By Kelley Smith

The Perfect Post

It has been a while since I have created a blog post. As I was typing, I noticed how much pressure I felt in that sentence. In my mind, it implied that I have been doing nothing since I wrote one. I am totally minimizing the working parent thing and everything else in my life. I always keep a list of topics that I want to write about in the future. For the past ten minutes I have been going through the list looking for the right topic to jump out. Setting boundaries, navigating transitions, emotional intimacy…all great topics at some point. I noticed I started to feel the pressure again. It was as if I had to write the perfect post because I have not written in a while. Then it reminded me of a familiar topic that comes up in sessions with clients. Who is making this rule? Who is saying I have to write about a good topic after not writing? I am making these rules and putting this pressure on myself to perform, which is a message coming from my underlying thoughts. 

Then I realized, I had the topic for my blog post. It is so easy to get caught up in the inaccurate thoughts in our head, which cause uncomfortable feelings and can prevent us from doing things we enjoy. I can use my example to show one way that we have the power to change our thoughts. 

First, I noticed feelings of pressure or anxiety as I was thinking of a topic and looking at the list. I checked in with my thoughts. (I have been busy and let the blog slip. I want people to know that I am still committed to it, which shows people that I am committed to my work, and that I am a good therapist). It is easy to get lost in the train of negative thoughts. (People may not want to work with me if they do not think I am committed. What if I started to have a hard time getting clients? Would my business go under?).  In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) this is called a thinking error, catastrophizing. When I challenged the automatic thoughts and look at the facts, none of this is true. Creating an interesting blog or frequently posting is not a qualifier to being a successful therapist and helping my clients. Instead, my thoughts created the feelings of anxiety, expending emotional energy unnecessarily. The anxiety caused me to avoid writing a blog post, which continued the thought process cycle. 

Now let’s look at this from more of an accepting, mindful place. One way to practice being mindful with our underlying thoughts is an exercise known as leaves on a stream. I prefer to think of little boats in the ocean, but feel free to sub in something that works for you. As a reminder, I noticed anxiety, which caused me to reflect on my automatic thoughts. Using this exercise, I took note of the thought of letting the blog slip, labeled it as a judgmental thought, dropped it on a boat, which sailed out into the ocean. Next thought was I want to show that I am committed to the blog. I labeled it an anxious thought and put it on another boat. Keep filling up those boats until you are out of thoughts to put on them. Important note, if you catch yourself jumping in and swimming after the boats, slow it back down. Try not to judge yourself and start again.  

I started typing and this is where I ended up. It is okay to just be. We do not have to hold ourselves to such high standards of perfection. We can all get carried away in our thoughts, no matter our background. We have the power to change our thoughts to reflect a more accurate picture of our circumstances. We all can use techniques like CBT and mindfulness to increase our ability to sit with uncomfortable feelings and label them with acceptance and without judgment, just like this brief example.

Side note, I did complete a full year of blogging, which was my goal. Here is another thinking error, minimizing the accomplishments, because I did not recognize that achievement until way down here, but that is for another day!

By Kelley Smith

8 Reasons Why You Haven’t Gone To Therapy

People have often told me that before coming in for their first appointment they had my number for a while, but hesitated to reach out. I always ask those people what gets in the way of coming in for therapy. I’ve wondered is it the stigma about asking for help? Are they afraid they will be judged? Is it the time or money? Here are 8 reasons I’ve heard about why people hesitate to come in and why I think they are misconceptions. 

1. I have a good support system of family and friends, so why talk to a stranger? 

Family and friends can be an extremely beneficial support system during difficult times. Though when it comes to certain topics, you may be holding back in what you share with them for fear of “burdening” your loved ones or fear of being judged. Therapists have professional training to help you manage difficult life circumstances and do so in a way that creates a safe space without judgment. My clients have told me they have shared things with me that they have never revealed to their spouse, parents, siblings, or friends. 

