Everybody Is Different, Every Body Is Different
Everybody is Different and Every Body is Different. I teach this to my students and colleagues, but what do I actually mean by this?
The first thing that we just have to acknowledge is that the world is full of people who look completely different from each other. Diversity is the psychological, physical, and social differences among individuals. We all come from different backgrounds (be it racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, mental/physical (dis)abilities) and we’re all deserving of respect. In short, Diversity is a fact of life!
Because of all these different backgrounds and life experiences, we need to recognize (at face value) that Everybody is Different. We don’t have identical values, beliefs, or morals – there might be overlap among some of us, but by and large we’re all different. We all have different personalities and preferences- especially when it comes to something so intimate as healthcare and massage therapy!
I’ve heard it hundreds of times from my clients, “my spouse needs massage so bad, but they don’t enjoy them- I just don’t get it!” I use that as an opportunity to remind the client that while massage therapy CAN benefit everybody, that doesn’t mean that massage is MEANT for everybody. Some people can’t get over the idea of being touched, never have and never will. It’s not for the rest of us to “get”, it’s just something we have to accept and respect. The same thing goes with any other discipline, just because chiropractors can benefit everybody doesn’t mean it will. It’s just not for everyone. It could be, but it’s not. One of the five factors of Healthcare Accessibility that I think about a lot is Acceptability.
You could be the greatest, most skilled massage therapist in the whole wide world, but if there is anything about you or your technical protocol that the client can’t accept- it’s not going to be beneficial for either of you. Some therapists rage against this notion (and I’ve been there). It would reason that if you train enough, and study enough, and practice enough that eventually you’ll become a great therapist for everybody. In reality, that’s just not the case.
I tell people all the time, “I’m not everyone’s cup of tea… (just most people’s)”. I say it in equal parts of humility, jest, and honesty. Me as a therapist and my bodywork isn’t for everyone. That’s one of the reasons why professional networking is so important! There are things I can do that no other therapist can do. There are also things that I just can’t and never will be able to provide on a massage table (for whatever nuanced reason), but if I know enough colleagues that I’m confident in, I can make great referrals that will benefit those clients that can’t accept me. I’d much rather a client not book with me and start working with a colleague than stop seeking massage therapy altogether.
Everybody is different.
On a deeper level, every body is different too.
No two bodies on earth are made exactly the same. It’s kind of creepy or esoteric to think about- ultimately, we are all alone on this earth (at least within our limited senses being confined to our individual bodies. This can easily be understood when looking at the obvious ways that bodies are different- medical conditions, physical/mental (dis)abilities, and physical differences (hair color, eye color, dominant hands, skin tone, etc.). But in a more subtle way, health is subjective. It has to be. I can only experience wellness from my body’s standpoint. It’s kind of like that old adage; “what’s normal to the spider is chaos for the fly”. What works health wise for my body isn’t necessarily going to work the same way for everybody else.
This can make massage (and other healthcare) challenging because at the end of the day, all massage therapists can do is make educated guesses about treatment plans. Remember, massage therapists don’t have the scope of practice to include the power of diagnosis. And even if we did, all anyone can really do is make the best educated guess at what a condition or issue can be. We have to rely on past experiences and similar signs/symptoms… there’s a word for that (stereotyping!) There’s a rule in massage therapy that goes like this; the therapist knows massage, but the client knows their body.
Not every body is made the same! And that is also good. The human body is complex and wondrous. And every body is worthy of respect. I know I’ve talked about it before in my post about shame-free massage, but it bears repeating. You never have to feel shame or apologize for the shape your body is in while you’re on my massage table. There are some limitations to what can be achieved with massage, it’s not likely that any condition will be resolved or cured directly resulting from massage therapy. Massage can help manage and cope with most conditions (with the appropriate therapist). The good news is, that in terms of healing, your condition will get better- eventually.
Plot twist! Every therapist is different too!
Not every massage therapist that you encounter has been trained in the same way. Not every therapist has taken the same continuing education or specialized in the same modalities. Not every therapist invests heavily in professional development. Not every therapist is practicing massage as their endgame. Not every therapist has worked in the same environment. Not every therapist can be exactly like all other therapists. That is the beauty of diversity, we all have something different of value to provide. The right therapist for you is out there (somewhere), but it takes the right fit! Just because you don’t like or can’t accept one particular therapist for whatever reason, I urge you not to make assumptions that they are a “bad” therapist. Instead, have the mindset that “they just weren’t the right fit for me”. That can make all the difference.
Peace and Healing,
Kirby Clark Ellis, MMT, BCTMB