We Choose to Do the Hard Things

I love being a counselor at the Center for Identity Potential because I hate it.  The therapeutic work I do here is hard – for me and for my clients – and that’s why I choose every day to continue to do it.  Because real change requires discomfort, and finally, for once, I have found a group of people who understand me well enough to push me, to challenge me, to make me uncomfortable.

See, I’m gifted.  I’m used to being looked to for direction.  I’m used to having the answers.  I’m used to being in control.  I’m smart.  I’m nice and easygoing and well-liked.  I’m manipulative – I can read people better than they expect me to be able to.  And for a long time now, I’ve been able to use those traits to make most of my interactions go the way I want them to go.  I’ve been able to keep myself comfortable.

I don’t like having that taken away.

And I’m so grateful that it is taken away here at the Center.  We require of ourselves, as counselors, the same things we ask of our clients.  Every week I sit in a group counseling session for our staff members.  And because everyone here is dedicated, brilliant, and educated, we push the boundaries of our knowledge and abilities.  I am forced to admit when I don’t know an answer.  I get called out when I am wrong.  I learn and try new things, and feel foolish when I don’t master them fast enough.  Perhaps most uncomfortable of all, I am forced to own my strengths, forced to accept the burden of my abilities.  I am asked to be authentic.  It is hard, and I hate it, and it is what I’ve always wanted.

I think we all get this on some level.  We push for our gifted children to be challenged academically, because we know that is what will help them grow.  We know that challenge is what they really want.  But too often we fear to challenge them in other ways, worried that they won’t be able to handle it or that they will resent us.  Many psychiatrists and therapists are happy to prescribe medication and teach a few emotional regulation techniques and stop there.  That’s comfortable for everyone, and it’s not unhelpful, but it’s not enough.  Because what a gifted child needs is the same as what everyone else needs; not to be managed or trained or fixed, but to be seen and understood.  The difference isn’t in the need, but in how complicated gifted individuals are, in how difficult it is to really understand them and let them know that they are understood.  Because it is difficult, most people don’t do it.

JFK famously promised that we would land Americans on the moon “not because it is easy, but because it is hard” seven years before it happened.  It’s always struck me that we, as a culture, remember not only the act itself, but the bold promise that preceded it.  I think it has something to do with the truth that is revealed in the full quote:  “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

If we want to be our best, we have to choose to do the hard things.  I’ve made my choice.