2. Therapy is a time commitment. 

 I often compare therapy to running. You aren’t going to run once and set a record marathon time. At first you may walk, but eventually you can run  longer distances at faster speeds. Therapy takes time, though using your emotional energy on things that are not working is also time consuming and draining. As you experience relief through therapy, there is a natural reinforcement that makes it feel worth the time.

3. I’ve tried therapy before and it didn’t help. Why try again? 

If you have had a negative or bland experience, why would you want to give therapy another shot? The most likely cause is that you and your therapist were not a good fit. I see people experience the most growth when there is a good relationship between the therapist and client, which comes down to a number of personal factors.

 4. I don’t want my business and information shared. 

Confidentiality and privacy are extremely important, especially with the sensitive nature of therapy. I always explain this in person at the first session and here is a link that talks about this more in depth. 

5. I must have serious issues. Or, my issues are not serious enough. 

Before even getting into the room, people judge themselves or worry that the therapist will judge and compare them to others. I should be able to handle this. I know what my issue is. Other people have it worse. What really matters is that you are hurting and in need of this time for self-care, which has nothing to do with anyone else and the seriousness of their problems. You are entitled to feel the way you feel and you deserve a safe space to process your feelings! 

6. If I had extra money to spend, I would rather (fill in the blank) than go to therapy. 

I get this one too. We all have a list of things we would rather spend money on that seem more enjoyable than talking about our problems and feelings. Sometimes it seems easier to prioritize our physical health over emotional health and wellbeing. Just like gym memberships, yoga, and beauty all cost money and time, taking care of our emotional health has similar costs. 

7. How is talking about it going to help or can you change the past? 

For some, it can be counterintuitive to believe that talking about things that are painful can actually help one feel better. We need to experience our emotions and understand our experiences in order to heal and going through this process with a professional may be the only way to do so. It is a hard concept to understand until you have experienced it, but when people get to a point where they need to try something new, they give someone like me a call. 

8. I don’t want to make my problems worse by talking about them. 

It can be painful to revisit past experiences or to take a hard look at the person you are or want to be. Therapists are professionally trained to do this in a safe way to prevent overwhelming feelings. Initially you may feel worse, but this is often the way the healing process works. Your therapist will provide support to help you manage your feelings during the process of therapy. 

By Kelley Smith

Tell Me More About Disenfranchised Grief

I had to create a folder in my email of “Articles I Want to Read” and slowly have been getting through some of them. I came across a great article on disenfranchised grief, from What’s Your Grief, which you can find here. If you are asking what is disenfranchised grief, it is a great question! Many people do not know because it is not talked about enough. The author of this article delivers a good explanation on what disenfranchised grief is and then provides 64 examples of types of death that are considered disenfranchised.  People have come into my office who are experiencing a grief as disenfranchised, but do not understand why family or friends who also experienced the loss are “not having as hard of a time.” Loss is a very personal experience regardless if several people experienced the same loss. For example say in the Jones family, the grandmother died. The daughter, granddaughter, husband, niece, sister, and family friend are all going to have different experiences in processing their grief. Sometimes the experience is so different or unable to be grieved for properly, that it can become complicated.  Additionally, some losses also have stigma around them and society’s acceptance of the loss can impact the opportunity for the survivor to grieve the loss properly such as suicide, pregnancy loss, or pet loss.

Often people who are grieving or even people who are attempting to support a griever want a rule book on how things are going to go, how to act, when someone will “feel better,” Or the one that really gets me frustrated, “get over it.” The experience really is subjective and different for everyone and it is sad that it is the expectation of society that a person is supposed to just “get over their loss.” As I read through the list, I thought of many past and current clients, family members, co-workers, and friends. It is amazing how common these experiences are in one way, but are so isolating, lonely, and devastating in another way. Take a look and imagine some compassion for all these grievers and even yourself with your own losses that may or may not have been disenfranchised. 

