Hillary Schoninger Of Water For Your Garden: “Being Perfect, is Not ALWAYS Doing Your Best”

Being Perfect, is Not ALWAYS Doing Your Best. We all aim to achieve perfection; however, we know how this is impossible. Sometimes things feel perfect, and that’s wonderful, however, how can we still feel wonderful while still knowing we don’t have to be perfect? Perfection is not a feasible lifestyle and not one that sustains […]

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Being Perfect, is Not ALWAYS Doing Your Best. We all aim to achieve perfection; however, we know how this is impossible. Sometimes things feel perfect, and that’s wonderful, however, how can we still feel wonderful while still knowing we don’t have to be perfect? Perfection is not a feasible lifestyle and not one that sustains our mental health.


Hillary Schoninger is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing approachable and compassionate psychotherapy to individuals and families. She uses a client-centered approach that is personalized based on individual needs, desires, and strengths. She is passionate about offering compassion, support, and guidance to those she works with, while creating an open and positive environment where her clients can feel comfortable to grow. Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in political science at Lake Forest College in 2007 and went on to receive her MSW from Loyola University Chicago in 2010.

Prior to founding her private psychotherapy practice, she worked as a Crisis Therapist at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago. In 2017, she received her Yoga Instructor Certification through Yoga Now Chicago. Today, she incorporates yoga and its mindfulness-based principles into her private psychotherapy practice. She also has training in and experience with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and incorporates these modalities into her approach. Hillary believes in working with her clients to develop and enhance healthy coping skills, recognize, and redirect negative patterns, and cultivate acceptance and self-awareness in order to heal holistically.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health: we all have our own challenges, our own personal experiences, and our own strengths and struggles. In Hillary’s practice, treatment direction and goals are personalized for each client’s optimal happiness.


Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first became a social worker, I was too eager to want to help everyone. This was a part of early burnout for me because the more experience I had with working harder than my clients on their goals, disappointment always followed. I learned one of my most valuable life lessons, in that you can’t help others who don’t want your help.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

This person undoubtedly would be my therapist, Alisa. When I was 19, I started working with her on my emotional traumas and issues with depression. It has been through this therapeutic alliance that I formed not only a love for psychotherapy but also myself.

As I find myself writing my first book, Let Me Ask My Therapist: Lessons In Mental Health and Healing, I am revisiting how much therapy, including Alisa, has helped me transform. I am excited to read the forward she is planning on writing in my upcoming book. I think that the therapeutic alliance I have been able to build with Alisa over the years has made me an approachable and empathic psychotherapist.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Mental Health and making room for its importance in this world is a part of my core. Providing psychotherapy to my clients and being a Mental Health advocate propel my passion towards wellness in all areas of life. Helping others come to understand their authentic self is a rewarding and beautiful privilege to witness. Making space for mental wellness will always be my life purpose while supporting others in their journey. The ability to clear up past pain within a therapeutic setting, will always have me committed to this work.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1) Be kind with your words, especially towards yourself. Practicing kindness in how we think and speak to ourselves has the ultimate difference in showing up. If we are more positive minded towards ourselves, we express how we value ourselves. It’s astonishing the nasty self-talk we engage in. If we were to talk this way towards others we care about, we would see the real-life consequences. Having the ability to practice self-kindness is always available in our thoughts and expressions.

2) Know your limits. Understanding what works for you and what doesn’t on an emotional level is a self-care practice. When we honor our limits, balance becomes much more attainable. We sometimes question and don’t listen to our limits, which can potentially be an act of self-harm. Honoring your limits and not under or over-extending yourself provides great personal empowerment.

3) Understanding empathy versus sympathy. Having empathy is having an awareness and ability to understand another person’s point of view, often which is rooted in hurt. We can execute having empathy towards them while also not showing direct sympathy if that’s how we feel. The difference between understanding informed empathy and informed sympathy are powerful boundaries to have.

4) Surrender to what you can’t control. We worry entirely too much. The pandemic has shown our past automation towards fear and uncertainty, and we most likely will continue to exist in this space. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear, surrender to not knowing that you can’t control whatever situation you are catastrophizing. Once we give things up, we take the pressure off ourselves, while letting what we desire becomes activated. Surrender only makes manifestation easier.

5) Being Perfect, is Not ALWAYS Doing Your Best. We all aim to achieve perfection; however, we know how this is impossible. Sometimes things feel perfect, and that’s wonderful, however, how can we still feel wonderful while still knowing we don’t have to be perfect? Perfection is not a feasible lifestyle and not one that sustains our mental health.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My movement would be based on helping people heal from their past traumas. To help people understand what individuation is, and the benefits it has towards breaking cycles that are toxic and harmful. Indivudating means, in its simplest terms, allowing us to discard our past emotional pains, with the ability to create greater possibilities on our own terms. It takes great courage to individuate and to create a life that is based on your values.

In my book, I cover individuation extensively, while showing you how it is a thread that over the years, helps us weave the lives we want to create with autonomy and empowerment, again on our terms, and how we choose to see the world.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1) Practice Self Care, more than you think you already are.

Doing as much Self Care as possible will help sustain your energy while showing good self-boundaries in how you are showing up for yourself.

2) Don’t feel like you can’t ask questions. Don’t subscribe to the idea, that you shouldn’t ask questions. Questions can be golden in that it helps you come to think about something, while also letting others come with you. In my mind, when we ask productive questions, we are helping everyone, while also showing how we can use our voice meaningfully.

3) Be prepared to have your spirit broken, but not your heart. In the work I do, I work with many personalities, along with managing my own personal experiences with people who are emotionally fractured and hurt. Sometimes this hurt from others can affect us tremendously, however, it is important to remember to keep going and not let one bad experience jade your mission in helping others.

4) Find a mentor. I have always found value in finding someone to connect with. Having this support can make the ultimate difference in how you feel about your job, and the impact you are making. Some of my closest mentors today, still help guide me towards being the most caring therapist.

5) Listen more, talk less. When we first start something new, we can become overwhelmed with wanting answers. Most answers will come out organically if we let them. Everything we need to know comes out eventually so do yourself a favor and listen with patience and composure.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Mental Health has always been a passion of mine and will be. As a child, I always wanted to help others, which became an impetus for me to become a Mental Health Professional. Helping people manage and take power over their mental health in ways that will improve their lives, is my greatest passion.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram — @waterforyourgarden

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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