I have a mouth on me.
I use it a lot.
Not as much as I used to, and, I think, more effectively
than I used to, but it is still quite a mouth. I like the sound of my voice. I like
saying things people listen to, I like making people laugh. I like making
myself laugh if no one else wants to.
I like to swear. Sometimes a lot. This can make people
laugh, and this eggs me on because apparently I’m 12.
All of this can seem harmless, but the more we talk, the
more we feed the ego, and the more we feed the ego, the more we suffer.
I have also learned that talking too much, especially if you
are comfortable doing so, can be a form of theft. Looking back, I can see where
I have stolen the spotlight or the attention from people, I have stolen the
point they were going to make, or I have stolen a good time from them by making
a joke at their expense.
As I said in a previous blog, I am working on this. I have
come to believe that the more time one spends in silence, the happier and
healthier one is. The more I learn to not say something, the better I feel
about my day when I review it each night. The fewer jokes I make, the more
coherent I feel as a person (I have a future blog planned on how I tend to use
humor to keep people at arm’s length).
I am working to get in the habit of asking myself three
things before I speak.
“Is this true?”
“Is this kind?”
“Is this necessary?”
These are not my questions – I think they may actually be
part of one of the more misattributed quotes on the internet. Some list the
origin as coming from Sai Baba, others a Victorian era poem. I often see it as
originating with The Buddha. I have honestly considered starting a Tumblr just
to document misattributed Buddha quotes. I think any vague/pithy quote that
talks about kindness, compassion, meditation or peace is automatically
attributed to him.
Anyway, by allowing these three questions to have a voice
before speaking we can probably eliminate much of the damage our words do.
If something is true, we still have to ask ourselves if it
is kind and necessary. A lot of harm is done by speaking on things that are not
our business, or simply do not need to be said.
We may have something to say that seems kind, but is it true?
This helps us avoid flattery and dishonesty. It may be kind but is it
necessary? This forces us to ask ourselves just why we are saying it.
Is it necessary? This question speaks for itself. If
something is true and kind, but not necessary, why are we saying it? What are
our motives in speaking?
Together, these three questions create an interlocking
framework that can help us reduce a lot of the harm our words do, and can cut
out the number of words we say at all. It’s not fun sometimes, but it may be
better for those around us.
Is this true?
Is this kind?
Is this necessary?
I have a sliding scale with a broad range that I hope most
people are able to afford. I do this because I do not accept insurance, and I
am increasingly unlikely to ever do so. This isn’t a decision born of laziness
or a desire to limit my clientele to people who can afford private pay, but one
of ethical imperative and concern for my clients.
There are a few things you may not be aware of when using
your insurance for mental health care. The first, and most problematic for me,
is that being reimbursed for therapy will often require a diagnosis in order
for it to be viewed as “medically necessary”. This may not seem like an issue,
but it can cause difficulty if you ever lose coverage and need to re-apply
somewhere else. It becomes a part of your permanent medical record and
therefore may lead to other people having access to your mental health
diagnosis without your explicit consent. Further, not just any diagnosis will
do, so finding one that fulfills your insurance company’s requirements, while
also being appropriate for you can be difficult. It is unethical for counselors
to offer diagnoses for the sake of billing insurance that do not fit the
client’s particular situation. None of this even touches on the inherent
problems diagnoses carry in and of themselves, which is an entire blog in
The second issue pertains to confidentiality. Your insurance
will, most likely, require access to session records, many of which may have
things that you do not want other people knowing. Confidentiality and trust are
key in the counseling relationship, and they deteriorate for every outside
party that has a hand in the process. As counselors, we work hard to maintain
your confidentiality, and hate to see it violated, no matter the reason.
Lastly, when billing insurance, your treatment – everything
from how many sessions to what interventions are used – can be dictated by
someone with no actual training in mental health. As a counselor, I work with
you to choose interventions and goals according to what is best for your unique
situation. I am able to do this through years of experience, constant reading,
additional education and consultation with people wiser and more experienced
than me. With insurance, interventions may be chosen based on what is most cost
effective for your provider. Period.
None of this is intended to demonize insurance companies –
from a business perspective their policies make very good sense. It is
troubling that this is the state of our healthcare, and that a service you pay
so much money for is not useful when it comes to finding a counselor unless you
consent to multiple conditions that may not be good for you or your treatment.
As counselors, we understand this, and every counselor I know tries to find
ways to help their clients despite these limitations and restrictions.
Personally, apart from the sliding scale, I keep a certain
number of spots reserved for much lower rates and pro-bono clients, as well as
offering a Mindfulness Meditation group once per week that people can attend
for a small donation, or for free. I am also working to compile a list of
affordable counseling services in my area, which I will turn into a page on my
website. Whatever you do, look into the requirements your insurance company may
have before choosing to use it for mental health and make an informed choice
rather than assuming that it is the best way to find the help you need.
Hiding Behind Perfectionism
I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist, but I’m probably just a coward.
It’s a lot easier to say that I didn’t publish a blog or
give a talk or record a podcast because I couldn’t get it to be the way I
wanted it to be, rather than admitting that I wanted to avoid the potential
criticism that comes with actually doing these things.
