In grad school I got in “trouble” for wearing yoga pants and I want to tell you about it through a lens that incorporates several of my personal values as a human and a therapist.
I think it is important to acknowledge that there are many ways to be an effective clinician. All kinds of people from a multitude of cultures and lived experiences become mental health professionals who make meaningful impacts within client’s lives. With that being said, “authenticity” is an anchor for me personally as I walk through life. It is my belief that when we take up space authentically, we have the best chance of just being known - not to mention, experiencing life as fulfilling.
So, this professor had a problem with me wearing yoga pants, graphic t’s, and Vans high tops to sessions. Let me note also that this was a woman, and girllllllll, could I go down a rabbit hole here? Hell yeah, but let’s put a pin in that for now. What does it mean to “dress professionally” and what is that value rooted in? Does the standard of what is deemed “professional” or “appropriate” shift for women and femme folks? And picture me really rolling my eyes at this one - why do we have to sexualize bodies so often?
In the therapy room, I encourage clients to ask the same questions about their lived experiences. Why did dad have such a problem with the black eyeliner when I was 13? How did that influence one’s awareness of the male gaze? My hope is that questions clients begin to ask themselves will evaluate overt and covert messages and expectations that are often so sneakily engraved within us by the many quippy one liners at the dinner table about what it means to be a good enough human. Sometimes the people who raised us, even when well intentioned - set that bar too high. Because the truth is, as humans we’ve made up a lot of rules. A lot of those rules are embedded within fear and shame. And so, coming full circle here. I can find some compassion for this human who gave me a hard time about what I wore in the therapy room. Because, as a woman - I can only imagine what it might have been like to grow up in her body - believing it is something risky or distracting - needing to be covered. What if we reframed her concern as the following: “Lea, I’m really worried about how you’ll be perceived” or even more pointed “I’m afraid you won’t succeed looking like that.”
I have to tell you one more fun diddy. This is also the same professor that overheard me making a comment about my new calf length sweater I had jokingly deemed my “therapy cape.” She couldn’t help herself from interjecting, “So, you think we rescue people?” I hope you’re laughing like I wanted to in that moment. P.S. I am most certainly NOT here to rescue you, I want to help you LIBERATE YOURSELF.
I really love helping clients to learn to identify opportunities for boundaries. I get it, that sounds scary. But stay with me, we can work on crafting gentle boundaries that are infused with your own unique way of relating to folks. Sprinkle a little humor glitter if that’s your thing. You CAN do it. With uncle Jose and your annoying assistant manager, Rebecca.
And the truth is, I just feel the most “me” in my graphic t’s (often band merch) and hoodies. Now, I understand many of us have to spend time in settings that require a different kind of attire. But, I’m glad that I’m staying true to myself. And to my knowledge, no one has been offended by my yoga pants. And if they were - “not my circus, not my monkeys.”
I look forward to spending time with you in a therapeutic space that feels safe for you to put on a curious lens and evaluate your life from an empowered and authentic perspective. Remember, you get to define what your brand of authenticity looks and feels like. Inner wisdom - lets go!