My Therapist’s Awkward Smile

I’m sitting on a stiff couch across from my therapist where I’ve just finished disclosing the reason my posts on the blog have been slacking lately. She’s sitting cross legged on her chair, peering at me through her stylish glasses (I swear, she has a different pair for each outfit. Ok, she only has three pairs, but still) and suddenly a smile creeps across her face. She maintains eye contact with me until I squirm. I know this look well. This is the “I, as your therapist, know what you need to do that you probably aren’t gonna like” smile. And let me tell you, she has mastered it.

This is my fourth month of treatment at this ED program, and I have had session with my therapist- we’ll call her Nikki- twice a week (sometimes three) and countless groups with her during this time. Nikki knows me pretty well at this point, and I like to think I know how she operates. At least on a professional level. Suffice it to say, I see her awkward smile a lot. Just as she has seen mine when I hand it right back to her.

I had just finished discussing the LA Times Festival of Books’ impact on me, which went something like this:
“I loved my experience there, and it was incredibly inspiring and motivating, and I feel like ever since I have been putting fifty shades of pressure on myself to be the best. I’ve been comparing myself to the authors I was meeting- even comparing myself to the other young adults around me- so much so that nothing I write now seems good enough.”
I don’t even know if the others in attendance were writers! But suddenly, they were better than me, and everything I’ve produced since has been hot, wet garbage.

Cue the derpy smile on Nikki’s face. I gave her an awkward toothy smile back as I braced myself for her feedback.

“That pesky perfectionism, am I right?”

Ugh. Of course she brings up my perfectionism. And double of course that she instantly tells me I need to blog about the experience. Cue the Tina-esque groan on my end. (Any Bob’s Burgers fans in the house?)

I spent most of the day simmering about how I was going to frame this post. My only instruction was the write about my experience, authentically. What I landed on wasn’t the idea that thrilled Sasha. In fact, she’s a bit pissed. But I know that in order to truly be authentic, I should share the lies she’s been telling me.

Most of these stem from my experience at the Festival of Books last week (and beyond). As I mentioned above, while it was the most amazing event, I also left with a new load of worries. Particularly in Sandy and Michael’s panel, where I gloriously soaked up every ounce of insight they offered, I left with a fun little distortion filter Sasha slipped over my memories. I could now only focus on the insecurities that sprouted out of my mind, like weeds.

It’s a vulnerable thing to be sharing, and I know it’s the elephant in the room Sasha and I are crammed in together. Once one lie begins, shit begins to spiral:

My writing isn’t pretty enough. I don’t write in an eloquent way that commands attention, or in a way that stirs people when they read it for the first time. Or the second time. Or the eighth time.

My writing doesn’t use a lot of frothy, figurative language or intelligent vocabulary. I’m a literal person. I’m not great at writing anything worthy of formal publication.

My writing doesn’t delve deep enough, it merely scratches the surface. I’m not good at the whole “underlying meaning” thing. “Profound” is not a word you would use to describe my writing.

I don’t write in a compelling enough way; people read the blog out of pity or because of a flashy title. They think my writing is trash.

Super fun, right? Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to ignore posting on your blog when you’re convinced anything you write is utter crap.

Hence, Nikki’s awkward smile. With one look I knew she was staring down Sasha, trying to kill her with the kindness of a too-wide grin. And when all was said and done, I knew I had to believe Nikki. She’s one of few who can see through Sasha’s mental filter to snap me back to reality, where my only worry is when I’ll have time to post on any particular day.

Because, after all of these toxic thoughts that have been flooding my brain lately- listening to Sasha’s lies and staying silent on this blog- has caused me to go against the entire reason I created the blog in the first place! To challenge my perfectionism, my social anxiety, and to put down the rope. Not only that, but to do it in a way that makes sense to me. That fosters creativity and allows me to run free amongst my thoughts, without abandon.

It may make me squirm, but Nikki’s smile is what pushes me to be effective. She knows exactly what to do to point out the elephant in the room that I share with Sasha. After all, I created this blog for me. And I don’t remember typing anything on the About page about succumbing to insecurities. Putting Down the Rope is mine, and I am here to stay.

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Nikki may have mastered the awkward smile, but no one can top Tina Belcher.

Let’s talk about the fact that I had completely finished this post and then it all got erased and I had to start over. Talk about challenging perfectionism. (Still fighting those thoughts Sasha is feeding me about the post currently sucking in it’s new iteration. SHUT IT, SASHA!)

2 thoughts on “My Therapist’s Awkward Smile

  1. J May 2, 2018 / 10:36 am

    You did it. I’m proud of you. When you write (and act) it really does make me feel closer to you. K, I’m going to go write that down 50 times to try and absorbe it.


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