Starting a new thing is hard and it comes with inherent challenges. While most challenges can be planned around, a more mysterious challenge presents itself when we take our words literally. It turns out, when this happens, we are less likely to behave in flexible ways. In the past, this literalization and inflexible behavior is where I’ve gotten stuck.
In 2009, I made some pretty big life changes on the path of professionalism. But prior to 2009, I struggled to make myself believe that I’d be taken seriously as a professional; I took the thought, “Nobody will take me seriously” very seriously. When the word “nobody” floated through my mind, I took it literally – as in, no person on the entire planet will ever take me seriously as a professional. Sure, it was all-or-nothing thinking. Sure I could check the facts and find at least one person who’d take me seriously. But this kind of reframing was more mental gymnastics that dug me deeper in a cognitive ditch. As my partner, parents, and siblings will confirm, I can argue endlessly. Besides, the issue wasn’t necessarily the content of my thoughts… who doesn’t have imposter syndrome thoughts? Who isn’t afraid to make a big change? The issue wasn’t my thought content but instead my relationship to the thought: The issue was that when the thought showed up and I took it literally, my behavior narrowed and I settled into inaction.
After a series of reality shows (thanks Dr. Drew!), some high-quality therapy, and consistently committing to be behave like the kind of professional I want to be in the presence of the thought “Nobody will take me seriously as a professional,” I found myself creating a much bigger life. The more choices I made that aligned with professionalism, the more steps I took on the path of professionalism, the less tight I held onto the thought that I won’t be taken seriously as a professional. But the thought didn’t go away.
Look. I still don’t believe I’ll be taken seriously. I still have that old, salty imposter voice lurking in the shadows of my Mind. So what. I’m willing to show up and act like a professional anyway.
“This Hard Thing”
I’ve been interested in starting a group practice since I left grad school. And yet, starting a group practice seemed like this hard thing I couldn’t do. But I’ve done a ton of things I didn’t believe I could do – why doesn’t the evidence crush that lingering doubt? Truth be told, I have a longstanding habit of selling myself short. So there has clearly been some other driving force (if not my “belief” in my ability) that has inspired my commitments these last ten plus years…
My value for professionalism has been a guiding light in my life for the last ten years. Taking steps down this path of professionalism has opened the door to me feeling uncomfortable while I learn – steps along a valued path is what we call “valuing” in ACT lingo. So, valuing professionalism has opened the door to valuing learning, which has opened the door to valuing acceptance, parenting, relationships, autonomy and independence. Which is just to say that the decision to open WCA requires a leap of faith, and jumping is an act of valuing down all these paths. Specifics are important here, so let’s speak specifically to my values:
- Being of service is important to me; WCA has the capacity to reach a ton of people who will benefit from access to skilled clinicians and evidence-based treatment.
- Skilled clinical work and evidence-based practices are important to me; I’d like to be part of a system that reinforces clinicians who value continued education and the highest standards of mental health care.
- Community is important to me; I’d like to work and collaborate with clinicians who practice from a similar therapeutic stance of acceptance and mindfulness.
- Parenting is important to me; I want to model to my daughters that I’m willing to take a leap of faith (even when it scares the sh*t outta me).
It does matter!
While the reasons I’ve gotten stuck in my life don’t matter (and knowing why doesn’t get me closer to action), being able to point to a guiding light is SUPER important for us as human beings. These guiding lights – our values – are inherent reinforcers of our behavior. If we take a step on a path that we value, we’re more likely to take another step down that same path. For me – and hopefully for the clinicians who practice here – West Coast Anxiety is another step on a deeply meaningful path.
Our commitment to you at West Coast Anxiety is to help you put down the struggle with those unhelpful thoughts and that pushy anxiety. We will help you find your guiding lights – a number of Polaris stars that can light your darkest nights. We will invite you to take teeny tiny or REALLY FREAKING BIG steps on the life paths that fill your heart with meaning and purpose.
Welcome to West Coast Anxiety – let’s make your life BIG too.