A Good Man vs A Great Man

This is Us – Season 3 Episode 10 – From the Eyes of a Counselor

Tension is high in Beth and Randall’s relationship this episode. We see Randall struggle with the right decision in many situations. Beth challenges him to think about his claim of being a family man since he hasn’t been home much lately. He is advised to shed light on dirt found on the current councilman in order to sway voters. He also feels the draw towards justice for a community that is under reached. Being a family man, being full of integrity, and fighting for justice are all values of Randall’s but somehow, he has found himself in a situation where they are all in contradiction to each other.

When he runs into the reverend at the diner, he shares that he finds it easier to be a great man than a good man. This is a struggle most people wrestle with. Society tells us that in order to be successful we must do something great when, a life full of a lot of little good things has great – sometimes greater – worth. 

But how do we make sure we stay committed to those little good things along the way? I can be helpful to identify our values. Come up with a list of your top five. Put them in order from most important to least important. When you’re met with a difficult decision, like Randall was, you’ll be able to come back to this list and be reminded of what is most important to you. There will be times that our values hit up against each other and it’s unclear the best decision to make. There will be sacrifices. But if we keep the most important thing the most important thing we will be able to look back on life with a smile when we’re old and gray, like the reverend advises Randall. When our actions match what we say we value we are able to be more at peace with ourselves. 

Some Things to Consider:

  1. Have you taken time to make a list of your values? If not – google “list of values”. Circle the ones that stand out to you. Of the values circled, go back and highlight the top five most important. Refer back to your list when you’re met with a difficult decision. 

Have you made decisions lately that don’t line up with your values? If so, are your values really your values? Do you need to change your list? Or be more committed to the values you have chosen. 


When To Seek More Help

It can be difficult to ask for help, especially for those of us used to hearing some old adages such as, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or “Man up.” But on the first session with a counselor, many observe that it is cathartic just to unburden themselves of being alone with the struggles. This paves the way to begin sorting through those struggles continue to feel lighter.

So, when should you seek help? Here are a few basic starting points to consider.



  • Everyday life has become overwhelming

  • Work, personal relationships, or self-care are becoming difficult/are impacted

  • You are struggling with a loss

  • Preparing for or struggling with a major change

  • Significant changes in your behavior

Inpatient treatment

  • You and your counselor have decided a higher level of care is necessary

  • You and your provider are finding it challenging to balance your psychiatric meds to manage symptoms 

  • You are experiencing suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, hallucinations, self-harm and you do not currently have a counselor or access to one



The Secret Life of Eating Disorders

Quietly lethal, eating disorders claim more lives annually than any other mental illness. And yet, it remains gravely misunderstood by even close friends and family members of individuals suffering from disordered eating. Just a few facts can broaden our understanding of our loved ones who suffer with eating disorders and help us support them more effectively. 


1. Not all eating disorders look the same. Typically when people think of eating disorders, we conjure up images of emaciated individuals who look as if they just emerged from a concentration camp or think of vain girls sticking toothbrush’s down their throat to lose a few pounds, but this is a grossly narrow view of eating disorders. The manifestation of eating disorders extends far beyond these stereotypes. Most eating disorders would never be detected based on appearance alone; eating disorders are not diagnosed solely on size or weight, but on distorted thoughts and unhealthy patterns of behaviors that are dangerous and have a massively negative impact on internal health over time.


2. Eating disorders are not about vanity. There are a variety of reasons individuals develop eating disorders. While body image is often a factor, other issues such as anxiety, need for control, history of trauma, depression, body dysmorphia, and genetic predispositions are also major influencers in the lives those suffering from eating disorders.  


3. Eating disorder behaviors can be as unique as the individual. Restricting food intake, binging, purging, and excessive exercise are the most common eating disorder behaviors, but there are also a slew of ED behaviors most people don’t know about. Eating disorder behaviors also include body checking, compulsively weighing oneself, obsessively counting calories, hiding food, cutting food into tiny bites and avoiding social settings where food is present. Many individuals with eating disorders adjust their pace of eating in an attempt to reduce their distress around food by eating rapidly or excessively slowly. Having rigid food rules such as never allowing themselves sweets, carbs, or dairy are also common among those with eating disorders.


