If you are a therapist, I know you have experienced this one before. Being out in public and wondering if you will run into a client. The nervousness you feel from that anticipated awkward encounter is indescribable. Wanting to speak but knowing due to confidentiality you can’t. Or not wanting to be bothered with therapy related conversations outside of a scheduled session. And my favorite, ducking behind the produce in the grocery store praying your client doesn’t see you with your hair bonnet that you kept on just to run out to get some eggs in the midst of preparing breakfast. If you have had the pleasure of working and living in the same town then you know what I’m talking about. Oh, you don’t? Well fine, I’ll speak for myself.
Since the start of my career I’ve typically lived in the same area as my office. Also, being a millennial therapist serving mostly young adults I’ve shared similar social interest as my clients. I often battled being “caught slipping” by my clients doing something “un-therapist like”. For example, my husband invited me to go to a day party for brunch. Which is something I don’t do often. Now to any other professional in the millennial age group, a brunch and a day party sounds like the move right? Well...not if your a therapist! The first thought that came to mind was, “What if my clients see me out in public semi turning up?”. The mere thought of going out and potentially not being able to be myself due to the fear of running into a client irked me so much I decided not to go. That had not been the first event or plans I passed up due to this worry and unfortunately it was not my last. That had been an ongoing battle I had been having since the start of my career. Trying to uphold the image that my clients have of me as their therapist and sacrificing some fun times in order to not disappoint them. Take the grocery store incident mentioned earlier. Making sure I look appropriate with the fear that this quick grocery store run could easily turn into a therapy pop up shop if I ran into a client. No matter how much I attempted to shelter myself, I had been unsuccessful at ducking clients in public.
After some deep self reflection I started to think about the countless amount of sessions I've had with clients encouraging them to be their true selves. Educating them on the benefits of letting their guard down and being unapologetic about who they are. Oh, and my favorite. Helping clients overcome feeling judged by others due to standards set by someone other than themselves. And here I was, subconsciously putting myself in timeout. On that day I declared that I was going to live my best life, even if I got “caught”. Yes, I am a professional therapist but I am also a person that likes to go out occasionally to have a good time and I was going to do just that.
Are you a person that consumes yourself with thoughts of how others perceive you? Do you find yourself holding back the real you due to the fear of being judged? No judgment here! Share your experience below, we've all been through it whether we want to admit it or not.