Exposed

As graduation from my master’s program is approaching at an alarmingly fast pace (2 weeks….ah), I have been reflecting on how difficult, joyful, and formative the last two years have been.

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Per instruction by a supervisor to write a letter to my post-grad self, I cried over my computer (in public, at Starbucks – the norm) as I realized that me making it to the end was pretty much a miracle given all the obstacles and setbacks I’ve faced in grad school. As if becoming a therapist isn’t hard enough (classes, internships, jobs, 500 hours of therapy to complete, a thesis), I had to do it all in the midst of my parent’s heartbreaking divorce, my own struggles with anxiety/depression, and the emotionally exhausting process of being vulnerable with myself and others while finally accepting that it’s okay for me, a therapist, to seek therapy too.

If I could choose one word to describe the past two years it would be this: exposed.

Every insecurity, flaw, or fear had to bare itself. I quickly realized there was no option to hide behind perfection or the illusion that I had it all together. I couldn’t do it by myself. I really didn’t know if I could do it at all. From the moment I started this program, I felt the inadequacy and shame that accompanies imposter syndrome as I compared myself to the rest of my cohort, who were extremely intelligent, talented, and compassionate. How could I belong here?

Thankfully I had supervisors who saw through me – who challenged me to do better, and called me out when I was doing less than my best, or when I was trying to hide behind the appearance of being ‘ok’. I had to do the hard work of learning to ask for help, talking about my emotions, having painful conversations, setting boundaries with people I love, and admitting that I felt less than enough.

As nice as it was to have people who saw through me, it was even greater to have friends who simply saw me. If it weren’t for the people who spent countless hours listening to me, helping me process my emotions, holding me through tears, laughing with me, and making me feel deeply loved and understood, I wouldn’t have made it. The past two years have given me lifelong friends. The people I used to see as more than me are the people who have made me feel like I am enough.

Below is part of the letter that I wrote to my future self. Maybe you need to hear these words too.

I know you love looking back and being proud of yourself. But success looks different depending on the season. You don’t have to be on top of everything, or be the best, or be everyone’s favorite to be successful. In the end, success was showing up and getting things done even when you didn’t feel capable, or your heart was breaking, or you felt unseen.

I hope you remember everything you learned during the most difficult two years of your life. Never have you felt so exposed. Never have you endured so much at once. Funny how the most difficult times held the best moments. You took care of yourself, and worked through pain, and learned how to ask for what you need. You set boundaries, you were vulnerable. You met some of the most loyal people in your life. You loved, and were loved, deeply and unconditionally.

You danced. A lot.

You cried. A lot.

You doubted yourself. A lot.

You learned. So much.

You helped. So many.

You healed. Yourself, and others.

Anyone can love you, but not everyone will choose you. Keeping choosing people. You are valuable apart from being a therapist. You are enough apart from what you can do for others. Sometimes you don’t need to fix it. Your feelings aren’t facts. Your feelings are valid.

You, as your authentic and exposed self, are enough. 

With honest love,

Claire

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