Hey, friends! I’m so glad you’re here! I hope you’re feeling well and finding things to be grateful for today. Today I’m grateful for a job where I can help others and am so lucky to get to know their stories and admire their courage and strength.

Theme of the week

I’ve mentioned before that often times there seems to be a “theme of the week”; I can have what seems like the same conversation 4-5 times in that week and every person will need to hear that image. Last week it was body image concerns: everyone seemed to be struggling with feeling okay in their own skin. This week it’s about knowing how to encourage yourself, which is a DBT skill in the “IMPROVE” acronym. For background, DBT is dialectical behavioral therapy and it’s used in many instances but particularly when we have a hard time managing emotions. DBT has four components and one of them is emotional regulation which basically means building a life worth living and having more positive experiences. In short, it’s about feeling happier and dealing with it more effectively when we aren’t happy.

Encouraging yourself is a skill for most people, not a natural ability. We have to work at it and practice it. But if you don’t have someone in your life who modeled that for you and cheered you on, it takes an even more conscious effort. We pick up phrases and ways to encourage people by watching others. We need to see encouragement modeled. And at first, it can be uncomfortable.

Practice

I’d suggest you practice first by being around voices that constantly cheer others on. I am that person in the grocery store who stops to tell someone they look great or that they’re exceptionally kind. When I go to dance class, I’m the person cheering someone on when they improve a move or nail something for the first time. My grandfather said of my grandmother that if my sister and I burned the house down, she’d compliment us on how evenly it burned. Be that person! But start by being around the person who can always find a way to compliment and encourage. People like this can be difficult to find because it’s a bit of a rare skill to be a good encourager. I’d recommend listening closely when your therapist encourages you- they’re modeling how to encourage others (and yourself!). Another fantastic place to learn what that kind voice sounds like is Louise Hay’s books (You Can Heal Your Life) is one of my favorites. Brene Brown is another fantastic author for picking up a voice of grace. If you search “The Latest Kate” on Facebook or in any search engine, you’ll come to a fantastic artist with little cartoon animals and sayings that are fantastic for cheering yourself on- if you take one thing from today’s post, I hope it’s a connection with a fabulous artist who gives you a whole lot of tips on self-love. If you have anyone in your family who has a manner of speaking that makes you feel like sunshine, they’re probably a good person to tune into. Your goal should be to develop a list of “cheers” you can use. Here are some of my favorites:

  • You’re doing the best you can and that has to be good enough.
  • You’ve survived 100% of your hardest days; you’ll survive this one, too.
  • You have so many strengths; you deserve to be celebrated!
  • You are made of the same stuff as stars! You’re inherently amazing!
  • You deserve just as much grace and love as anyone else.

Your next step is to practice on others. Give at least one person you meet each day a compliment. Get used to saying kind things that build people up.

Take care of yourself

Now you’re ready to translate what you’ve learned to take care of yourself. A simple but difficult-to-follow rule: don’t say (or think) anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to or about a loved one. Be gentle! And ya’ll, I would put about eight exclamation points after that if we’re even close to professional. I mean it. Be gentle. You don’t deserve to get beat up and even if I can’t convince you of that in one article, at least know that it’s not effective to beat yourself up. No lasting change can come of self-loathing. The only way to get where you want to go is with compassion- it keeps you more able to see solutions because you’re not blinded by shame. Practice saying nice things to yourself. Now, they have to be things you believe and that’s where building a list of kind sayings that resonate with you can be handy. When you’re in tears and trying so hard to feel an iota less miserable, it is not the right time to try to find inspiration. Have it ready so that when you’re struggling, it’s right there. When you regularly go to your list, it’ll become second nature.

Give yourself some grace and practice being a cheerleader. We all need encouragement- give it freely. Until next time, be well!

Kayla Valley is a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) who works at the Highland location of Perspectives Therapy Services. She became a therapist to help people struggle with the depression and anxiety that she understands intimately. She loves being a Michigander and is an avid sewist who loves spending time with her cats and sugar gliders.

Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland and Fenton, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.