I’ve never been ashamed to admit that I’ve spent periods of the last three years in therapy. It’s such a helpful and cathartic experience and one that I’d frankly recommended to almost anyone. Once you open yourself to the idea of it, talking to a professional can make such a difference. Therapy has definitely helped me get my life back on track and into a place where I feel more myself again.
The therapist that I saw at the beginning of my therapy journey shared a copy of a women’s ‘bill of rights’, which gave a generalised expectation of how we deserve to be treated. She also invited me to write my own. If I’m honest, I completed the task because I was told to, I’m nothing if not obedient but I didn’t really give it much thought. Instead of displaying it proudly, I put it away. Out of sight, out of mind because I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to think positively about myself. I just didn’t believe that I had any value or worth. I see now that I had so much work to do.
Which brings me to now, I’ve been packing and unpacking my belongings over the past few weeks (damn you house move) and finding this document made me smile. Three years down the line, it was quite an interesting and empowering read. I wish that I could say that I do all of these things all of the time, but I don’t. I’m only human and I’m still a work in progress. I think I always will be, it would be naive to say otherwise. However, having these basic rights imprinted into my memory is a good start to remind me of my worth. And a reminder not to let anyone take that away from me. *Cue me bursting my into an off-key version of Listen from Dreamgirls*
There really is no hierarchy in these lessons, they are written how they came to my mind. I’m too scatty to put things into order at the best of times. But not only that, I don’t really think any of them have any more weight than another. Each lesson is important and more often than not they overlap and intertwine to build one whole but huge lesson that is necessary in helping me to lead the life that I’m supposed to.
I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent and equal human being.
This is so obvious that I almost cringe at the fact that I needed to write this down. Everyone should be treated with respect and equality but you can only demand respect when you value yourself. I didn’t and as a result, I would let myself be treated as a lesser person, now I’m proud to say that is no longer the case.
I have the right to have and express my feelings.
I used to be queen of saying that I was fine. It was literally my only feeling. Now, I am determined to not suppress my feelings. If I’m sad and you ask, I’ll tell you I’m sad. What you might not get is a reason, not every person deserves every part of me.
I have the right to state my own needs.
It seems funny to say, but I spent years as a vegetarian. I also spent time apologising for my choices and worried that I would be putting people out rather than ask for a meat-free meal. This is quite a strange example but it shows how much I thought about other people and ignored my own needs. Needless to say, I don’t do this anymore.
I am more than just a mother.
I love being a mother, it is without a doubt the most important role in my life. But it’s not the only one. Therapy helped me to realise that I’m not just a mum. I didn’t cease to be myself just because I had given birth. It’s ok to have career ambitions and dreams. It’s also ok not to have them.
I have the right to say yes or no for myself.
This goes without saying! I was so used to having so much of my life controlled that I found it difficult to make decisions. Saying no to people became difficult. I was such a people-pleaser but to the point where I would start to resent saying yes so many times. I have to admit, saying no now feels empowering.
I have the right to make mistakes.
In my time, I have obviously made bad relationship choices amongst other bad decisions but what I found was those closest to me wrapped me in cotton wool and tried to protect me from myself. Instead of letting me make my own mistakes, then tried to take over. Mistakes hurt but mistakes are a lesson. I needed to learn how to recover from them.
I have the right to change my mind.
I’ve already said that I’m incredibly scatty and I literally change my mind about everything from what lipstick to wear to how to decorate my house. Choosing a meal from the menu can take me ages. Joking aside, therapy has helped me to realise that it’s ok to change my mind, even about the ‘big’ decisions. It’s better to on the right path than have regrets because quite often, I am indecisive for a reason.
I have the right to decline responsibility for other people’s problems.
There is someone around me that is always negative. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile and she never has anything nice to say about other people. Every word that comes out of her mouth is an insult, bitchy remark or unwarranted criticism. Initially, I tried to cheer her up, to please her, to make her happy but then I realised in doing so, I was immersing myself in her negativity. It was having an undesirable effect on myself. I had to let it go, stop claiming responsibility for her feelings and remove myself from the situation. It was only when I stopped trying to influence her moods did I feel happier.
I have the right to say I don’t understand and ask for more information.
I used to loathe saying that I didn’t understand something for fear of looking stupid. It was only when I stopped caring about what people thought of me that I started ask for more information when I felt that I needed it. I accept now that I am not an expert at everything and therefore, should turn to those who are when I need their help.
I have the right to ask for what I want.
This is one of the most important lessons that I have learnt throughout the last three years. I have a voice and I have opinions. I don’t have to be forced into someone else’s version of me. Yet, at the same time it’s important to make sure that I give others the same rights as I want for myself. Yes, I do have the right to ask for what I want. Only I can set the expectations for how I want to be treated. However, nobody is obliged to comply with my demands just because I want them to. If I have the right to say no, they do too because the rights of everyone should be respected but in return, I don’t have to accept lesser standards.
Have you ever had therapy? Which life lessons did you learn? Would you recommend therapy for others?