I’m amazed at how fast time has moved over the course of this program. I can hardly believe there are less than three months left. As I was looking back over the last year and a half, I’ve come to realize just how many positive changes have snuck up on me, and I hardly noticed when these changes became my new normal. Below are the four biggest changes this Counselling Program has made in me.
I hear people better because I have honed an incredible set of listening and noticing skills and can connect with people on an empathic level. I strive to understand what message is being conveyed to me, rather than letting strong emotion get in the way of understanding. It’s never an easy thing when someone is angry and shouting at you, and it’s more upsetting when you’re trying to help this yelling person.
Before these listening and empathy skills had become a norm, it was easy to become upset or hurt at that angry person. Now, it’s a little easier to take a breath and talk that person down a little without taking the anger too personally.
2. There’s an improvement in my self-compassion and self-reflection
Self-compassion was almost nonexistent in my old vocabulary. I would be very hard on myself for perceived errors and tend to beat myself up over mistakes. I have come to realize that this is never helpful and is a change I continue to work on.
Now, when I reflect on an event or interaction, and I don’t like the outcome, I try to understand what I didn’t like about it, what I wanted to do differently, and what I think and feel about it. Then I take that information, and rather than beat myself up, I tell myself “You did the best you could at that moment. We’ll use this new information to try it differently next time.” I encourage you to try it, it’s amazing how much what we say to ourselves affects us.
3. My friends and family, even acquaintances, ask for my input because they see a difference in me
This one caught me by the biggest surprise. It’s less and less the nurse’s input they want and more and more the counsellor’s input they seek. On more than one occasion, someone in my life has asked me “Hey, I feel like I need to talk to someone and you were the first one that came to mind.” This is such a humbling thing to hear, and I’m grateful for whatever changes they see that has made me feel like a safe person for them.
I have a close group of people I go to when I need that kind of support, so it’s so incredible when some else trusts me to be that person for them. This doesn’t mean I will become the family’s therapist but it means I can make that first step forward a little less intimidating and can point someone in a helpful direction.
4. I take a little more time for myself so I can fully be there for others
This is something I know a lot of people, not just me, have struggled with. We give and give and give until we’re exhausted and still we feel guilty if our bodies tell us we need a break. We feel selfish setting boundaries or saying “no”. This is such a big problem that we keep pushing ourselves to give, get upset with ourselves for not doing enough, or start resenting others for not acknowledging or appreciating our efforts. This is such a dangerous cycle for so many of us, that I feel like it deserves its own conversation but I’ll try to summarize here.
I have learned that for me to keep giving, to keep helping, and to keep from burning out or resenting others, I absolutely have to say no sometimes. Sounds a little odd I’m sure, it did to me at first. I have to start listening when my body is demanding a break, and take care of it so that I can come back and keep giving. If I’m exhausted and haven’t eaten well or slept enough or taken care of myself, I’m not at my 100%, which means I’m not giving 100%. So by saying no to some things, I can give more quality to the things that matter most to me. Makes sense right?
These are just a few of the changes I’ve seen and made in my life, and have found beneficial. There are many more and I’m grateful for all of it. It’s pretty cool to see how the work I’m doing in this program and in my practicum are directly and indirectly improving my personal life.