As most of you know I am a Registered Dietitian. Like any job in a therapeutic capacity, my success is largely dependent on my ability to forge strong relationships with my clients.
What happens when you have a client you don’t connect with?
You can try to talk, validate a little, offer some ideas… and then there is that awkward silence… but the bottom line is... when you are not connecting to the client, you feel stuck.
And then there is that moment when the client admits that they feel stuck.
And that is often the point where we actually make a connection. We can finally relate. We can then begin to break down the barriers and get a bit more comfortable being vulnerable.
This morning I had a client who came to me because she was concerned about her young daughter’s weight. She told me a story that a family member shared with her about how she was so self conscious as a child. She thought she didn't have friends because of her weight, but she eventually realized that it was because she pushed everyone away as a defense mechanism. She thought people wouldn't like her because of her weight and so subconsciously she sabotaged herself and all of her relationships.
Why would someone do that? There are many reasons, but on a simple level, I think it’s because how we feel inside is what we project outside. When my client wasn’t connecting with me, I was also not connecting with her. I felt stuck, so I projected that feeling onto her. That put a barrier into the conversation before we even started. But it’s a basic human need to connect and be accepted. And the opposite… rejection... oh even the word sends shivers down my spine.
What happens when I feel rejected? Picture this… I walk into a room. No one looks up. I don't recognize anyone. I have a pit deep in my stomach and my heart starts to beat a little faster. Suddenly, I am 5 again, entering a new room full of strangers for the first time. I am in a time warp. Can that happen so quickly? Can all of my internal work and adulthood be lost as I slip back into childhood in a split second? Yes, that is what happens. Well at least a part of me is 5 again. That part takes over my system and then all of the vulnerabilities and insecurities from that age come flooding back.
From a young age, society dictates what we need to be. Be thin at all costs. Be loud, but not too loud. Be confident, but not too much or people will think you are arrogant. Be assertive, but not too much that it will make others uncomfortable. People won't like you if you're full of yourself…
There are a lot of distorted messages and rules that make us confused as we grow. They stay with us no matter how hard we work to shove them down.
But what I have learned in my 30 years of life is, (aside from learning not to shove those feelings down) despite all those expectations, if you like yourself, all the right people like you anyways - even if you don't follow all those confusing rules.
AHH!, I know what you are thinking… that you wish that wasn't true. Because if you are like me, you can relate to the feeling that we never really like ourselves. OHHH I hate admitting that to the world but it is so true. Too bad we never knew that earlier. Again, how do I know that many people relate? Because I have the privilege of sitting on both sides of the table. I get to counsel and be counseled.
I see that every single person I have talked to struggles, has secrets, hates themselves sometimes and feels awful. And we all want to figure out what is wrong with us. Something must be wrong with us. Diagnose me please? Tell me what pill, or therapy, or relationship, or teacher, or mentor, or job, or lifestyle, or exercise, or diet, or, or, or… one of those things will cure me from this disease called life. But nothing actually will cure me of this self doubt. Well, not a pill anyhow. Because I am not sick or fatally flawed when I feel bad about myself - I am human, living a human experience.
Compassion and self compassion are a new island I live on today… Thanks to much reading and probably too much therapy. Too much pathologizing myself. But I don't care, Well I don't care at this moment. Because through all the tears and deep struggles to identify who I am, I get these glimpses of moments where I understand everything and I feel content. I feel content knowing someone may not like me or may not like how open I am, but others will and others will heal from my openness.
We project what we feel because projection is a natural and primal form of connection, since infancy. But we are big now and we can connect from a place of strength and confidence. When we have that ability to truly connect, we can say goodbye to that projection of stuck and hello to self-acceptance and deeper connections.