How to Stop Taking Things So Personally

All of us feel sensitive about something. We all have our soft spots and our “no-go” topics, but to the hypersensitive among us, a gentle poke can feel more like a stab in the heart. Instead of being able to shake off certain comments, we focus on them, internalize them and begin to question ourselves.

Learning to “toughen up” by taking things less personally can benefit both ourselves and others. We can protect ourselves from pain, feel less self-doubt and we can stop reacting to hurtful comments with defensiveness and anger, which often leads to relationship conflict making it harder to work or live together. And for those in positions of power, hypersensitivity can cause us to shut people out or to be over controlling stunting our team’s moral, growth and performance.

So how can we toughen up without becoming hard-hearted?

Tip 1: Create space between you and your reactions:

When we feel criticized, our initial response is to react. The result is usually not a good one. Instead of following that knee-jerk reaction, try to pause and take a few deep breaths. This is known as the “mindful pause” and it allows your systems to calm down. In your calmer state, you can then reflect on what was said and choose how you want to respond vs. simply reacting (and then regretting it later).

Tip 2: Consider the source:

Does the critique in question come from someone who knows you well and is a person who you like and respect? Or does it come from someone who doesn’t know you, has zero regard for others and has a tendency to shoot their mouth off regularly?

Considering the source can help you decide whether to take their feedback to heart or with a grain of salt.

Tip 3: Challenge your perfectionism:

There is a straight line between hypersensitivity and perfectionism. Many of us react so strongly to criticism because we’ve worked so hard to be faultless or good enough (precisely so no one will criticize us). When we get negative feedback, it turns all that hard work into dust.

One way to challenge perfectionism is to get better at receiving criticism. Another, even more challenging way, is to accept the cracks and the imperfections. Slowly realizing that you are enough just as you are takes time and work, but simply acknowledging your triggers can be a powerful first step.

Any critique that brings forth old hurts (reminders of being bullied in school or pigeonholed by your parents for example) cuts extra deep, but just being aware that something is a hot button issue for you is the first step to owning it, and eventually healing it.

Tip 4: Give critics another chance, but not unlimited chances:

People are human – we make mistakes, we say dumb things and we can be awkward. But if you’re criticized or insulted by the same person repeatedly, that’s not a mistake, that’s a pattern. It does not mean that you need to end the relationship, which may be especially hard to do if the repeat offender is a relative or a co-worker, but it does mean that it’s time to speak up, set some boundaries and limit contact if necessary.

Tip 5: Know Your Worth:

We are our own biggest critics. The more confidence we have in ourselves, the less likely we are to feel crushed by someone’s criticism. Developing confidence can be a slow and arduous process but it might be helpful to remember that our brains are wired to focus on the negative and often we’re much harder on ourselves than we deserve. To start building confidence, focus on your accomplishments and the things that you do well and try to say one kind thing to yourself everyday. Have conversations with people who like and respect you and let them remind you of how awesome you are. Hold on to those feelings. Understanding your own value is your best defense when someone makes you feel small. 

As always, be kind to yourselves and remember, we are all works in progress!

What is Therapy?

During my WeWork Workshop last week on “How to Manage Anxiety in the Workplace,” one of the attendees asked a wonderful question. “What exactly is therapy?” He was slightly embarrassed for not knowing the answer and excused his “ignorance” as he called it, but truthfully I thought the question was brilliant and a great reminder for me. I told him just that.

As a licensed psychotherapist, or as in most trained professions, I forget that most people don’t know what I know. Most people didn’t go through the same regiment of additional education and 3,000 hours of grueling training. The definition of psychotherapy isn’t ingrained in their brains just like the definition of certiorari (a legal term) and obdormition (a medical term) are not ingrained in my brain. And so for me, the question was a great reminder that when talking about therapy, I need to start at the beginning rather than somewhere in the middle.

So – what is therapy (aka psychotherapy, talk therapy and counseling)? Therapy can be defined in many ways depending on who you ask. If I had to sum up therapy briefly, I would describe it as self-discovery or the intentional act of setting aside time for yourself every week (50 minutes to be precise) to gain more self-awareness leading to balance, fulfillment and clarity.

People attend therapy for a variety of reasons including (but definitely not limited to) to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, to explore, to problem-solve, to navigate transitions, to grieve and to heal. You can learn to answer questions such as, “Who am I?” “What are my values?” “Is this relationship working for me?” “Why do I say such mean things to myself?” “Why do I feel so alone all the time?” “Where am I going in life? And “What obstacles are standing in my way?” You can dive deep into figuring out where your anxiety or sadness or depression or self-doubt comes from and work to manage it so that you feel in control of your own life. And you can examine your relationships, your career path and your communication styles so that you can exist in a way that feels true to who you actually are.

Historically going to therapy meant you were “crazy” or that something was “seriously wrong with you.” The stigma around therapy was so intense that no one even wanted to say the word. Now more and more I’m finding that that’s not the case. The stigma around therapy is slowly, very slowly decreasing, and now rather than a weakness, therapy can be seen as a strength. At least, that's the way I see it. I see therapy as a way to take time for yourself, a means of self-care, and a path to discovering your strengths and your authentic self, your best self. 

So, what are you waiting for?

17 Tips to Boost Productivity & Happiness in the Workplace

CHALLENGE: I challenge each of you to try all of these for 1 week. If that feels like too much, start with the 1st and incorporate 1/week until they become a part of your routine.