4. Well-meaning comments and encouragement can be highly triggering to those with eating disorders. Whether about losing weight or gaining weight, comments as seemingly innocuous as, “Oh, look so healthy!” alert individuals with eating disorders to changes that are happening in their appearance. Such comments frequently increase their preoccupation with body image, resulting in emotional distress and urges to either continue or re-engage in ED behaviors in order to control their appearance. Conversations around dieting, “good” or “bad” foods, and calories also perpetuate distorted thinking in individuals with eating disorders. 


5. Recovery is an ongoing process. Like any other mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and addiction, recovery from an eating disorder is a journey that requires much time and effort. It is normal for individuals to have seasons of remission and later slip back into maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaving. In times of struggle and relapse, individuals with eating disorders need extra support, compassion, and patience as they do the hard work of recovery.


Temporary Setbacks Are a Part of Healing

Sometimes after we begin working on ourselves, things in our life seem to get worse for a time. Our negative thoughts creep back, work feels impossible, relationships change, things look negative. We are human and therefore have setbacks and make mistakes. It's okay. We need to have compassion for ourselves and recognize that setbacks are part of the growth process. 


Setbacks are temporary.


Setbacks are a normal part of any effort to change . It may be this way for a time, but not forever. Keep working and before you know it the trend will reverse. In the future, things and us, will be better than they were. Our foundation will be solid and we will feel the difference.  


Here are a few things to remember when you feel stuck in a setback

  1. It's normal: Change takes time and often more than one try. Setbacks happen and we CAN choose to grow and learn from them. 

  2. Don't beat yourself up about it: Just because things are going "perfectly" doesn't mean that we aren't moving in the right direction. Remember you are human and there is no perfect way to change. 

  3. Know it won't last forever: Remember this is temporary. You are capable of being the best version of yourself and are worth the work. 

  4. You can do it: Remind yourself of the steps you've taken, regardless of how small they might seem to you.



Remember: Even with setbacks- slow and steady progress can happen. 


All or Nothing

All or nothing, good or bad, never or always, black or white. Too often, we become stuck in an ‘all or nothing’, or polarized, pattern of thinking. It is considered one of the common thought distortions that challenges us; so you my friend, are not alone. 


If you take a few moments to consider some recent thoughts, you may notice this distortion. Have you been frustrated with yourself or a loved one? “You always forget!” Or maybe, you fell short of completing all of your tasks for the day. “I am such a failure!” Perhaps, you are filled with stifling fear; “Nothing is safe anymore!”


Identifying when you are stuck in this type of pattern allows for the opportunity to challenge this unhelpful thinking to make your thoughts better serve you. I encourage you to find “the grey”. In other words, what is the exception to your always or never situation?


The Antidote to Fear

Fear is one of the most debilitating forces in our culture and it is an equal opportunity offender. In order to gain victory over fear, the first step is differentiating if it is a “good fear” or a “bad fear.” Fear in the short term can be good and is an instinctive reaction to protect us from danger. Fear in the big picture and in the long term is bad. It wears us down and constantly plagues us with all the “What ifs.” 


The next step is externalizing bad fear. We tend to internalize the lies of fear believing all the “worst case scenarios” about ourselves, others, our future and our abilities. By seeing fear as an external entity and not a part of our identity we place it as an opponent on a level playing field. Singer/songwriter, Zack Williams, is spot on with his description of fear in his song “Fear is a Liar.” 


“Fear, he is a liar

He will take your breath

Stop you in your steps

Fear he is a liar

He will rob your rest

Steal your happiness…” 


The third step in overcoming fear is responding with truth. Webster defines truth as “that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.” Truth at its core is the antidote to fear. As a child sleeping in the dark can be scary. When you worried a monster was lurking under your bed or in the closet, what did your parents do to help you feel safe? They turned on the light and looked! The second they revealed reality, fear dissipated. Fear desires us to operate in negative future thinking when we actually have most of the evidence right at our fingertips to defeat it. Next time fear tries to sideline your thoughts, emotions and actions with a potential worst case, list off other probable outcomes, personal experiences, or scientific evidenced-based facts to counter its lies. 


A Different Way to Look at Self-Esteem

Often when feeling down, people are encouraged to work on their self-esteem. They are encouraged to reevaluate how they appraise themselves and how much they are worth. And why not? We all want to feel good about ourselves. However sometimes the way we go about trying to figure out our self-worth, can lead to even more difficulties. 

