You probably recognize comedian, writer and actress Amanda Seales from television, including her roles on “Bring the Funny” and “Insecure.” Maybe you’ve seen her stand-up comedy. Perhaps you’re one of her nearly 1 million Instagram followers. However you know her, Seales has just released her first book, which shares a name with her podcast. “Small Doses: Potent Truths for Everyday Use,” which hit shelves Oct. 22, features personal essays and life advice. In this excerpt, Seales discusses the importance of therapy in her life.
If I’m lying to myself, I say I started going to therapy because I was moving to L.A. and wanted to be ahead of the curve in preparing for the stress that moving naturally creates. If I’m being real with myself, I admit that I started going to therapy because three “friends” too many told me, “People don’t like you,” and it was officially getting to me. Also, if indeed I was unlikable, I wasn’t really tryna move across an entire country to have a whole new city not like me either! So, I asked around and I found a black female therapist, which, unfortunately, even in a city as diverse and populated as NYC was like tryna find a flat-top fade at the Country Music Awards. They simply aren’t in abundance (yet). For some people, it really doesn’t matter the ethnic background, race and/or gender of their therapist. Because, for them, their ethnic background, race and gender don’t inform their everyday movements and emotional and mental developments. For me, however, it’s a large part of my makeup and makes up a large part of my work, which in turn makes up a large part of how I move through the world and how I react to that which I encounter. That said, I was very fortunate to find a match in my therapist, and we dug in.
To me, the most eye-opening part of this first run with a therapist was how much I didn’t know about what you even do with a therapist. Our first visit I remember saying, “I’m not even really sure how this works or what I’m supposed to do or if I even need therapy.” She told me that it was a place to talk through interactions, thoughts, desires, failures — really anything that I felt was added baggage to my person. I started with what prompted me to seek her out in the first place, and began talking about my difficulties with certain people and what they voiced as their issues with me. Over time we addressed these issues and basically determined how much of it was bulls--- and how much of it was real s--- that was in my way. Which brought us to my real true concern: Am I in my own way? When people were telling me that some people don’t like me, it wasn’t so much that I truly cared if they liked me or nah, but rather, I wondered if by not being compatible with them I was hindering the forward movement of my craft. There were traits about me that were consistently called into question. “You’re difficult!” “You’re condescending!” “You’re too direct,” among others, were the hit tunes on the album, “Unlikeable: No, Really, People Don’t Like You.” But perhaps the biggest epiphany was realizing how much I had internalized their words and had reached a point where I didn’t like myself! My own dag-on self, y’all!
Even though it was 2015, and I was 34, I was moving, and I didn’t truly feel like I knew what my purpose was. Yes, I knew I needed to get out of New York, and I was loving my new path in comedy, but at the time I began therapy I hadn’t truly actualized it as my skeleton key. What I didn’t know then but know now is that before I could get to that I had to unpack the baggage that had piled up on my path. Instead of just attempting to debunk what people had said about me and either agreeing with or denying it, we took the approach of exploring each instance and finding out what had caused the comment. We looked at how much of it was construed properly, how much of it was the other person deflecting their own s---, and what I could do to manage the situation in either case. My guided self-exploration with my therapist gave me my self-love back, heightened my self-awareness and raised my self-esteem. I became able to determine which behaviors I needed to work on and which practices simply required a different audience. Most of all, I got comfortable with the fact that errybody ain’t gone like me and thasalright. This is a big huge world, and thriving in it is not only about continuing to work on your own improvement but also finding your tribe — people who inspire, acknowledge and appreciate the work you’re doing!
Therapy is a constant journey that twists and turns and sometimes feels like a plateau. I personally don’t feel it’s necessary for everybody to always be in therapy. You figure out what works for you. For some, life is always a state of chaos that requires regular attentiveness to keep the good in clear view. Sometimes life is peachy, so you take your board to work and ride the wave. Other times life hits you in your face so hard you need extra help to get your (common) senses back. THAT’S OK. Last I checked, nobody is an X-Men out here and yet, in my opinion, Jean Grey woulda done well with a weekly talk on the couch!
PS: I do think it’s imperative to go into therapy with a goal and a direction for both you and your therapist to pursue. It has been very helpful for me in determining if a therapist and I are a match and measuring progress.