By Kelley Smith

We Are Living a Life Sentence

In the 24/7 lives we live today, our lives often revolve around what is trending, new content, the newest Netflix show, etc. I recently watched a series called Life Sentence, not only because Netflix recommended it, but because the name captured me. And for any old Nip/Tuck fans, although Dylan Walsh has turned in his scalpel, he has aged well!

In the first five minutes you find out the main character has been cured of her cancer diagnosis and now is left to serve her life sentence of living. I loved how in the introduction she described that when she thought she was dying, she was able to embrace life and live freely, having experiences, conquering her fears, and really being present. She described the switch for her as she was told she was living, she no longer experienced the carefree mindfulness of being present in life anymore. I could relate at times to the mundanity of life, the goodbye kiss in the morning, dropping my son off at daycare, arriving at the office, making coffee, I could keep going, but I think you get the picture. The interesting part is we are all living out a life sentence and we know that our own death is unavoidable. Yes, I said it. We are going to die.

The concept made me reflect on all the big decisions I have made thus far in my life. I think about how everyone stresses the importance of employment, social engagements, education, or finances. Yet, are we planning too much? What if you don’t get to live, love, and enjoy your life in our life because we are so focused on the future? How do we make life enjoyable now? Or maybe it is a blend of planning ahead and experiencing gratitude and mindfulness in the day-to-day. I think if we begin to focus on the day-to-day pleasures, even doing one mindful thing each day, we get to experience life a little bit more and remove some of the mundanity. In a way mindfulness or gratitude can remind us of our reasons for living. So pay attention to what is going on in your life today on purpose, without judgment. Try to use all five of your senses to really experience what it is like to walk outside your door and be present. Enjoy your life sentence!  

By Kelley Smith

Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Symptoms

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the transition into motherhood is no joke. Even women who have multiple children have said the experience is different pregnancy to pregnancy. 1 in 7 new mothers experience postpartum depression and anxiety. I enjoy helping mamas who are having a hard time after giving birth or becoming a parent. Many mothers report ranging on a spectrum from this mama thing is tough to clinical postpartum depression and anxiety disorders. Either way, support is available and there is no judgment in reaching out for help. You are rocking it! If nothing else, coming to therapy gets you an hour or so for you to take care of yourself during the rush of Motherhood.

Here is an article that details (gotta love their plain mama English) the symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorder. Take a look and do not hesitate to reach out if you would like some support.

By Kelley Smith

New Parent? I Promise, It Will Get Better.

As my due date with my second child nears, I am not sure if this article is intended more for myself or all the new moms I work with or moms I haven’t met yet. Many who know me personally know I was not warm and fuzzy around children. I always felt like I had a hard time connecting with kids. As my friends started to have kids, I felt like they could see right through my act of trying to engage their children and know I had no idea what I was doing. If I am honest, even after having my own son I sometimes still have a difficult way with other people’s children. For a while my husband and I were not sure we were going to choose to have children, but we traveled, ate some good meals, and once we decided we were on board, the internal switch was turned on and we were “ready.”

During my first pregnancy I can’t tell you how many times I heard the joke, “Having a baby is tough, that is why they give you nine months to prepare.” Or, “Enjoy your dinner, go to the movies now before you can never go again.” Boy, they were not kidding! (Though we recently just went to the movies AND a nice dinner). When our son was first born, those were the hardest, scariest, and most challenging days and months. Having my son and being responsible for this little tiny being was completely overwhelming. Not to mention all of the hormones created during pregnancy and childbirth come rushing out at a rapid speed with no warning, complete with a baby blues package of tears and plaguing thoughts such as, “what kind of Mother can I be that I am crying so much when I should (there it is again) be happy I have this beautiful baby?” I was lucky that it was in fact the baby blues, which dissolved pretty much at the two week mark, though I was constantly judging myself, not trusting my own judgment, and confused as to why others I knew who had children described the instant joy and happiness, where all that kept coming to my head was wow, this is really hard. No one mentioned that it is totally normal if the joy and happiness takes some time to grow and build and that the baby won’t actually start engaging with you for months. You hear about the diapers, getting peed on by the baby boys, spit up, drool, boogies, and the nose frida. You hear about the lack of sleep. But, experiencing the sleep deprivation is a whole other experience. I remember how inadequate I felt so many times, which was further challenged after  my maternity leave was over and I was handing my son off to daycare five days a week. At the time it felt like I was a failure. I remember taking any tiny suggestion or recommendation the daycare providers would give me as a criticism. I totally disregarded the fact that they worked in the field and cared for hundreds or more children in their careers. I was totally focused on anything I believed that I was not doing right, which at the time felt like everything. Life felt really hard.

