Ah October, you beautiful month you, here I am, sitting down at my kitchen table in an empty house, two spice-spiked autumn breeze candles with hints of ginger, amber and bergamot, plus a base note of musk (I don’t think autumn candle scents are overrated at all!) glow subtly beside me as the crisp autumn air is punctuated by the remaining warmth of the summer sun……
So where to begin this Fall…how about with education, or perhaps backing that up, let’s begin with the feelings of doubt and hesitation one feels about formal education. I write this post because it’s not only a boat I have talked with many clients about being in, it’s also a boat that I have been in myself that I had to step out of. The boat of doubt. The boat of, “I’m doing what I’m doing in life right now because the fear of doing anything else is paralyzing me and stopping me from stepping out of the boat.”
I was definitely there six years ago. I had graduated with an undergrad in psychology in 2002 and then worked with my family for years, always knowing that I wanted to be a Clinical Counsellor but never actually thinking that I was smart enough to pursue a Master degree. That fear of not feeling good enough, smart enough, capable enough, held me back and kept me in a very small boat on a giant sea of possibilities with little sense of direction.
In addition to the feelings of doubt and worry came a feeling of being pregnant, and it actually was more than a feeling, it was a reality. I was 29, pregnant and not living my dream. Then one day, the small, faint voice that sounded oddly enough like Stuart Smalley, got loud enough to convince me to pull up my boots and apply to the Gonzaga Masters of Counselling program.
On a chilly April morning at 4.5 months pregnant I headed into the Gonzaga University “pageant weekend”. It was like a very toned down Miss America….no bathing suit or evening gown portion, but certainly lots of time with the “judges”, (the profs of the Masters of Counselling program), and lots of time chatting up, figuring out and eyeing your fellow contestants, a portion of whom would be the lucky few to make it into the two year graduate program. If ever there was a time that I felt incompetent and doubtful, it was that weekend, not knowing if I would be worthy enough to make it into the program.
Fast forward 5 months and one, one week old baby girl later, I started the Gonzaga Masters of Counselling program. A two year journey of intense learning, personal and professional growth and moments of extreme relief followed by periods of stress and anxiety. To make this story “pithy” (a nod to my prof Elizabeth’s favorite expression), I did it! I received my Masters in Counselling Psychology and today I can say that I am confidently in the place that I know God wants me to be -raising a family and collaborating with others to help them live their best life.
I tell you that story because, as I mentioned above, my story of self doubt is not unique. I have had the privilege of counselling and coaching many amazing individuals who for various reasons have stopped short of pursuing their dreams, many of which involve pursuing higher education. The reasons vary: the timing is not right, the cost is too high, they are too young/old, but underlying most is the common ground of fear and doubt that they are not good or smart enough.
Let me be the first to tell you from personal experience that you ARE good enough. You CAN do it! It is a step by step process. It is a staggering mountain to look at from the base, but by breaking down the journey into one step at a time and literally just putting one foot in front of the other day after day and pacing yourself, that once unattainable peak becomes more and more within reach.
In the past year I have had the opportunity of seeing six clients begin formal education that they once thought was an unrealistic goal. Each one is now invested in education that is meaningful to them and pursuing goals in fields they are truly passionate about.
For other clients, the education may not be in a formal setting such as a college or university classroom; however, I believe education plays a massive role in the therapeutic process. First, there is the learning about one’s own self – how you process information about yourself and others, how you form your set of beliefs and values, and why you make the conclusions that you do. The first part of therapy is really an education about you, dissecting all the parts that make you tick and then tuning the parts up and putting them all back together in a way that makes sense for you.
Second, education is gained through various forms that can include but are not limited to reading, in session teaching, exposure therapy (a fancy way of saying trying things that you have been scared to try in the past out), journaling, meditating, and praying.
The ways in which we learn to grow are endless. Most of us just need to take the giant leap of faith and believe that once we jump, we can actually soar!
DID YOU KNOW: For those in universities such as UBC-O, many counselling services, including those by yours truly, are either fully or partially covered? If ever there is a time to seek counselling it is during the strain and stress of school! Check out your benefit package today to see if you qualify. Here is UBC-O’s information for current students.