Am I sad enough for counseling? Are my problems big enough? Have I suffered enough?
These are all very normal questions when considering counseling, but why are we asking them? Well, the answer has to do with the stigma around counseling and receiving help in general.
The general stigma is that whoever is involved with counseling is weak, soft, and probably has some severe issues. Why does this resonate with so many? The reality is that society has a way of encouraging the outdated thought process of “Suck it up,” or “Rub some dirt in it,” when people struggle with pressures from work, socially, within the family, and personally. The powerlessness can be crippling, and we fall into a learned helplessness. Why try? People learn to tolerate and internalize issues because they can’t do anything about them and things don’t change. The reality is that this mindset is weak, soft, and has some issues at its core.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are trapped in the bottom of a hole, and you can see daylight at the top. Ask yourself what takes more courage and strength, stand up, dust yourself off, and find a way out or accept that you are stuck and that’s reality.
The same is true for counseling. Pursuing counseling takes courage and strength, and it is the clearest version of self-love that you can do because it is a commitment and dedication to your well-being mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. People go to the gym to become physically fit, so why is it different to do things to become emotionally and mentally fit?
Recently, I had the pleasure to work with a man who started counseling because he was encouraged by his wife. He was super apprehensive about the process because his problems “weren’t big enough” and he was taught that men don’t talk. However, he quickly warmed up and we got to work. After a session or two, he described to me a difficult childhood, difficulty feeling heard in his relationship, and questioning his worth professionally and personally. We processed the origin of these themes, and he finally got it.
Suppressing his needs meant his needs didn’t get met.
It was a revelation, and suddenly, his reality was shattered. It wasn’t that people didn’t care about him. He didn’t allow people to care. He became so accustomed to being stoic and strong for everyone else that he never learned to show up for himself that way. When we reflect on how far he has come, he refers to it as a different version of himself.
A dad, husband, sibling, friend, and coworker really did well for himself and was perceived as successful by others, but something was missing. He felt the missing piece, but he was afraid to look at it and be honest with himself. It took courage and strength to look behind that door.
Today, he could not imagine life without that work he did.
That’s what counseling is about. The individual journey differs, but the premise is based on taking the steps for self-improvement and choosing to do something different when something feels off. Whether it is depression, anxiety, a loss, life transitions, or something that just doesn’t feel right, counseling is more about updating and making a choice for something better.
Look out for loved ones, and have tough conversations. Counseling is not weak, and your worst problem is your worst problem. Take the step towards something better for yourself or your loved ones.