 How to Be More Productive:

·     Manage your time by doing the most important tasks first

     o Take 5-10 mins on Monday morning to make a list of all the things you need to get done.

     o Rank them from 1-10; 1 being most urgent, 10 being a task that need to get done this week.

     o If you have multiple number ones, pick the one you’d like to do the least and start there.

·     Focus on one thing at a time

·     Know and accept your limits

      o Find a way to say no/pushback in an authentic and respectful way. This allows you to                      focus on your tasks to the best of you abilities without feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

·     Take breaks

      o If not hourly, then take a 5-10 minute break every 2 hours and step away from your desk.

·     Make a list of your accomplishments at the end of every day

      o Bold the ones you’re most proud of and congratulate yourself.


How to Feel Happier:

·     Listen to soothing music  

·     Have fun and laugh

      o Laughter lowers our cortisol ("stress hormone") levels

·     Connect with someone at work

      o Face-to-Face with someone new for 2-5 minutes a day

·     Bring a small puzzle to work

     o Do it on your break or leave it in the common room to help build community

·     Choose tea over coffee                            

·     Stay hydrated

      o Drink from a clear cup/bottle with a straw

·     Eat nutritious food

·     Get a good night’s sleep

      o Try to sleep and wake at the same time every night. Our bodies love routine.                     

·     Exercise

     o 20-30 mins/3-4x/week

·     Quick and easy massages

      o Tennis ball

      o Quick eye, face and hand massage

·      Journal

      o Put pen to paper vs. typing on your computer. (This sends a signal to our brains to relax.)

·     Practice Mindfulness

     o The act of being intentional and present; noticing, pausing and breathing without                              judgment


I would love to hear how these tips worked for you, if you would like more information on any tip, or if there’s anything you would like to add! Please email me at hello@honestspacetherapy.com.

To Break Up or Not to Break Up

The topic of relationships seems to be coming up a lot right now - maybe because it's spring. Last week, someone in my book club asked if she should end her relationship with her girlfriend. We had a really nice chat and here is a brief and somewhat simplified version of my response. * 

Whether or not to break up with someone can be a really big question (sometimes it's pretty cut and dry) and it's actually a question no one can answer except you. Here are some things to consider to help you make your decision.

What is leading you to ask the question? How long have you been feeling this way? Has something happened recently or repeatedly that is making you question your relationship? If so, what is it? Can you rank it on a scale from 1-10, 1 being not a big deal and 10 being a deal breaker? What are your deal breakers and has she violated any of them? What are your reasons for being with her? How does she make you feel on a daily basis? How would you feel without her? Is she helping or holding you back from being the best version of yourself? Is there any abuse in the relationship (physical, emotional, psychological)? (If the answer to this question is yes - please seek immediate help.)

In addition to thinking about your relationship on your own, have you talked with your girlfriend about how you're feeling? If it is safe to do so, honest, open communication might help you get some more clarity. You don't have to say "I'm thinking about breaking up with you," but you can say something along the lines of, "I'm having some doubts about our relationship. Can we talk about us?" If you want to stay with her, maybe you can work on your relationship together? Going to couples counseling together could also be an option for you.

Personally, having been on both sides of a relationship ending (being the one doing the breaking up and being the one who is broken up with), I can say that neither is preferable - at least for me. If you do decide that the relationship is not working, think about how you would like to be broken up with and if possible, try to come from a place of respect, kindness and understanding. A good benchmark to keep in mind is, upon looking back at the event some time from now, can you feel proud about the way you handled it?

Good luck with your decision and as always, I'm happy to provide more guidance if you'd like.

*(Although this was written for a same sex couple, the ideas can be applied to any couple, or any part of a couple that is asking the same question.)


Changing Feelings of Worthlessness

I was recently asked if it was possible to change feelings of worthlessness, and if so, how. Here is my response.

First, the answer is YES! Our brains are wired in such a way that we can change the way we think and how we feel. I actually think this is super cool. I could go on about neural networks and rewiring but I'll try to stick to the topic at hand.

Often when I talk to my clients about feelings of worthlessness we start with a little bit of self-exploration. We start with noticing. Start to notice when these feelings come up for you. Is there a particular time of day, a specific person who brings it out, a phrase you hear? Just start to notice. Usually it's tied to something or someone but it may take a while to figure out what or who that is.

Next we start to explore. When did these feelings start? Where do you think they come from? Is there something - a statement - perhaps that repeats in your head over and over again? If so, whose voice is it? These are difficult questions so take your time answering them. (We usually do it over a few sessions.) It might even be helpful to write them down somewhere. If you have a journal that would be a great place as research has shown that our brains work differently when we put pen to paper versus typing on a computer.

The next step is to select an ally. Someone who is or has been in your corner, someone who is always rooting for you. If you don't have someone like that, that's ok - a lot of us don't - you can just make someone up. Close your eyes and try to describe that person in great detail from the way they look to the way they act to the way they sound. Now, pick a phrase you would like that person to say to you whenever you start to think that you're worthless. Something that will help you feel better about yourself - a characteristic, a skill, a great joke you tell, a physical attribute. This also takes time and may involve you asking for help from someone who really knows you.

Once you have all of that together - the noticing, answers from where these feelings and statement(s) come from, your ally, your new statement, you can try to put it altogether. When the feelings come up, notice what is bringing them up and then call upon your ally to try to change the statement in your head from the self-defeating one to the more positive, uplifting one.

This is just the start to discovering the best you! Again, I do this with my clients over quite a few weeks if not months and I am there with them the whole time. It is quite an involved process and can bring up a lot of very difficult feeling/memories. Feel free to try this on your own but if at any point you find it too hard to go at alone, call me - 415.857.5647.