What’s So Bad About Excellence?

What’s So Bad About Excellence?

I had another conversation with my professional mentor last week, and she said something about me and my good friend, K, as we finished the conversation:

… “it’s because you (both) over-function.”

Now, if you have been part of my training in psychotherapy, you would know that over-functioning is not a great thing. It’s not even a good thing. It implies that I regularly do more in my relationships than is necessary or even helpful. I felt the power of her comment today in a session with a couple in which I was working hard, being helpful, resourceful, and empathetic all at once. I was working, but I was working very hard.

But here’s the rub: what’s the difference between doing more than necessary and striving for excellence? Because that’s what I see myself doing. Pursuing professional and personal excellence. My clients count on me to bring a centered self into their time with me, a professional who has done her homework, reflected on their lives with them in session and on my own time, and who is prepared for their questions.

If I don’t bring my best efforts to my sessions, isn’t that the same as me under-performing? In the context of the primary models of family therapy, doing too much in the room doesn’t allow the space or energy for the client to lead their own therapy.  I want my clients to lead their own work. I just find, however, that that is only possible when I model what that means in the context of self reflection and critical thinking.

I know one thing for sure: I don’t want to be an under-functioner just to show how flexible I can be. Like most things in the therapy room, I will be looking for the sweet spot of the middle way, doing my best and then, helping my clients succeed, to get out of their way and walk beside them. 

One thought on “What’s So Bad About Excellence?

  1. In response to excellence vs. over-functioning, I find I can separate the two by asking the question, “Am I doing something for this client, or friend, etc. that he/she could/should be doing for himself/herself?”

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