Melody Jackman, MA CMHC
“Meet your clients where they are” is a common catchphrase in today’s culture. Business professionals talk about “meeting customers where they are”. Educators discuss “meeting students where they are”. Budding therapists are taught a similar concept.
When a professional meets the client “where they are” the professional is willing to let go of any personal agendas and truly seek understanding and acceptance for where the person is on their personal journey. It means letting go of comparisons, ideals and what we think the client “should” be thinking, feeling, or doing. It is embracing where and who the person is in their individual process of forward movement and cheering on the efforts of the individual – no matter how small the steps forward are. The client is the one who knows what the end goal is and whether that goal has been reached.
When thinking about “meeting clients where they are,” I started exploring the challenges and benefits of meeting myself where I am. I started asking myself some revealing questions:
Do I allow myself to be in the space where I am without wanting to change it?
Do I allow myself to grow at my own pace, in the right way for me?
Do I cheer on my own small efforts and accomplishments in my forward movement?
Do I become bogged down by comparing myself to where others are?
Do I hold on to a list of ways I think I “should” be thinking, feeling, and behaving that are unrealistic?
When I think about “meeting myself where I am,” I feel a sense of freedom and acceptance for life as it is. I can more fully embrace the beauty in every moment. When I meet myself where I am, I appreciate that every second in time has value – victorious moments, flat-on-my-face moments, angry moments, and redemptive moments. No matter where one is on their journey, meaning and purpose can be found in every moment. But when meaning and purpose seem out of reach -or hard to find in the darkness- sometimes all one can do is cling to hope.
Comparisons are an easy quicksand for a soul to get stuck in. They seem innocent enough, but once you start in the trap of appraisal of self to others, it is hard to get out. Liberation from the grip of comparison comes by shifting our focus to the joy of our individual growth. At the end of the day, can we say that we are better than we were yesterday, last week, last month, or last year? Comparing ourselves to ourselves is the only legitimate way to gauge our growth. Responding to ourselves with self-compassion in our down times facilitates and fosters growth – and can be considered “growth” in and of itself.
We are surrounded by “shoulds”: constant messages of who, where, and what we “should” be. It is easy to erroneously try to meet the never-ending demands of some abstract “ideal”. But most of what I consider the “ideal” isn’t even realistic. My personal “ideal list” can become an unnecessarily heavy burden I choose to carry around because I believe the lie that I will somehow become more lovable when I reach “ideal” status. I have to remind myself that I am lovable in my averageness – just the way I am. The glimpses of oneself as enough -even when falling short- breathe sweet grace into my journey.
I would love to take up a permanent residence in the land of Meeting Myself Where I Am. This is a land of acceptance, understanding, self-compassion, progress, restoration, and wholeness. But I suspect that “meeting myself where I am” is more of a process than a place where I arrive. And so, for this moment, I choose to breathe in the moment and embrace the place where I am on my journey. Will you join me?