As a counselor for teenagers and college students, I often see clients who are struggling with personal identity and need counseling for self-esteem and to develop a personal sense of identify. High school students, college students, and young adults often have trouble figuring out who they are and exactly how they should navigate their world. This involves dating relationships, friendships, developing a sense of personal right and wrong, etc. They often look to me for input on what the “right way” to handle a situation is. However, I can usually only talk about what is right for me, or what has been “right” for other people. That doesn’t mean my ideas will be right for them. So I find ways to ask questions that will encourage them to think about what is important to them, what they want, or how they want to “see” themselves or have other people see them. Quite often, rather than tell a client what they should do, I will tell them what I’m thinking about as they describe what’s going on for them. I do this so they can compare my ideas with what they are already thinking and gain some clarity about what they want to do.
Sometimes when I’m providing counseling for self-esteem issues, or self-concept issues, my client realizes they should be doing something different, the idea seems good but they have trouble picturing themselves doing something different because it feels awkward, at least at first. When one client mentioned this during a counseling session, it reminded me of something I saw on a TV show once.
I was watching a tv show not long ago and the main character, a US Marshall, was asked why he wore a cowboy hat all the time. His quick response was, “I tried it on and it fit”, The implication was that sometimes you try something new and if it fits, you keep doing it.
This is one of the objectives of therapy. Sometimes you just need to try a new behavior or way of thinking–and it if works–keep doing it until it becomes second nature.
People often feel that if you adopt a new attitude, belief, or behavior other people will think you’re just pretending to be somebody or something that you’re not. But if you try it on and it fits, why not just keep wearing it? After a while, people (and you yourself) will be so comfortable with it you won’t feel like you’re playing dress-up anymore.
Gary Watson is a solution focused counselor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He works with people who want counseling for self-esteem, depression, anxiety, self-confidence, relationships, and more. For more information about Solution Focused Therapy and how it works, visit the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association website.