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Woman Smiling
Woman Smiling

This Above All: Uniquely You

This Above All: Uniquely You

“Do you really think my work matters to clients?  I am never sure. I am only 28 and have so little experience doing psychotherapy with clients.” Yoshi’s long dark hair framed her serious face. “ I wonder if I should just stay in teaching and research where I know I am trained to do the work.”  Yoshi had come to the US on scholarship to get a PhD in Clinical Psychology and, despite inadequate self esteem,  had much to offer. Reticent about speaking up, she had been raised in Japan where she was taught  to respect her elders, remain modest,  and follow orders.  As a Clinical Professor  I have mentored Residents and Graduate students  since 1990.  Yoshi was the least confident student I had been asked to mentor. She needed to trust her own abilities to be able to use them to best advantage. Yoshi badly needed to improve her self esteem in order to live  life to the fullest. Yoshi’s story illustrates the need for self-esteem.  Unlike a plumber ,  the tool kit of a Clinical Psychologist is not wrenches and screw drivers, but consists of concepts in psychological assessment, research, theory, and therapeutic interventions.  Without self-confidence, it is difficult to trust one’s clinical judgment despite solid training and  Yoshi’s insecurity was  holding her back.  Her voice was so hesitant that clients mistrusted her ideas. I was not confident that the 10 months of weekly supervision offered to her would suffice.

To help her think more positively, in addition to the more customary readings and meetings, I introduced her to the work of Virginia Satir, a founder of family therapy and champion of the human spirit. Satir had been instrumental in my own training and I have recommended her books to many.  I gave Yoshi “My Declaration of Self-esteem” and instructed her to read it often. Short and easy to understand, Satir’s  writing teaches that the foundation of  being a person is the unique combination of talents and love that each of us has to contribute to ourselves and to each other.

"My Declaration of Self-esteem"

In all the world,
there is no one else exactly like me -
everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, 
because I alone choose it - I own everything about me - my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, 
whether they be to others or to myself - 
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears - 
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me - by so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts - 
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, 
and other aspects that I do not know - 
but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, 
I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me - 
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, 
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me - If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turned out to be unfitting, I can discard that which I feel is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. 
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, 
and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me - 
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me - 
I am me &
I AM OKAY

Satir’s simply elegant words remind us  that “I own me and therefore I can engineer me. ”

To Consider: As you sit on the beach or finish a school year this year, please  stop  to consider your uniqueness in our world.  Take a moment to modestly celebrate who you are inside, and  think about how your spirit contributes to the lives of those you love.  Notice how much you contribute to our world.  In the final analysis, above all else, you are what matters most in your life

To read: The New People Making. Virginia Satir . Science and Behavior Books. 1988

*Originally published in Dr. Coche’s blog on Psychology Today, 021514

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