I do have a perfectionistic streak, but I think that a
desire to avoid criticism factors into me hating everything I produce as well.
A list of potential criticisms follows every idea I have.
“What business do you have talking about embracing your fate
when I heard you complain about how hot it was just last week?”
“Who are you to say anything about being mindful when you
played video games for two hours yesterday?”
“You can work with people on their marriage and parenting
skills when you learn to be a decent husband and father yourself.”
“Meditation classes? You only sat for 10 minutes this
This can go on and on, and it does. It leads to the notion
that unless something I come up with is bulletproof I shouldn’t attempt it, and
this keeps me from doing the things I need to do in the time I need to do them.
I am not sure I would have ever had the nerve to open my own
office if I hadn’t been in a situation that necessitated stepping out on my
own. My mind offered some pretty valid reasons to be wary about leaving the
comfortable nest I was in.
“What if people are only coming to see you because you are free
as part of their tuition? It’s a whole different world when people have to pay
to see you. I am not sure you are good enough.”
“You don’t have any business sense, what happens when you
run your office into the ground?”
“You have a lifetime job right now, why would you give that
up? Careers like this don’t come around for people like you very often.”
“You don’t know anything about insurance or marketing or
making forms, and you probably aren’t organized enough to maintain your own
The thing is, I think that people seeing my business fail would have been worse than it actually failing. I have no problem picking up a shovel tomorrow if this counseling/meditating thing falls through, but I cringe at the thought of people seeing me fail. This is odd because failure is one thing I have a lot of experience with, but I seem to worry about it more now for some reason.
The only way to avoid criticism is to keep quiet and avoid doing anything (until someone calls you on not doing anything with your talents, I suppose). Hiding behind perfectionism works for a long time if we are smart about it. This has been my unstated plan so far, but I am trying to push against this.
Thoughts of failure may always creep in, but they are not valid reasons to quit. I am resisting deleting this entire blog because I feel like it is muddled – are we talking about a fear of criticism, the perfect as the enemy of the good, self-judgment or something else? Is it too choppy? Too wordy? What if this changes the way someone sees me for the worse?
These are all possibilities, but if I aim for bulletproof I’ll
wind up with nothing. There are no perfect things, and if there were it would
be very difficult for anyone to connect with them anyway.
Are there goals or dreams you are sacrificing because of a fear of criticism?
Are you hiding behind perfectionism?
Want more? I write a lot. I also have a podcast and post videos and mini-blogs on Instagram.
37 has been one of best years of my life.
It may have even been the best year of my life. I sit here
on my 38th birthday as a pretty happy guy. I have found more love, more peace,
more contentment and more autonomy in my life every year for the last decade.
The thing is, this hasn’t come from looking back, but from
being right here, in the present, with acceptance, while still making sure I
have hopes and plans and dreams for the future. These are my goals for the next
1 – Get my website and podcast launched
I fear judgment and criticism, and because of this I tend to
avoid doing things unless they are perfect (I have a whole blog planned on just
this). Things are never perfect, so I never do a lot of things I have planned.
I’ve deleted this blog 4 times already, and I will hate it once it’s posted.
So, one of my goals is to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good,
and letting my fear of judgment keep me from doing things. Specifically, this
means telling people this website and blog even exist, and accepting
constructive criticism on how to improve them. This means not deleting every
podcast I do (7 so far) and actually posting one, and accepting that it will
not be perfect.
2 – Get my diet in order
I am embarrassed about the condition of my body right now.
I’m scrawny, with a fat gut. It is more than cosmetic though – I don’t feel
well a lot of the time, and I turn to sugar to comfort myself/relax. I suppose
it’s less damaging than some of my old habits, but with the links between sugar
and various health issues I am not so sure. I have started working toward a
higher-fat, low carbohydrate, no-sugar diet, and I already feel better. Along
with this, I would like to do a better job exercising, but I am finding this difficult
with some of my neck issues. It seems like everything, even yoga, puts me in
too much pain to be functional. I am hoping an anti-inflammatory diet will
3 – Be more gentle
Man, this is a tough one. I think I am a kind person. I am
compassionate, I truly care about people, and I spend most of my time trying to
be useful to others. But I am not gentle. I have a tendency to speak pretty
harshly (I prefer to call it “direct”) and I can be dismissive of others when I
am focused on something. I am rough with objects – doors, cups, books, chairs,
etc. I suppose this isn’t terrible, but I feel like it might contribute to an
overall “roughness”. I can’t think of another way to say it, I would just like
to be more gentle to everyone and everything around me.
4 – Learn to write well
That’s it. I am not a fan of how I write, and I would like
to improve it. Blogging more is one of my strategies for this, along with
reading some books on the subject, and learning about basic grammar and rules
5 – Shut. Up.
I talk too much. I speak less than I used to, but I still
talk more than I would like. I get caught up on different topics that I like
talking about and I just don’t stop. I like the sound of my own voice, and, at
times, people seem to value what I say (which makes it harder to stop). The
thing is, this all just feeds ego and the idea that what I have to say matters,
and this is poisonous. There is actually an entire blog planned for this as
So there they are, goals for the next year. None of them are
meant to be self-deprecating or self-critical, just honest about what I can
improve on. What goals are you currently working with?