Fast forward and now my son is almost 2 1/2 years old. Recently I was reflecting back on the earlier times, which maybe has to do with my nostalgia that he continues to grow out of his clothes, his piggy toes are not so small anymore, and he is talking, or, more likely the fact that we are expecting another one so soon. Stepping back, I cannot believe how much more confident I have grown. I have learned to have more patience with myself and reminding myself that parenting is a totally new job. A job where you have new responsibilities or the rules change daily, weekly, or monthly, just as you get used to the way things are going. Now if the daycare workers give me a suggestion, I am much more comfortable telling them what I was doing, even if it the complete opposite of what they are suggesting. I am willing to be more vulnerable. I don’t care (well don’t care as much) what they think of parenting, which is interesting because inside I can feel how important this was to me when I first took him to daycare. It is a hard job for new parents. I cannot say that enough because I feel like this was under-reported to me. If you are a parent (or consider becoming one, beware!), it brings out just about every insecurity you ever had and multiplies it rapidly. Though, it is totally worth it. I truly experience that happiness, joy, and feeling proud every day, just as my friends had all described. I literally feel it in my heart. Having my son was the most rewarding experience that I have had in my life. Finally, one thing people told me prior to having him rang true. Every day with my son is more and more rewarding and my love for him is indescribable.  

By Kelley Smith

Self-Compassion Fail in Action

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the lack of self-compassion comes up a lot in sessions with clients. Why are we all so hard on ourselves? Yes, I am saying we because it happens to me too. Recently, I felt myself pulled back into another pull between my own negative thoughts and developing self-compassion. It was a struggle, which is why I want to share with others. It is not something your therapist can suggest and you order it from Amazon. It takes practice and time.

Here is the scenario. I was at a community library event and my son was just over 2 years old. He walked over to where a child and mother were playing, which at the time I thought, awww he liked the voice she just used. Next thing I know I am catching a huge “whose child is this, why aren’t you watching your kid” kind of look. I paused for a few seconds and then realized he had taken the toy her son was playing with. I sprang into action (mostly due to my own guilt after experiencing her glare, she clearly has never read Janet Lansbury), helped my son see that he took the toy, gave back the toy to her son, and before I could mutter a brief apology or a “he’s learning how to share,” I was saving some other child’s tower from mass destruction because my son was heading toward it. Her glare stayed with me the entire day. I can still feel it now as I am typing. This activated feelings of shame, disappointment, guilt, and insecurities in myself as a Mother. My negative self thoughts that come up for me from time to time started filing in. You are not a good Mother. You can’t discipline your child. Other people are judging you on your parenting skills. You will be blacklisted from the library. I felt like such a failure from that day that I didn’t even tell my husband about it. In fact, he is reading this the same time as all of you! As you are reading, you might be thinking, wow, all that over one glance and toddlers playing? If so, this is because we are quick to feel compassion for others, but for some reason it is very difficult when it comes to oneself. Like when being trained a new skill at your job, developing compassion for oneself takes work.

