This essay was originally published on Kaha Mind here.
I wasn’t really sure what I was signing up for when I first started psychotherapy last year. All I knew was that my days had been clouded with thoughts of suicide and constant anxiety attacks and that I needed desperate and immediate help. Now, more than a year into it, I am glad for all the help I got and continue to get.
Before I go any further, I wish to start with a few disclaimers. My intention is not to romanticise therapy in any way, because I understand that one, what works for me might not work for someone else, two, therapy is still accessible to only a select few and three, there are a lot of ways in which mental health practitioners have been challenging the basic tenets of psychotherapy on various legit grounds.
What I do intend to do instead, is share the ways in which being in therapy has brought some big and small changes in my life and how I wish that they were taught to me when I was growing up.
I still remember the first time I actually understood what boundaries are, I was resentful towards my family and school (allegedly the two entities responsible for you as a child) for never having taught me about this, and instead, being the ones to delay that process. For the uninitiated, boundaries are “limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships”.
When my therapist hinted at the fact that I didn’t have any sense of my own boundaries, I instantly started thinking about how rude it would have been if I did have boundaries. But it has been a long journey from then to the current moment, and now I am so much more aware of what is okay for me and what is not okay for me and how to establish it for people to know and respect. It is still a constant struggle because I am in the process of experiencing myself through my own needs and wants and not someone else’s, which unfortunately is an alien experience for me. But it has been extremely empowering.
Be it your workplace, college, romantic relationship, friends or family, boundaries are essential. Considering the fact that most families in India think that they own their children, boundary setting with families is especially difficult and all the more important.
Validation means recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings are valid or worthwhile. Everybody seeks validation, from different people, in different ways. Some do it gingerly, some understand that it is okay to expect people in your life to validate your experiences and feelings. However, what is not talked about as often is the importance of self-validation and how various experiences in one’s life can drive them extremely far away from being able to do this. I have always been the sensitive kid who was often made fun of for crying at the drop of a hat. Because of what this entailed for me, I learnt to question and invalidate my feelings as a default. With the help of my therapist, I have now learnt to let go of my self-doubt and tell myself that my feelings are valid, and validation does not necessarily mean agreement or encouragement of that feeling. Self-validation is just telling yourself that you are seen and heard.