I recently returned from maternity leave and have been reflecting on how becoming a mother has reinforced some key lessons I learned on my own journey of recovery and that come up often in my work as a counselor.
#1 – I Am Strong
This became my mantra in recovery and has stuck with me ever since. Through counseling, I realized how strong I was and how to direct that strength towards the things I wanted in life – my values. I find that this is also a revelation for many of my clients – they do not view themselves as strong but as weak. The truth is my clients are some of the strongest people I know and through therapy, they discover their inner strength just like I did many years ago. Motherhood has only served to reinforce this for me – I am stronger and more capable than I ever realized. As a counselor, I love helping others discover their own strength and put it towards building a personally meaningful and fulfilling life.
#2 – We All Have Needs
This is a tough one for many of the clients I work with – they do not want to have needs and will deny and sacrifice their own needs oftentimes for the sake of others. When you’re caring for a newborn, all of a sudden your entire day consists of needs – and you have to meet your own needs in order to meet those of your child. I tell my clients frequently that self-care is not selfish – in fact it’s the opposite of selfish. We cannot give to others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Not only has motherhood reinforced the importance of self-care for me but it’s also been powerful to watch my daughter communicate her needs with no shame or guilt – which leads me to wonder – at what point do we start feeling guilty about asking for our needs to be met? Through counseling, you can identify what your needs are and how to meet them.
#3- I Am Human
I make mistakes on a daily basis; this is part of being human. Yet many of us struggle with the things that make us human. I believe there is nothing more beautiful than our humanness – our imperfections, our uniqueness. I’ve grappled with perfectionism and motherhood intensified this drive at first. It later served to reinforce my need to work on letting go of perfectionism and embracing my humanness on a daily basis. Our humanness is our connection to others and the world around us. Perfectionism only serves to rob us of our ability to be present, among other things. Yes, being human can be messy but it’s in the messiness that we find beauty, love, joy, meaning. . . When perfectionism shows up for my clients, we work on acceptance of what is while moving towards what matters (i.e. your values).
These things may be basics but they are not always easy to put into practice. And they are exactly that – a daily practice. The goal is not one of mastery because we are never done discovering our strengths, meeting our needs, or practicing acceptance. These aren’t things we check off a To Do List and then never revisit. Some days these things will come easier than others but the idea is that we keep at it and we expect to stumble along the way, after all, we’re human.
Catherine S. Tilford, MA, NCC, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Westminster, CO specializing in eating disorders and disordered eating, body image, depression, anxiety, and personal growth. Please feel free to contact Catherine with any questions or to schedule an appointment.
Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net