The next day my “training” looked something like this. First, I checked in with myself because I am feeling ashamed and disappointed. When I explored as to why, I realized it stems from the situation and my automatic thoughts about my parenting. In attempt to understand myself better and not beat myself up, I would like to create some more self-compassion in this situation. I know I have a lot of things I could say about myself to develop compassion in response to my feelings of shame and insecurities over this library situation. I am tired. I am still coming down from moving into a new home after one of the most stressful couple months of my life. I have been home with my son for days without any nap or nighttime break due to the current sleeping arrangements (which were re-designed immediately). I did jump in and try to use the experience as a learning situation. I am not the only Mother to ever pause when handling a situation. I could also name several situations where I felt like I nailed a parenting situation, which would also challenge my negative thoughts. I could think of more, but I want you to read on.

Next, I might look to expand the compassion from different angles. Earlier another child put two hands down on a puzzle that my son was trying to play with and this child’s Mother did nothing. Did I think she was a bad Mother? No, I thought maybe she was just not paying attention in that moment or was letting the toddlers figure it out, which felt okay to me. Also, who defines whether or not the ball was dropped? When my son took the toy, I addressed it. There was not a safety issue and the parent was clearly more upset than the child.

Lastly, I would review the situation again identifying how I wish it went differently, but with incorporating my self-compassion into the story. I recognized my automatic negative thoughts and that this situation is not an accurate reflection on my parenting abilities. I wish I had caught my son prior to taking the child’s toys and I also wish I jumped in a bit quicker. I was able to address it with the kiddos, but I wish I said something like, “Sorry for my delayed response,” to the Mother. I understand that I am tired and it has been a stressful bunch of days. It was a challenge to get to this activity in the first place. This was not a safety issue where I paused and I can’t get it 100% right all of the time because I am human. For fun, I should also mention it is also possible that the Mother’s glare was a bit overzealous and it is okay that I believe the toddlers to learn how to handle disappointment and distress tolerance.

My point is, the next time you find yourself stuck on something or you are beating yourself up, give this exercise a try. Please note with using self-compassion, I am also not excusing or rationalizing my behavior, but understanding myself a little bit more and where I was at during the situation. I learned more about myself and my underlying thoughts and feelings, but also explained to myself why I was where I was during that time and being in that space is okay.

By Kelley Smith

Listen Up!

During sessions, I hear many complaints regarding communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. Yet, one of the keys to success is the ability to communicate. This is not something we always learn when we are younger and master. It takes work to be able to communicate well, and often within relationships or families, people have different styles of communicating and relating to one another. It can be easy to fall into a negative feedback loop leaving you with miscommunications, feeling misunderstood, or even resentful of the other person. Let’s consider what happens when two people are communicating. When there is a message being communicated, there is a speaker and a listener and often there is some back and forth where the speaker and listener are switching roles during the exchange. When you read about improving communication, tips tend to focus a lot on the speaker, such as, “use I statements or state your needs clearly,” but there is less focus on the listener. The job of the listener is just as important, as the listener helps the speaker feel validated and heard through the conversation, which can deepen the intimacy and connection in the relationship.  

We all deserve deep, intimate connections with others. To help improve your communication and deepen your connections, we are going to focus on what may be going on for the listener during the exchange. When being the listener, you can have good intentions, but can get stuck using one of the twelve blocks to listening without even realizing it. As you read through the blocks below, see if you have used one of these blocks when you are listening to others. When you are the speaker, if you have sensed you are not being heard, maybe the other person is engaging in one or more of the listening blocks.

1. Comparing – It is hard to listen because your brain is already checking in on who is smarter, more attractive, more competent, more healthy, etc.

2. Mind Reading – The mind reader is assuming they know what the other person is feeling and thinking and then does not hear what the other person is actually saying.

3. Rehearsing – You are already rehearsed what you are going to say in response and your attention is not on what the person is actually saying.

4. Filtering – You listen to some things, but miss out on others. You only pay enough attention to read if the person is angry or unhappy and how it may relate to you. Once you notice there is no threat to you, your mind begins to wander. Sometimes people also filter out any uncomfortable topics and feelings or simply just check out.

5. Judging – If you prejudge someone, you don’t tend to pay much attention to what they are saying because you have already written them off for whatever you judged them on instead.

