Today, I’m sharing seven personal lessons I learned over the years after I started seeing a therapist. I recently opened up about my struggle with anxiety and stress and my experience seeking help from a therapist. In doing so, I wanted to start the conversation around the importance of mental health and help break through the stigma of therapy. I started with a Q&A with my therapist (which you can read here) where she answered all the questions you could potentially have about the process and experience. While it was scary opening up, I hoped these blogs could help at least one person realize there are options.
As a full-time blogger and entrepreneur, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. While I’m blessed with so many cool experiences and opportunities, what you don’t see are the late nights, the rejection, the looming fear of failure, the ugly cries (have a lot of those) and the ups and downs that come with trying to make it work on my own. I struggled with this immense pressure I put on myself to succeed and the anxiety that comes with it. Overtime, I learned many lessons and how to better handle the curveballs life likes to throw at me.
Here’s a bit about me: I am an A-type personality and a bit (ok a lot) of a perfectionist and control freak. I am incredibly hard working and have high expectations of myself and of others, which means I’ve set myself up to be disappointed often by people. I used to be really rigid when it came to results pertaining to work, but have learned to loosen the reigns and roll with the punches. Now, I want to share with you the biggest takeaways I learned along the way:
IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP
I am pretty prideful. I don’t always like asking for help and I certainly don’t like burdening anyone with my problems. It’s a bummer. Before I made the decision to see a counselor, I was working full-time at a corporate job, juggling Deep Fried Fit, and Dallas Fitness Ambassadors was gaining momentum faster than I could handle. The immense stress that came with it ate me alive and I felt trapped. I was treading water. No amount of venting to my close friends, working out, or massages helped. I didn’t know how to take the steps to handle the stress any better.
It took a breakdown and being in “crisis mode” for me to make the decision to see a therapist. After I unloaded everything in my first session, it was the most relieving 60 minutes of my life to just say everything I felt I couldn’t say before. I needed a safe, confidential place where I could vent. I went back every few weeks until I felt I had a better handle on things and would go back occasionally when I need it.
LEARNING TO SAY NO
I spoke about this in my latest Virtual Sweat Date. A friend sent me a Tim Ferris podcast called, “How to say No,” and it reminded me of the power of saying no. It’s liberating. In my session, I learned that I am a very giving person and a bit of a people pleaser. That means that I’m constantly volunteering my time, making commitments to friends and work contacts, which means my schedule is jam packed with toooo many things. And often times, I felt myself feeling overwhelmed, stretched thin, and cranky because that also meant less time for me. As a rule, if my initial reaction isn’t a HELL YES, it’s a NO. I began declining more requests for my time and reclaimed it back for myself. Saying no became really empowering because I also wasn’t apologizing for saying no either. I learned that it’s ok to put myself first.
To piggy back off, the previous point, I also learned how to set firmer boundaries around my time and what I’m willing to put up with. I became even more selective with whom and what I wanted to invest my time and energy. This also meant who I allowed to be in my life. Doing so helped me regain control of my time. Being more intentional with whom and how I invested my energy finally felt a lot more fulfilling. I was energized by investing in a few rather than in many. These sessions are great for unloading just as much as they are for life coaching through self-reflection.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I was able to be more firm in the decisions I made for myself, talk about my life goals, and how I wanted my life to look. It feels like talking into a mirror and having someone echo back really helps a lot. I didn’t know it then, but between my corporate job, Deep Fried Fit, and Fitness Ambassadors, I decided something had to give. Tired of feeling drained at work, I quietly decided to quit my job and go full time. I came to my “fuck it” moment soon after and then I followed through seven months later.
SOMETIMES YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AREN’T THE BEST TO ASK FOR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
This is a hard one and I am guilty for definitely not being a great person for emotional support. Our friends and family mean well, but they don’t always have the best advice or words of comfort. I think we’ve all been there at some point. We’ve all heard, “If you aren’t happy, why don’t you just break up with him/her? If you hate your job, why don’t you just quit? If you don’t like where you are in life, change it.”
In the Q&A, we talked about the expectations our loved ones have for us. They want us to live our best lives. Of course they want us to feel loved and be happy. While they have the best intentions, it doesn’t always translate well in their words. There have been moments where I just needed a kind word rather than a tough love conversation. When your family and friends are on the outside looking in, they don’t always know how to help you either. When I realized this, I decided to seek out a professional that could be objective. A therapist doesn’t offer advice or tell you what you need to do. They help you talk through your problems/emotions and use certain techniques to help you come up with a game plan. Naturally, we only do what we need for ourselves when we are ready. Not before.
I LEARNED HOW TO BE MORE COMPASSIONATE
After all those sessions in therapy, I walked away feeling a whole lot more compassionate for people in general. I did not used to be this person. I was always the tough love bitch and things used to be just black and white when it came to decision making. However, I learned how delicate, complex and intricate every situation can be. Sometimes all a person wants is someone to lean on for a bit and that’s ok. If you don’t know what you want, that’s ok. If you aren’t ready to make any big changes yet, that’s ok too. I’d like to think I am a better friend now to the amazing people in my life.
NORMAL IS NOT A REAL THING
I asked this question a lot. Is how I’m feeling normal? Is what I’m experiencing normal? Am I crazy for feeling this way or wanting to do that? Am I crazy for knowing that XYZ is wrong, but wanting to do it anyway? Am I not normal for not being like everyone else? Is there something wrong with me because I’m not married with kids and still living at home? Is it normal that I’m not making marriage/kids a priority either? Is it normal to feel misunderstand? I don’t know if you can relate to any of these questions, but I learned that there is no such thing as normal.
In my sessions, I was seeking validation that I was not out of my mind. I just wanted to be normal. I felt crazy. In my interview, these feelings or expectations we have on ourselves and the pressures we put … it’s something that everyone feels as well. We just don’t talk about. It’s taboo to talk about it. It’s easy to get into the comparison game (because social media is a blessing and a curse) and we get in our heads about what we SHOULD be or how we SHOULD feel. There’s no such thing as normal. Once I accepted that, a lot of those self-imposed pressures melted away. I’ll be and feel however the f*** I want.
EMBRACE IT AND LET IT GO
I hate cheesy sayings like, “Everything happens for a reason.” or “Is this something that will matter a year from now?” or blah blah blah. Whatever. Shut up. It’s happening nowwwww and it sucks. lol However, I have learned to just let it happen. This goes against all the control freak tendencies that are bone deep. So instead I’ve learned to just pivot as life is happening. I’ll take the good with the bad, because at the end of the day, I have a 10000000x things to be so grateful for. These bad moments are only temporary. Embrace the good with the bad, learn from it, and keep going.
So after sharing 7 personal lessons I learned from therapy, I hope you guys were able to takeaway some helpful nuggets or at least a little change in perspective. Since I can’t look from the outside in, I try my best to self-reflect and better understand my needs and triggers. I’d like to recommend two tests: Personality Test and the 5LoveLanguage test. I think these are so interesting and are both free (and probably a lot more helpful than horoscopes LOL). From experience, I like having a better grasp of who I am and what I respond to. Helps to better understand myself and how I will handle different situations. I feel as though I know exactly who I am, more so than I ever did before and there’s something special about that. It feels wonderful to be confident in my identity. Anyway, I really enjoyed writing this post and hope you do too. Leave me comment and tell me your thoughts!