How Therapy Taught Me To Stop Treating Myself Poorly

Therapy was something I grew up with. I started going when I was 13, but I always felt like it was something to be embarrassed about. It felt kind of like there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed. So when I thought I was fixed, I stopped going and never looked back.  

In high school, everything was great for me. I was president of a handful of clubs, a straight A student, top of the rank at school and more. The days of needing therapy to have a better life were over. When I started college, I expected the same thing. I had never gotten anything less than an A in school and I thought I could continue that. I did not need anyone to help me through anything because I thought I could do it all. After getting my first C in a neuroscience class, I had a mental breakdown and I realized how much I needed therapy.  

One of the very first things my therapist did was ask me about school and how my classes were going. From all the questions she asked about my academics, we were able to come to the conclusion that my identity was in my academics. Before anything else, I saw myself as a student. My life had always revolved around academics because it was the only solid thing I knew. I knew what school had in store for me. 

The one thing I did not notice though, was how finding value in my grades and academics was affecting my mental health. It took having a breakdown over a C to realize how much I had spiralled out of control. 

After a handful of sessions, my therapist made me realize something I was aware of, but did not want to acknowledge. I had a negative image of myself. Despie how many compliments people gave me, I never truly believed them. I thought that by rejecting comments about how smart I was, I was being humble, but instead, I was just putting myself down. I knew I was smart because of my grades, but when my grades were not what I was used to, I was not confident in myself to continue to think I was smart. The thing my therapist challenged me to do every day was to find at least one thing I thought I was doing right. My therapist encouraged me to give myself at least one compliment every day and acknowledge how great I was- whether it was complimenting myself for helping someone figure something out or appreciating myself for being kind to others. 

I had to change the way I saw myself. 

My negative mindset also affected how I perceived the future. I did not allow myself to get excited about the future because it guaranteed there was no way of getting hurt. For example, I would assume my birthdays or holidays were going to be boring or lame because if they did end up going poorly, I knew what I was getting into. Being pessimistic was my way of protecting myself. My therapist’s challenge for me was to allow myself to get excited about things, whether it was getting boba with friends or celebrating a holiday with my family. She was aware that there might be times when I might get disappointed, but assuming that was going to happen was not healthy for me. 

After months of working through several issues, I came to realize that I was my biggest bully and critic. I was constantly putting myself down. In order to live a more positive and happy life, I not only had to try to have an optimistic mindset, but also be my own personal cheerleader. I had to develop the mindset that I was worthy of praise and work every day to keep that mentality. 

Regardless of whatever issues you might have, do not be afraid to seek help. You matter and your problems matter. You do not have to do it alone.