People often try to find a reason to be able to evaluate themselves positively. Reasons can include a positive quality about themselves or an accomplishment they have achieved. The underlying belief becomes having good self-esteem is dependent on having good characteristics and good accomplishments. Therefore self-esteem has to be earned. Not only does it have to be earned but it has to be earned over and over again to last. If you think about some things you have done well in your life, think about how long that feeling that made you feel good about yourself lasted. Not very long? Then, in order to keep self-esteem, we have to keep somehow earning throughout our lives. If we can get away from constantly evaluating ourselves as “good” or bad” we can avoid feeling happy when things are going well and down when we did not perform as well as we hoped. 


Shadow Boxing Your Past

Do you ever feel like you are fixing someone to heal your past?

Sometimes people come into our lives, rather it be our children, friends, or romantic partners,

and we see a little bit of ourselves in them. We bend over backwards to help ‘save’ them. We do

this without knowing ‘why’, until it hits us. “That is how [fill in the blank] made me feel”. So we

fight for them, we try to show them love and acceptance. We subconscious believe if they make

it through then I will feel validated.

I call this ‘Shadow Boxing’. Shadow boxing is when you are fighting with a past memory that you

cannot change nor run away from. Our shadows are with us wherever we go. We cannot out run

them and we cannot exist without them. So why fight our shadows? Why not embrace our past

and learn what we can from them. Stop ‘Shadow Boxing’ by learning yourself and knowing you

cannot save other people, unless they are willing to save themselves.


Learning To Wait

Waiting is an art. Waiting can be powerful. 


Not many people enjoy waiting or learning patients, yet people who are the most successful at living and loving are those who learn to wait successfully. Not many people enjoy waiting or learning how to be patient. Most of us want things just to happen pretty quickly- no line to stand in or stop to wait at. Yet, we can not always have what we want when we want it. Waiting, therefore, becomes a powerful tool that can help us accomplish good in our lives. We need to look at waiting as not being time wasted. Waiting simply means something is being worked out- in us, in someone else, in the world. Rather than looking at waiting as something useless, lets focus in on what waiting allows us to do.


Waiting allows us to focus on:


Acceptance- Surrender to the moment. So much relief, release, and change are possible when we accept. Acceptance does not mean we are giving up- it means that we accept what is, so we can make conscious decisions to change.

Patience- Being patient does not mean we go through things without feeling our feelings. Feel the impatience. Get angry. Feel your fear. Patience comes from feeling yor feelings and being ready to move forward. 

Grattitude- Once we acknowledge that waiting is our friend some important things will shift in our heads- we lean to practice thankfulness. Instead of being frustrated and overwhelmed, we can be grateful for them and make the most of them. 

Tolerance- Waiting can be great humbler. A humble person is aware of the struggles of others and can empathize with their troubles.


Rose (ier Social Media) Colored Glasses

Rose colored glasses is a description used to imply that an individual has an innocent/naive perspective. Things are viewed as rosy: beautiful, bright, pleasantly fragrant, etc. Typically when this description is used, it’s to encourage individuals to reconsider their perspective. Recall OutKast and their song “Roses”. A more recent version of this phenomenon is the social media colored glasses. 


For roughly 15 years, social media has provided users with a somewhat more anonymous way to express themselves. While in some cases, this has provided confidence to speak out and share difficult things, it has also provided a veil to protect our secrets and unsavory truths. Most love to see the beautiful family photos, celebrations, and birthday updates; they tend to make us smile and express joy for others. But think about that affair, suicide, illness we never saw coming. These events have a tendency to make us fearful, sad, uncomfortable; social media helps to protect these while we over share our newborns and puppies.


Consider your everyday thoughts. How often do you wonder what it would be like to go on that vacation your friend just took? Maybe they’re simpler, “I wish I smiled as much as Jen does.” Maybe, you don’t even notice these thoughts occurring. There is no law that fear and happiness, hurt and excitementcannot co-exist. Talking about things like the social media filter may shed light on why some feel so unhappy but can’t quite pinpoint a reason. If this is something you wish to explore with privacy, speaking with a counselor may be helpful.