We shop around for cars, homes, good deals on washer-driers and new kitchen appliances. We compare new refrigerators (or whatever) on features, price and appearance. We are good shoppers who spend our money well.
But how do we invest in ourselves?
I have had clients buy a lot of stuff when they were unhappy: From a banana split to a split-level house in Palm Springs, from a $20,000 facelift to a $20 t-shirt. All this stuff was supposed to make them feel better. And it did, for a while, but eventually, the newness of anything you buy wears off and then you’re just back home, stuck with your same old self.
So why is investing in yourself a good idea?
Do you take care of your physical health? Why spend all that time and money? Because it’s a good investment in yourself. Isn’t your mental health the same? Therapy is an investment of time, money and energy. If you use it well, the rewards are often – literally – life-changing.
I don’t know if I’d be here today if it weren’t for good psychotherapy. I’m not sure I would have made it through some really tough times. I remember, many years ago, feeling so depressed and hopeless that I laid down on the floor of my (tiny) studio apartment and said, “God, take me away from this. It’s just too hard. I can’t take it anymore.” I closed my eyes and waited.
I was quite disappointed when nothing happened.
A part of me had expected to be lifted up to the sky and given a heavenly penthouse where I could talk with God any time I wanted so that, eventually, after She magically changed my personality to something much better, I would be beamed back to earth and given another chance.
It sounds comical now, but, at the time, I just didn’t think I could keep going. When God didn’t beam me up, I decided to just stay in bed and be depressed. After a few days like this, I told myself, “If you feel this way in two weeks, we’re going to find a good therapist.” Two weeks and a sink full of dirty dishes later, I still felt shitty, but I did keep my commitment to myself; I started therapy.
I can honestly tell you that it is the best investment I’ve ever made. I wasn’t a therapist then – I was a musician in way-too-many bands – but I knew, the day I laid on that apartment floor, that I needed help and I couldn’t get there on my own. I had great friends, and they listened with love and attention, but I needed professional assistance. I hired a personal trainer when I wanted to improve my body, but I didn’t want to spend the money on a therapist to improve my mind. Plus, I was raised to think that only crazy people went to therapy.
Now, of course, I’ve been a therapist myself for over twenty years. In many ways, I am glad that I had a rough early life because it’s given me a level of empathy and understanding that I wouldn’t have if my first few decades were easy. I’ve learned a lot from my childhood of trauma and abuse. In fact, if I had a happy childhood, I’d probably be a landscape architect today.
Maybe next lifetime.
Therapy is a place where you can learn a lot about yourself, your motivations, your history and how you can change. A good therapist helps you see your blind spots and how to work with what Carl Jung called, “your dark side” (the parts of yourself that you would much rather not have to acknowledge, thank you very much).
Therapy is an investment in yourself. Unlike a car or a house, it’s not so easily seen, but since it’s you who lives in your mind, you know when you’re feeling good (and when you’re not). And, after all, who can put a price on your happiness?
Invest in yourself; you’re worth it.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.