Recently, I have been searching for a new therapist to work with. I believe that regular therapy is good for my mental health and important for my continued growth as a therapist and a person. As a client, I can empathetic with the process of searching for a therapist. I can relate to the vulnerability to reveal so much about myself to another person and the courage to make changes in my life. I am grateful to have a space where I can lay my burdens down for a bit and sort through my thoughts and feelings with a trusted professional who can provide validation, perspective, and wisdom. The process of finding a therapist who is a good match can be hard. Even with my background in psychology, previous experiences in therapy, and an idea of who I am looking for, it still takes me several trials and errors to find the right fit.
One of the struggles that I often see with my clients, my friends, and within myself is the balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves. The dilemma of whose-needs-come-first is one that I am intimately familiar with as an Asian American woman. Both as a woman and as an Asian American, I was taught from a young age to put the needs of others before my own as the highest virtue. It sometimes feels impossible to give to myself what I so readily give to others (e.g., time, attention, compassion, love, rest). The reasons why it is so hard to balance self-care and caring for others can include: there isn't enough time or energy to do both, I would be selfish if I focused on my needs, I don't really deserve to be cared for, and I feel loved only when I am needed. What I have learned over time is that always putting other people's needs before my own is not a sustainable way to live and it is the fastest way to reach burn out, resentment, and the ending of a relationship. In this blog post, I want to present a different way of thinking about this struggle. Instead of framing it as an impossible and unending dilemma, it might be helpful to see it as a stage of growth and development that is very normal and very human.
When I applied for my Ph.D. program in counseling psychology, I learned that one of the key qualities psychology programs were looking for in a prospective student was self-awareness. I had a vague idea of what that meant and why that would be an important quality in a psychologist. I thought self-awareness was the ability to spend lots of time thinking about myself, psychoanalyze myself, and worry about how I come across to the world. Well then, I prided myself in having plenty of it. It took seven more years of getting feedback on areas that I didn't know I needed to work on and being challenged about biases and beliefs I didn't know I held that I began to learn what self-awareness really means. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich provided a compelling summary of her research into what self-awareness is, the benefits of it, and how to improve it as a skill.
Happy new year every one! The beginning of a new year always holds such promise, hope, and significance for me. It marks the passage of time, which I tend to forget when I am busy going from day to day. The new year offers the opportunity to pause and reflect on what just happened in the past 365 days. And what a year it has been! I love the Seven Questions to End 2017 with Clarity and Start 2018 with Intention from my favorite podcast On Being with Krista Tippet. I love these questions because they are great prompts for journaling. Journaling can provide so many benefits, as outlined here and here, including improving our memory, improving our communication skills, healing our wounds, and boosting our self-confidence. In this blog post, I will take a moment to answer these seven questions for myself:
I created this blog to share information about living a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. I am constantly learning new things and making mistakes along the way. This blog is my way of chronicling my discoveries, musing, and lessons learned as a person and a professional. I invite you to come along on my journey of self reflection, discovery, and thriving with challenges. I also hope to exchange wisdom and enlightenment from you, my readers.
The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.