The Best Advice My Therapist Ever Gave Me

In an ideal world we’d all be going to therapy, but with most sessions costing at least R750 most of us just don’t make enough money to do so. Luckily some real women who can afford it shared some of the best pearls of wisdom their therapist ever gave them with us:

‘I’m always over-thinking my interactions with other people, often walking away from a meeting or social gathering obsessing over what a person thinks of me. My therapist gave me a mantra which is: don’t take anything personally. I say it every time I’m worrying about what other people think. Basically it’s a reminder that everything people do is about themselves, not you. When someone says something mean it’s because of their life and experiences; they’ve just chosen to take it out on you. I practice separating myself from other peoples’ actions (i.e. not taking them personally) and just focusing on me. It’s good to remind yourself that everyone is coming from their own place that you could never understand.’ —Kirsty, 25

Read: Rumination: is This Unhelpful Thought Pattern Ruining Your Life?

‘I put a lot of pressure on myself and end up with a big feeling of guilt, usually for not being a good enough daughter or for not doing enough with my life. I used to say things like ‘I should go visit my parents’ or ‘I should have put more effort in that project at work’. My therapist told me to check myself every time I used the word ‘should’ and try replace it with ‘want to’ to assess whether I really *want* to do something. Sometimes it feels right and then I know I actually want to do it, but sometimes I actually find I don’t want to go visit my parents, and that’s okay (my therapist said so!). She says no one benefits when you do something out of obligation, and I agree.’—Kaylee, 26

‘I am really passionate about a lot of issues and often find myself getting into heated discussions or arguments about them, which leave me drained and upset. My therapist asked me why I felt the need to argue with people and I said it’s because their views are wrong and harmful, to which she said ‘That’s just your opinion’. It sounds really simple but that kind of blew my mind. Obviously I feel we should be spreading information about, for example, feminism and such but also remember that nothing is universally ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. What it all boils down to is opinion and you can’t force your opinion on someone. It was (and is) a hard pill for me to swallow but since then I’ve made an effort to try and see where someone is coming from with their (wrong IMHO) opinions and understand why they have them. This way I can have a more calm and productive discussion with them, instead of getting angry and trying to change their mind the whole time’ —Berivan, 30

Read:Self-Care In The Time Of Activism: Looking After Yourself While Standing Up For Others [Link not live yet]

‘My therapist taught me about how humans tend to see patterns where there are none (it’s called apophenia or patternicity). It made me realise that I was creating patterns in my head, making me label myself as someone who bad things “always” happens to, and feeling sorry for myself. For example I carried with me the idea that I was just the kind of girl who guys love to cheat on because 2 of my boyfriends had cheated on me in the past, and this made me really hesitant to enter new relationships. In reality, however, there had been 5 boyfriends who *hadn’t* cheated on me, but I was only focusing on the bad for the sake of self-pity. Now when I think I notice a pattern I look at the bigger picture as a reality check for myself (usually I find there is no actual pattern).’ —Madison, 32

‘I hadn’t heard about “impostor syndrome” until a therapy session. I was telling her about how stressed I was about not having achieved enough in my career yet and asking for advice on how to be more productive. She explained impostor syndrome to me, which is when someone who is a high achiever can’t acknowledge that they have achieved a lot. She asked me to step back and imagine if someone else had done everything that I’d done in my career, and what I’d think of them. I realised that I was being too harsh on myself and undermining all my accomplishments. Now every time I’m feeling useless I imagine I’m someone else looking at my life, and usually realise that I’m actually doing really well.’ —Sylvia, 29

Read more about mind health.

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