One struggle I’ve had in learning to market my therapy practice is confidence. The funny thing is, I am extremely confident. About therapy. I’ve seen amazing transformations in my counseling office. I’ve seen so many of my clients grow and thrive, that I know I am good at what I do. I am excited about what I do, I love it, and I can’t wait to get to work in the morning.
Fear Of Being Perceived as Conceited
So what’s the problem? I have a gnawing fear that my confidence, if I let it show, will be misread as cockiness, or conceit. I looked it up and conceit is defined as “excessive pride in oneself”. To be conceited is to be vain, to think you are above others, or to have a false notion of how great you are. Yuck! I don’t want to be that.
I’m not sure why I fear this except maybe my parents’ well intentioned reminders about humility. “Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back” my dad used to say. It’s good to be humble in that I don’t ever want to think myself better than anyone. The people I like most in the world are those who are “down to earth,” who see others as equals, and who can laugh at themselves.
So, in trying to grow my private practice, I keep bumping into the spectre of conceit. It’s there whenever I have to get my photo taken, or put up a blog, or post an ad, or give a talk. Who does she think she is?
Kris Bryant, World Champion Chicago Cubs
Which brings me to baseball.
Whenever I have played baseball (or softball, or basketball, or volleyball, or bowling ball for that matter), I never, ever wanted the ball to come to me. I dreaded it. My thought was: I don’t have great hand-eye coordination. I might get hurt. And, I won’t know what to do next. I will freeze and will look stupid. I dreaded the ball because I had absolutely no confidence that I knew how to catch it or what to do once I got it, and I had no desire to overcome all of those deficits by playing more ball! The reason I had no confidence was because I had no competence.
Contrast this with Kris Bryant of the World Champion Chicago Cubs. Man of the Year, at least. The guy who’s play maybe literally saved the year 2016 for all mankind. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. If you saw game 7 of the World Series, you may remember the look on his face as the ball was coming to him for the winning play. He had the biggest smile, one that anyone could see was total confidence.
Kris Bryant knew he had the ball before it even came to him, and he knew exactly what to do with it. He knew he’d get it to first base to make the final out, and he knew the Cubs would finally win the world series. That total confidence came from years of play, and practice, and preparation, and the joy of being allowed to do what he’s great at. And, that confidence probably played a big part in his succeeding in that play because he was not hampered by self-doubt, or worry, or hesitation. There’s no room for hesitation when the whole game is on the line.
Confidence Versus Conceit
Confidence is grounded in the reality of knowing what you are capable of and being honest enough to show it.
Contrast this with conceitedness, which is really just insecurity dressed up as confidence. It’s fake. People who are vain or narcissistic actually feel they have to constantly prove how superior they are because, deep down, they feel inferior. They can’t take the criticism that leads to better performance. In fact, they are often very thin-skinned when it comes to feedback. But, there’s another face of insecurity, and it’s less obvious. Sometimes insecure people hold back in life due to fear of showing any incompetence. They hide their weaknesses, but also their talents, because they cultivate an image that protects them from being truly seen.
Overcoming The Fear Of Expressing Your Confidence
What does this have to do with me? I realize that I hesitate to be seen, to market myself, to throw myself into the effort to grow my business. An,d the reason is that I am so put off by the idea of conceit that I hide my confidence. In that way, I’m kind of lying.
I am confident. I desperately want that “ball” to come to me. When it does, I know what to do with it. I want clients to find me as much as Kris wanted that ball. When I am working with a client I know I can help, there is a perfect joy that comes from knowing it. There is an unequalled satisfaction in getting to do what I love to do, and seeing it work in people’s lives.
I know I’m not alone, and that many therapists have this same struggle. If we could just put up a sign and cross our fingers, we would just do that. But, in order for our clients to find us, in order to get to fully enjoy what we most love to do, we have to overcome any obstacle to telling people how good we are at it.
If you happen to have that same problem, I know a therapist who can help. She’s absolutely amazing. It’s me.
Margie Wheelhouse is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Springfield, Illinois. She helps couples build great relationships and repair broken ones. She was a huge liability on her softball team back in the day, but she hung with it for the pizza and beer afterward.