1. We are never judging you harshly. You are your own worst critic. Most therapists and coaches are trained to approach clients with the perspective, “At the time, this person was doing the best they could with the information and skills they had.”
2. Crying in session is very common. It’s hard to talk about hard stuff. There’s no need to apologize to us. That lets us know you feel ashamed of your feelings, which is a great therapeutic starting point.
3. Just because we’re therapists doesn’t mean our lives are perfect. We make mistakes, and things happen to us out of our control too. Although not a perfect science, we are, however, trained to be aware of and manage our own emotional experience in session and use that to relate to you, but not to assume we fully understand your experience.
4. Many people share the same or similar sources of shame/fear/sadness+ as you. You are NOT alone, no matter how bizarre, morbid, or harsh your thoughts seem to you. If you’ve thought or experienced something, the chances are very high that at least one of the other 8 billion people have too.
5. Much of social media isn’t real, and what is real is mostly highlights of people’s lives and businesses, not everyday life. I’ve lost count of how many life coaching and therapy clients I’ve worked with who feel terrible about themselves because of social media profiles that appear perfect. Once I show them filters that turn you into a completely different person, even on live video, or add perfect makeup and hair or tropical backgrounds to otherwise very normal people and situations, their self-criticism alleviates when they realize what they’ve been comparing themselves to is possibly, or even likely, fake in some way. Plus, most people aren’t sharing their worst moments for all to see.
6. The people who appear glossiest and most perfect, those you compare yourself to, also deal with life stressors and setbacks, grief and trauma. Sometimes, those who appear most together are actually falling apart inside. Never assume you know someone’s else experience, regardless of what they portray. People are complex.
7. Therapists provide information, reflection of your experiences, interpretations to help challenge and open up your thinking, and guidance when it’s necessary, such as when there are safety issues present. There’s a difference between this and direct advice, in which a person weighs in specifically about what you should do in your life decisions. Seek all of the former and not the latter, because your life is unique and nobody knows the nuances like you do.
8. We can tell when you’re holding back tears, and we want you to let them out for your own release. Crying is a healthy and amazing healing function. If you feel the urge to cry, try to let it happen. It will pass on its own and you’ll likely feel better releasing that pressure and tension.
9. Your negative self-talk originated from your upbringing and new interactions and experiences along the way. The forces that influenced your view of yourself and the world weren’t your fault. Once you recognize that, it’s much easier to decipher those external messages from who you really are and give yourself an update.
10. Even if you’ve done things in your life that are objectively harmful or destructive, your therapist holds you in positive regard and values your humanity.