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How to Handle Your Ego




Let your accomplishments be your accomplishments.

 

It is pretty much common knowledge that I am obsessed with Oprah (stay with me, I promise this goes somewhere). Growing up, the Oprah show was on the list of the few TV shows I was allowed to watch, as my mom believed the TV was an “ idiot box.” (I wasn’t allowed to watch TV shows where kids were disrespectful to their parents like the Simpsons, Roseanne, etc.) 


There were other shows that featured Black people, but I was so impressed by Oprah. She was this funny, charismatic, darker skinned woman getting paid to be herself asking celebrities personal questions. She was clearly baller enough to go by her first name only, which was OPRAH (come on, who has ever heard that name before), with mainstream acceptance. She was the closest version of the type of Blackness I saw myself inhabiting. And since I was not allowed to be gay, nor watch Ellen, Oprah was it. 


So yeah, I wanted to be Oprah, or the astronaut doctor TV personality version of Oprah whose closest approximation was Dr. Sanjay Gupta. As such, in middle school I was involved in TV production. Then, to my mother’s satisfaction, my dream morphed into being a regular ole doctor like Dr. Ben Carson. (FYI he was beloved by Black people before he got all weird on us. My mom made me write a report on his book Gifted Hands). Needless to say, TV production extracurriculars were out, and doctor summer camps were in. 


Fast forward to now-ish…I am a doctor…who still wants to be Oprah lol. And, starting in 2020, I began to make appearances on national news outlets sharing mental health advice during the pandemic. Up until then, I got my Oprah kicks off by public speaking and generally being a HAM. And I loved it! Part of what has cemented my friendship with Pooja Lakshmin MD is that she is one of the few psychiatrists I know who has her own version of wildly big embarrassing dreams related to changing the world (she wants to be the Pooja version of Brené Brown).


But, we all know the problem with loving something too much: you risk losing it. And all be damned, my TV opportunities decreased because, well, the pandemic ended and people didn’t need as much mental health advice (joke). I knew this was going to happen, and I worried that I wanted too much. This desire of mine also felt icky because anyone who loves being on TV is a self-absorbed megalomaniac, or becomes one, right? (Oprah doesn’t count because she gives away free cars.) But, it felt good and gave me hope that maybe I’d get discovered (ew ew ew I am so embarrassed saying this aloud). This desire grew more intense the more high-profile opportunities trickled in, especially this one: Ellen Pompeo. But still, no big breaks. 


Courtesy of Showtime

Then came my invitation to be on Couples Therapy, a hit show on Showtime showing real couples who volunteer to be on the show receiving therapy from Dr. Orna Guralnik. For Season 3, they included peer supervision sessions where I, and other therapists, discuss tough cases with Orna, and some of those clips make it onto the show. You should definitely watch. To me, the show is a great contribution to society. It is a historical piece of art that demystifies therapy and our field. 


Anyway, I love being on Couples Therapy. I’m my Black, queer, androgynous, dynamic-self and a psychiatrist on SHOWTIME. I am the person I always wanted to see on TV, when all I had was Oprah. I felt so good seeing myself on the screen when Season 3 premiered in 2022. I had so many on screen speaking clips (by so many I mean ~3 secs lol).  My partner, who sees it as her job to keep my ego in check, loves the show and brags about me on it! I love how I look in my designer bright outfits picked out with help from my friends in a text chain (the Cyrus Swag Squad). I love getting notes from loved ones, strangers, and mostly from BIPOC queer-weirdos like myself. They are why I want to be on TV and why I’m in the process of coming up with a pitch for my own show. I was so looking forward to this endorphin boost with the premiere of the second half of season 3.


Turns out, I have, like, one little comment in the whole second half. Even though I am pictured often in my outfits (looking sweaty, or like I’m not wearing pants, or like my glasses are too big for my face), it feels so disappointing. My ego has been a hot mess all week, like WTF you deserve MORE. But this feels icky when I think about all of it! BECAUSE THE SHOW IS ONLY 30 MINUTES LONG AND IS NOT ABOUT ME, IT IS ABOUT COUPLES WHO BEAR THEIR SOUL AND THE THERAPIST WHO WORKS WITH THEM. 


It already took so much therapy to allow myself to feel the pride of being on the show without feeling like a douchebag. It may look like I have no trouble being the center of attention, but it has been so hard to own up to the dream of wanting fame, and avoid shunning the self-confidence that has brought me closer to this dream. I hate hate hate the fact that when I have an accomplishment like a SHOWTIME show put together using thoughts from my brain, I feel like it is not enough. 


Which brings me to this week’s Therapy Takeaway. 


Your Therapy Takeaway

Don’t shame your ego, let it out before it forces it’s way out. 


I am not advocating we walk around thinking we’re better than everyone because we’re on TV, we’ve written a book, we went to college, own a Mercedes, bought a house, serve as condo board president, or run the biggest mom’s text thread in your city. But, if I’m keeping it real, having pride about doing a thing may lead to feeling “better.” If you find yourself hanging out more on the “I’m better than you” side of the line, be curious.


Telling yourself that you’re a terrible human or self-absorbed megalomaniac and not to think those things probably won’t work. It is like a child being told NOT TO DO THAT ONE THING, and only being able to think of that one thing. Having feelings or thoughts that are icky doesn’t mean that you ARE icky. What’s most important is what you do with those feelings and thoughts – not the thoughts themselves. Because what you do will certainly be influenced by how much you have processed what/why/how an accomplishment relates to status. 


Feelings of disappointment can exist in the proximity of celebration.


After realizing I wasn’t featured as much as I’d like, I texted my “shrinkypoos” text thread sharing my icky feelings. It was too much for me to hold in the moment. Their reassurances that I’m normal helped me not feel as embarrassed or ashamed of my disappointment. And, upon deeper thought, I was feeling insecure because my fear of being the “diversity person” without other meaningful contributions was triggered. So, when the disappointment comes up, I remind myself that it is related to an old wound, freeing up my ability explore what other feelings were floating around. What came to the surface was a sense of admiration for the couples and their hard work and courage. And, pride that my perspective helped Orna work through conflicts or challenges in her work with the couples. And, a sense of accomplishment towards expanding television’s diversity -- my perspective helped the team edit/cut/highlight themes that made the show successful. Plus I’m learning so much in case (or, when) I have my own TV show. 


The thing with peak events is that the feelings are always mixed. Good stuff will happen, bad stuff will happen. When we allow ourselves room to be with all the feelings (and, we have good text threads to help us!), it’s a lot easier to get through the icky. 


You got this, 

Kali

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