5 Signs You’re Doing Amazing, SweetieHealing looks different for everyone, but here are some hints you’re on the right track.
Hate to break it to you, but there isn’t a healing finish line or confetti and fireworks to signal you’ve done it. (Although, that would be pretty cool.) In fact, the signs that you’re getting there aren’t that obvious—and might not even feel that good.
That’s because, when you’re working on yourself, you might excavate a few experiences you’ve been repressing, like getting bullied in school. Or you might set boundaries with your family and friends, outgrow some of your old people, and (gasp!) open up to others, all of which can feel uncomfortable. When you make positive shifts like those, you’re basically venturing into the unknown—and that’s scary, says therapist Alo Johnston, LMFT.
Because healing brings positive changes and some seemingly negative emotions, it can be tricky to know if you’re on track. So, we spoke with licensed therapists to learn about the sometimes-obvious and sometimes-not signs that *Kris Jenner voice* you’re doing amazing, sweetie.
Of course, we need to mention here that mental health progress looks different for everyone, so you may not identify with all of the signs on this list. Still, these can help you get the gist of what healing can look like to better track your own progress. Either way, you’ve got this.
1. You do things that scare you.
We can all agree that experiencing anxiety is absolutely zero fun. Like, none at all. So when you avoid things that make you anxious, it can feel like a delicious treat to say, “No thanks, I’ll pass,” rather than put yourself through that discomfort. Avoidance can make you feel safe and in control in the moment, says clinical psychologist Jessica Stern, PhD. But it can also hold you back from a fulfilling life. For example, if you struggle with social anxiety, canceling plans can bring relief because noshing on pizza while cozy at home feels way less stressful than being around people. But it’s not helping you cultivate the connections you crave and could deprive you of potentially helpful experiences.
If you’re prone to staying in your comfort zone, taking more risks and embracing challenges despite feeling anxious is a big sign you’re healing and growing. Yes, the anxiety still exists, but you’re getting better at tolerating it and moving forward with your plans anyway, Dr. Stern explains.
This, in turn, builds confidence in your ability to handle whatever life throws at you. Progress doesn’t have to mean that you suddenly become the life of the party and never feel nervous again. It might just look like showing up for 20 minutes to say hi. And maybe that will give you a push to stay a little longer next time.
2. You’re kind of bored.
When you’re improving your mental health, life can feel calm, safe, and quiet. For some of us, especially if you’re accustomed to chaotic family or romantic dynamics with high highs and low lows, that can feel boring or strange, Johnston says. “The switch can be jarring, and sometimes people crave the emotional roller coaster because that’s what they’re used to,” he adds.
If you have a history of toxic relationships, for example, you might feel like your new partner isn’t into you if you’re not constantly fighting. Or, you might feel the urge to fall back into drama like excessive drinking or drug use—even if that never made you feel good, Johnson explains. “It's a feeling of: I want to go back to what I know even if I didn't enjoy it while it was happening,” Johnston says. But as long as you resist those pulls, you’re on the right track.
So when you find yourself twiddling your thumbs with boredom, remember this is actually a good thing and you can fight toxic temptations. You’re learning how to make peace a new normal. Go, you!
3. You spot unhelpful patterns and act differently.
You can’t heal what you don’t know needs healing, says licensed psychologist Jenny Wang, PhD. (Therapy is a great way to dig into this, BTW.) So when you spot self-sabotaging tendencies playing out in your life, give yourself a pat on the back.
For example, maybe you’re a big ol’ people pleaser and often find yourself committing to impossible favors, which ultimately leaves you feeling burnt out. In this case, leveling up looks like finally recognizing those patterns.
While that in itself is a win, pausing to make a different decision or intentionally behaving differently is another major benchmark, Dr. Wang notes. For instance, maybe the old you used to put other people’s needs before your own. But with this newfound awareness and willingness to change, you address your needs first or share them with others to get some support. You might even have time to take the PTO you’ve been putting off for ages.
When this two-step process becomes second nature and you notice meaningful life differences, that’s solid evidence your hard work is paying off, Dr. Wang says.
4. You feel your feelings but don’t let them run the show.
The ability to manage your feelings is another indication your mental health is on the up and up, says Dr. Stern. That means not letting your emotions, especially the tough ones, dictate your behavior or ruin your whole day.
So instead of spiraling or lashing out because something triggered you, you sit in the discomfort and feel your feelings. “It's like lowering the volume on a radio or listening to a song we don't love without having to turn the radio off or run away from it,” Dr. Stern explains. In other words, you’re doing something right!
5. You’re able to sit in the gray area.
Before getting the hang of this healing thing, it can be hard to hold space for conflicting emotions. “Usually, we want things to be black and white,” Johnston says. “These people are good, and these people are bad. These memories are good, and these memories are bad. But almost every part of life has some mix,” he adds. So, learning to exist in the gray area can be a sign you’re killing it.
Say you had a weird childhood (to put it lightly). Instead of looking back and totally vilifying or totally excusing your parents' behavior, maybe you’re holding space for both realities (that they did their best and also did things that hurt you). That kind of nuanced understanding can help you feel love for them even though you’re hurting. “It's not either/or; it’s both/and,” Johnston says.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.