6. Dreaming – You’re listening initially, but then something the person says triggers some private associations and you are off in dreamland.

7. Identifying – Here you take everything someone tells you and refer it back to your own experience. You then launch into your own story, sometimes not even realizing the other person has not finished theirs.

8. Advising – You act as the problem solver, ready to help out with suggestions or fix things for the speaker. While you are thinking of your feedback and suggestions, you may miss the important information the speaker is trying to tell you.

9. Sparring – This listening block has you arguing and debating with others. The speaker never feels heard because you are so quick to disagree, even if you are meaning it in a supportive way.

10. Being right – You will go to lengths to avoid being wrong. You cannot listen to criticism or take suggestions for change.

11. Derailing – This listening block is accomplished by changing the subject. This usually happens when the listener is bored or uncomfortable with a topic. This can also be done or hidden by using humor.

12. Placating – You respond with things like right, yes, absolutely. You are trying to be pleasant and supportive, but then agree with everything the speaker says.

If you find you are using some of these communication styles when being the listener, you are not alone! They are common and I know I have been guilty of some advising, mind reading, and rehearsing from time to time. The idea is to start bringing awareness to when you are engaging in these listening blocks and then to start making a change by being more present and actively listening when you are the listener. When you are actively listening, you hear the complete message the speaker is giving you. By actively listening, you are paying attention, showing the speaker you are listening, providing feedback if necessary, or clarifying things that are unclear. If you are the speaker identifying that your partner is not listening, forward the blog over to them for a read, or maybe it is time to contact me!

By Kelley Smith

Battling With A Case of the Shouldas

There is so much talk about resolutions and goals this time of year and as I expect more transition this upcoming year, I decided to give the vision board exercise a try. I found myself in the midst of engaging with one of my thinking errors, the shouldas, and I figured I would share.

Let me set the scene for you. I am sitting next to all my vision board materials. I have read up on vision boards and using affirmations to obtain what you want and desire in life. I have gathered materials that “spoke” to me, Alexa found me some “relaxing music that you might like.” I even planned ahead and bought some extra glue because there is so much going on this vision board I didn’t want to run out! I planned to do the vision board while my husband is away and my son is sound asleep. Except not only am I not doing the vision board, I am not doing anything. I am staring at the vision board materials while a case of the shouldas has brewed inside my head. Being the therapist that I am, I try to pull up my feelings and trace back my behavior of not doing the vision board to my thoughts. What did I find?

I am feeling pressure and anxiety about the vision board and I do not want to do it. I think that I should do it because I have wanted these things for a while and I thought if I take some control by doing this vision board, like the online community, friends, or therapists have suggested, then I will obtain the things I want in life. Instead, now I am not only thinking about how I should do the vision board, but how I should be exercising more, how I should have enrolled in that training even though it cost more than I wanted it to, how I should have fed my son healthier lunches 1.5 years ago, how I should call my Mother back (even though I already talked to her earlier today), and the list goes on.

It is easy to run away with the thoughts in our heads. When it happens to me, I also get frustrated with myself. Being a therapist, I should be able to control my thinking better. And just like that, there it is again. Why do we constantly engage in these thinking errors and negative thought patterns? How can adding one word into a statement bring on such strong emotions sometimes that it has the power to physically stop us from doing something? I will cover more about this in future blogs, but recently I have found the topic of self-compassion coming up a lot in sessions with clients. Building self-compassion takes a lot of time and is complex. It is like doing a complicated movement like a snatch at the gym (which I should have done yesterday, right?) It sounds easy when it is explained or demonstrated, but then I go to pick up the weight and I forget what comes first the thrust, the jump, keeping the back straight, or leaning over. I believe taking away the one word, should, over time would build more compassion. What would it look like if I held space for the things I don’t want to do? What if I wasn’t so quick to judge myself over not doing them? What if I asked myself what I really wanted to do instead and embraced it by actually doing that. And who wrote the shoulda rules anyways? I did. So I also have the power to change them.

