I don’t remember much about the time I spent working with a therapist, other than the many days of sitting crying in her chair as I sorted out my life and worked through the causes of my depression. But I do remember the best advice she ever gave me: you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself. Since then it’s been a mantra I’ve been holding onto as I’ve worked through personal struggles, relationships, and work goals. And it hasn’t been bested as of yet.
What is it about that piece of advice that makes everything so clear to me, you ask? Well, it’s a little bit of tough love, it’s a touch of realism, and it’s a whole lot of responsibility. Sure, there are a lot of things that happen to us that are out of our control. But there is one thing we all have in common: how we deal with those things. And that’s at the heart of this bit of advice.
Do you have a friend that makes you feel bad and don’t know what to do? Don’t try to change your friend, because chances are nothing will come of that. But adjust your relationship with them – maybe by creating better boundaries or simply deciding if you need that person in your life. The best thing about this advice is that you don’t need permission from anyone else to make it happen.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that people are perpetual victims, and one of the things that will make you work through a lot of your challenges is knowing that you have some ownership, some responsibility in everything that happens to you. This bit of advice allows you to wrench control from wherever you may think it lies and bring it back to yourself. Ask yourself: what can I do in this situation? What are my options at hand?
I promise you; it’ll change how you see things.
Sometimes I miss Dr. K’s shawls, willowy voice, and nymph-like white hair, but I know that I got everything I needed from her. And hopefully, this advice will save you a bit of therapy too!