. But then again, she was basically crazy so I can read what I'm almost positive are her comments and just laugh a little to myself.


Lora said...

i can relate to this on every a therapist, a professor, and a woman. i still remember the eval i got, um i think it was 8 years ago said, "i don't understand how lora can call herself a marriage and family therapist and wear the type of outfits she wears to teach our class. she claims to be a proponent of keeping marriages and families together, but she doesn't really portray that image." was it the stilletos or the fishnets, that was too much?! i never understood.

you're in a good process, sam...and coming into your own. feels good, huh?!

The Lusks said...

You are amazing Sam! I wish I could come sit in a few of your classes. It would be so fun to see you in action.

zlb said...

amen sam. i have felt that same way so many times. it takes time, reminding, and effort to develop the ability to take meaningful criticism with heart and courage, and let the negative meaningless stuff just float by. two things to read that have helped me: 1. sermon on the mount (but really, this pretty much helps in ANY context) and a really interesting book i stumbled on in grad school called "Self Theories" by Carol Dweck. she presents two ideas of how we perceive ourselves, it REALLY helped me learn to be more objective and reasonable about how to handle criticism from the outside or myself. Love you!

aunt khali said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sam. Hey, grab your "Feeling Good" book and check out the list of cognitive distortions on page 32. We all do this stuff.

It was so great to hear about your work this weekend. Your are a great lady, headed for great stuff.

Hooray for Sam Kelly, my daughter (in-law)!