I had a client tell me recently that she failed at her journaling exercise and I asked her to explain to me what she meant. She said she bought the journal, but didn’t put any entries down. She continued, “I know I should have written in it. What good is it without using it?” When I was hearing her, I was so proud of her for purchasing the journal. In my mind, this was a celebration, you can’t journal without the journaling materials, though she was judging herself on what she hadn’t done. I had compassion and understanding for her, so where is the compassion for myself? I bought all the materials for the vision board just like my client bought the journal, but I am not feeling good about it because the shouldas pulled me into the negative thought cycle. If I take the shoulda out of it and replace it with a compassionate statement it would look something like this: I have all the vision board materials for when and if I want to create the vision board. Until then, I will embrace that small success and use the rest of the night to relax how I want to relax (even if it involves a bowl of ice cream) and not how my brain is falsely telling me that I should.

By Kelley Smith

Dare Not To Compare

Especially at this time of year, when you log onto social media you are faced with beautiful pictures of everything going so perfectly in others’ life. Recently I have seen everything from Christmas trees, picture-perfect kids, pets with Santa, plates of food, and decorations that sometimes make my efforts look sad in comparison. If it is not holiday season, it is usually exotic vacations, new homes, birth announcements, promotions, and the list could go on. What are your thoughts when you see all this? Often, people tend to compare to their own situation. Wow, he must be a great supervisor because he got a promotion! How does she stay so thin? Recently I thought, I wish my decorations and my house looked so clean. She must be a supermom, she works, takes care of her kids, and has her entire beautiful house decorated!?”

These comparisons play out often, but when someone is in a period of self-doubt, depression, or anxiety, seeing all these images and information can intensify the negative thought process. The automatic thoughts in our brains turn negative and often against ourselves, and the person becomes stuck in the cycle. We start using what are called thinking errors, which may be all or nothing thinking, mind reading, personalization, disqualifying the positive, and there are plenty more. It can be hard to get oneself out of this cycle, which is often where therapy can help!

If you are affected by all of these pictures and posts and find yourself doing the comparing, pause for a minute and try to think through the facts. People are only posting the good things. LinkedIn never says your buddy got laid off today, send him a frown face. Or, when people are struggling with their child, most likely they are not posting to everyone about it, or only post the moment where everything is seemingly working out. I know for me, the times I post are when my son or dog looks cute or I want to tell everyone some news (positive of course). I don’t post about the times that are challenging and neither does almost anyone else! We tend to fill in our own narrative of how wonderful everyone else’s life is and then get stuck comparing again and feeling bad about ourselves.

I have a few friends and clients who have gone off social media as a trial or maybe gone off Facebook and Instagram, but stayed on LinkedIn. Their responses have been overwhelmingly positive. People have shared they feel happier, less weighed down, more positive, and have found they compare themselves to others less. This one is going to be hard to believe because there is always a fear of missing out, but people told me they actually do not miss it! They have more availability to spend their time doing meaningful, enjoyable things, and can be more mindful in their present life.

I read once that the only true comparison is comparing your current state to your younger self. This has always stuck with me and I think it is very accurate. For example, when I was in undergrad I majored in psychology and legal studies and I wanted to get a job in the human services field. If I compare that version of myself to now, I did just that. After completing a four-year degree, the thought of grad school seemed impossible, but comparing to now, I found it much easier because I focused in on what I wanted to do, which was provide therapy! Or I had many self-doubts and insecurities surface for me when I first became a mother. If I compare myself as a mother now to myself as a new mother, I can see how much more confident, patient, and supportive I am.

Comparing to others is not a healthy practice and you can get caught in the negative thought process. Next time you find yourself comparing or feeling that pressure from social media, know there is a reason why and that you can do something about it! Be brave! You may find you can reduce the depression and anxiety by making healthier choices for you, which may mean uninstalling (or at least hiding) a few apps that are fuel for unhealthy thought processes.