Therapist, Marketer, Small Business Owner, Human - An Embarrassing Story

We wear a lot of hats as a therapist. We are therapists, marketers, web designers, accountants, and office bathroom cleaners. Today I want to share with you about a cringe-worthy thing that happened to me last week when I was wearing my marketing hat.

So part of the deal of building a client base, for most of us, is that we need to network. I actually love the networking meetings, because I really like meeting other therapists in my area and having a strong referral base for my clients. I also want to be seen as a trustworthy clinician for people to send their couples to me. So it’s not uncommon for me to be meeting therapists a couple times a month.

These meetings are nothing to be afraid of. You meet, chit chat about each other’s work, and leave knowing another therapist who you can add to your resource list.  

Last week I set up a networking meeting with a therapist in town I hadn’t met before. The meeting was fine, typical career talk. Towards the end of the meeting he asked, “Do you have kids?” Which is a question I get often since I’m 34. I used my standard reply, which is a polite, “no.” Then he asked, “Oh, are you planning on having them?” Which I also get asked often, because it surprises people a little to hear me say I don't have kids. To which I replied politely, “no.” This is usually the moment people sense that this might be a sensitive topic, but it can also pique curiosity since it’s an unusual answer. Then he asked, in a therapist way, “Can I ask, when did you know that this would be the case for you?” and I BURST into tears.

 Me driving home from the meeting

Me driving home from the meeting

You know the kind of crying that’s kind of elegant, where your eyes get a little teary but you’re in control of yourself? Like Audrey Hepburn crying? This was not that. This was like, the door won’t close no matter how hard you’re pulling on it. The flood is happening! I could not pull the tears back in. The thoughts flashing through my head at that moment were: “you look incompetent! He’s going to think you can’t handle your stuff as a therapist! He’s never going to refer anyone to you EVER! He’s going to tell EVERY THERAPIST IN TOWN you are too emotional to be a good therapist!!!!” In these moments, I imagine there is an intercom button that goes out to all therapists in town, “Attention, therapists: Wesley Little cries in professional meetings, she will definitely not handle her stuff with clients.”

 

Uggghhhhhh, being human.

This painful vulnerability made me think of how much we have to risk in Core Skills when we show tapes of our work. It’s SO VULNERABLE to show yourself fumbling through EFT to a room full of your peers, who you hope would refer to you at some point. And this room of fellow EFT-ers are your tribe, the people you hope want you in the tribe as well. I think that fear of rejection can be so alive for us, that people will see us and reject us. Sometimes we even get teary in Core Skills, when we feel embarrassed or overly exposed about sharing our work with our peers.

So we’re therapists, we’re marketers, but we’re also human. We can’t be perfect all the time. Sometimes we’re going to have a fight with our partner at a restaurant, or show an awful tape of our work, or cry in meetings. It sucks, it feels terrible, but what’s the alternative? All we get is to be human. I trust as I’m writing this that you feel compassion for me. We’ve all had moments where our human selves are front and center. I know we’ve all had moments where we honk loudly at someone who cuts us off in traffic and then fear we just honked at a client.

So my hope for you today is to love your human self. That human self is essential to your therapist self! And that human self deserves some comforting. There’s a lot of held breath around being perfect as a therapist/human, and we just can’t be. We can still do great work with our imperfect selves.