I found myself very frustrated with myself this week, and it took some self-reflection to figure out why. I was initially very frustrated with a professor who, I felt, had been making decisions for the class that were not educationally sound. I told him what I thought and I was sure that my frustration was coming through in my tone. I felt terrible about expressing myself with such frustration. Why couldn’t I have been calmer? Why couldn’t I have been more diplomatic? Why couldn’t I have been less irritable? The answer I eventually devised is that I am not a counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The reason why I was so frustrated with myself and why I felt so terrible was that I had not reacted to my professor like a counselor would have. I did not react with empathy and active listening and unconditional positive regard. I am, after all, a counselor and that is a very important role in my life. However, I realize that in that moment when I was reacting to my professor, I was also a frustrated student, a role I had a right to hold. I am a counselor, but I am also a student, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a customer, a stranger. I have a variety of roles in my life with different people and I am willing to allow myself to embrace them. I cannot always act and react like a counselor, because I am a human being with an emotional spectrum that reaches many other important self-identifying roles in my life.
Of course, I still want to be aware of how I react with frustration and anger. Even if I am allowing myself to embrace the role of frustrated student, I want to express myself in a receivable way that does not hurt anyone. I have a right to not be a counselor all the time, but I do not have a right to cause harm in the name of being human. I don’t think I hurt anyone during my recent interaction with my professor, but it was a good reminder to be mindful of practicing constructive criticism.
In the end, all of the self-reflection that led to my understanding and accepting of myself as a person who does not have to be a counselor all the time, in fact, does define me as a counselor. The person I am who takes the time to self-reflect, who cares for herself, and who cares about the way she treats other people is someone who is behaving like a counselor. I may not be a counselor 24/7, but the counselor in me influences the other roles I have in life and, from what I can tell, in quite a positive way.
Kristy L. Carlisle is a school counselor and a mental health counselor in training at Rider University. Her interests include protecting children from cyber-bullying and from food addiction.