By Tanya Cole-Lesnick, LCSW, PLLC

One of the perks of doing what I do for a living is that I get an inside view of a wide range of human behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and experiences. From that perspective I am able to get a sense of “the norm,” at least within the context of my lovely clients and those who trust me enough to share their inner worlds with me. This helps me with my own emotional health. I can lighten up about things and put less pressure on myself when I know I’m not alone. It helps me to feel safe enough to share my struggles with all of you because I trust that many of you, maybe even most of you, will be able to relate. The challenges I share with you in my blog posts are the same ones I’ve heard—a lot—from others. Issues I once felt shame about because I thought they meant I was imperfect and flawed I now know are just a normal part of being human.

And so that you can benefit from this perspective too, here are the top five issues I work with my clients to address:

1) Being kind to ourselvesBoy oh boy can we be cri-ti-cal when it comes to ourselves. We lack patience, we expect perfection, we are not-at-all-kind way too much of the time.

2) Figuring out what we really, really, really want. We kinda sorta have an idea that we want more but often that’s as far as we go. We don’t really know what that “more” would look like. And if we do have some ideas we tend to stay in the fantasy realm without thinking through how we might bring those things or experiences into our lives.

3) Making a firm, solid commitment. Without this commitment, my friends, what we really, really, really want ain’t gonna happen. Period.

4) Speaking up for ourselves, setting boundaries, getting our needs met. Many of us are stuck in the people-pleasing epidemic that’s part of our culture. We don’t want to offend, we worry that we’ll make someone mad, so we don’t set boundaries. We hold our breath when someone is doing something we don’t like and explode when we can’t stand it a second longer. And we suck at getting our needs met, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that we barely even know we have needs—being so busy focusing on everyone else and all. So we silently seethe (or not so silently) with resentment. And to handle that we drink, or eat, or shop, or get very busy, or feel depressed…

5) Understanding the process of change. Change can be hard, yes indeedy. And of course we know this, but knowing this and doing what it takes to make change happen are two completely different things. There is so much to take into consideration when we are trying to successfully change something beyond just, say, the color of our curtains. Things like our beliefs, which may or may not serve us, patterns from childhood (good and bad), our energy levels, how much is on our plates, how much rest we need, what a realistic pace might be, what kind of support we have in our lives, which habits are in direct conflict with the change we want to make, which habits support it, feelings of ambivalence, our strengths and our weaknesses, and so on. We need to spend some time exploring the answers to questions like those and engaging in some serious trial and error. And we need to be kind to ourselves through this process… But to also trust the process, because it does get easier.

And those, my friend, are the top five. I work with my clients on these issues all the time. Over and over again. That is not a complaint. I get it, it’s the process, and I love to be a part of it. I just want to make sure you get it too. Because it helps.

So when you catch yourself struggling with any of these (and my guess is that every single person reading this struggles with at least a few), know that you are not alone. You—we—are human.

And we’re all in this together.