For many of us, 2021 was another year of career upheaval.
Some of us took positive steps forward, quitting the job that no longer served us or switching careers into a field that actually excited us. The year also brought setbacks for those of us who are struggling to juggle work and home responsibilities, or dealing with an unwanted return to in-person work during a pandemic.
Whatever you are going through, these therapists have heard it all. Here are some of the most helpful pieces of advice they say they’ve given over the past 12 months. Let their words of wisdom set the tone for how you move forward into 2022.
1. “Take your self-doubt with you.”
“I often assist women struggling to move from self-doubt to self-confidence at their jobs. I’ve found this is a common issue for women in male-dominated fields and job settings.
“My best piece of advice for improving your confidence at work is: Take your self-doubt with you. And by this I mean, don’t wait until that report is ‘perfect’ to turn it in. Don’t wait until you’ve reread that email to your boss 100 times to send it. Don’t dismiss your idea before you’ve even given it.
“Your self-doubt isn’t going anywhere right away. You have to let it sit up front with you before it will be willing to sit in the back seat, or be gone for good. If you wait to feel confident before you do something, you will never do it.
“Pay attention to the messages that your behaviors are sending your brain. When you are at work, are you unintentionally reinforcing your own self-doubt? Our brains pay attention to everything we do. Then, the brain uses that experience to form how it will respond in the future.
“For example, by rereading that email 100 times, you’re telling your brain there is something wrong with it and that it is best to repeat this every time you have an email to send. So, your brain will continue to send you urges to reread items, and your brain will send you anxious thoughts that something bad will happen if you don’t.
“You have to show your self-doubt how it should behave.” — Shannon Garcia, a psychotherapist at States of Wellness Counseling in Illinois and Wisconsin
2. “Recognize that our capacity to do things differs from our capability.”
“I happen to work with a lot of therapists, and one thing I always say to them is you must dedicate time to all the parts of you. Whether that’s family time, hobbies, relationships, you have to stop neglecting those things because you have to do one more task, or send one more email.
“Recognize that our capacity to do things differs from our capability. We are fully capable of taking on a lot, but that doesn’t mean we have the physical, mental and emotional capacity for it. Self-care and nurturing literally builds capacity and overall joy.
“Lastly, we cannot be everything to everyone at the same time. It is not about balance, it’s about presence. If we can fully be present to each task we take on, we have a better experience of things. When it’s time to be an employee, be one. When it’s time to be a mom, friend, dad, sibling, kid, aunt/uncle, dating, spouse/partner, small biz owner, then be that and be fully present.”— Aimee Monterrosa, a licensed clinical social worker based in Los Angeles
3. “I encouraged my clients to think about … what ways they could challenge white supremacy cultural norms and how to redefine markers of success.”
“This year, many of my clients struggled with emotional burnout, boundary-setting, and adjusting to remote/hybrid work during the pandemic. The biggest breakthroughs I saw are when I educated clients on white supremacy culture and how it manifests in workplaces and organizations.
“This really resonated with my BIPOC clients as they discussed white privilege, examined norms and standards within their workplaces that were assumed to be universal, and explored how these cultural norms negatively affected their self-esteem and ability to be effective at work.
“One cultural norm that came up often was a sense of urgency and feeling pressured to meet arbitrary deadlines. I encouraged my clients to think about how to incorporate their own personal values into their work, what ways they could challenge white supremacy cultural norms and how to redefine markers of success in their work.” — Adjoa Osei, a clinical psychologist in New York City
4. “Your job pays you for your time, experience and effort, but not for your soul.”
“I work with a lot of people who push themselves hard at work and have a difficult time setting boundaries at their demanding jobs. I’ve found myself telling several of them, ‘Your job pays you for your time, experience and effort, but not for your soul or spirit.’
“This often helps them gain the perspective that giving all of themselves to their work isn’t worth it, and isn’t always being asked of them. They can set boundaries with a clear conscience and know it’s important to keep some time and energy for themselves.”— Ryan Howes, a clinical psychologist based in Pasadena, California, and author of “Mental Health Journal for Men”
5. “Different doesn’t mean better.”
“I have encouraged my clients to get off of the ‘auto-pilot’ mode they had previously been operating in and recommit to exploring their interests and what brings them joy.
“Let’s face it, many of us have realigned our priorities over the last 20 months. This often means taking an inventory of their skills, interests, and values and looking for a role that better suits who they are now. Ultimately, I encourage thoughtful career moves rather than quick or pressured decision-making, because different doesn’t mean better.” — Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite, a clinical psychologist based in New York City
6. “Remind yourself that no job is worth your mental health and happiness.”
“The pandemic has taught us the importance of staying connected with parts of ourselves that are not related to the work we do. It is easy to get lost in the midst of work deadlines, productivity and aiming for that promotion. After all, we have been conditioned to think that in order to succeed we must sacrifice parts of ourselves. Exploring what brings you joy outside of work is one of the things you can do to find a healthy balance between work and life.
“You can start asking yourself the following questions: What brings you peace? What helps you disconnect from work? What parts of yourself do you need to nourish?
“Most importantly, remind yourself that no job is worth your mental health and happiness.” — Katheryn Perez, a marriage and family therapist in Burbank, California
7. “If you’re having a hard time, it makes sense.”
“The thing I repeat over and over is that we have been through a trauma with COVID, and if you are feeling confused, unmotivated, scared, uncomfortable, anxious, worried, depressed, unsure of what you want to do next ― people are like, ‘Why am I feeling this way?’ And it’s like, hello, we have been through something –- and we are still going through it -– that really shook our sense of safety.
“As humans, we need to feel safe in order for us to connect to others.
“Keep in perspective that we’re just transitioning back to reconnecting as we integrate what we’ve been through. I want people to understand that if you’re having a hard time, it makes sense, and to be compassionate with yourself around it.” ― Elizabeth Cohen, a clinical psychologist in New York City
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.