God*, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change.

“God*, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change.

The courage to change the things I can.

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

*God, Goddess, the universe, or whomever your higher power may be.  Many people who are atheists or agnostics find the Serenity Prayer helpful. Just  finish the article and overlook the fact that it is used as a prayer if need be.

I am a semi-reformed control freak.  What that means for me is that instead of biting my teen’s head off when he puts the spatula in the wrong drawer,  I remember I am thankful he’s doing the dishes. And then I silently sneak it back in the right drawer when he’s not looking.

But seriously, I like working with people with control issues.  I am a people with control issues. I think that helps me understand why it’s so difficult to change this particular personality quirk.  As a child (and often as an adult) I felt things were out of my control. Whenever I could, I convinced myself I had more control than I really did.  Parents going somewhere I didn’t like for dinner? Well, maybe if I have a big enough temper tantrum they won’t and we can go to McDonald’s. Sometimes it even worked.

The problem was that I believed I had more power than I did, that I was more important than I really was.  Maybe I was even magical. Take for instance when my parents divorced, I was around ten, a Big Girl. I knew why it was happening.  It was because I was told to get only A’s on my report card and I got two Cs. My father couldn’t stand to live with a daughter who would make two Cs and so he went away, or so my thinking went…  All My Fault.

Yeah, that was also about the time when my perfectionism started to rear its ugly head.  Control and perfectionism are related. Really, they are. But that’s a story for another day, Dearies.  Stay tuned.

As I got to be a teen I became more codependent (again, related to control and another issue for another day) and learned to “give” my power away and try to control people through guilt over what I did for them.  “What, you won’t lend me your car? But I just did all of your homework for you without you even asking me to and I missed dinner to do it and I loaned you $20 last week!” That didn’t give me the control I thought I would get.  Teenager’s brains aren’t fully cooked yet, as you can see by my teen “logic.”

As an, ahem…more surly, late teen I realized that I could control my needs by never asking for them to be met by anyone else.  If I didn’t ask no one would say no and I wouldn’t be disappointed, right? So, I lugged my belongings up four flights of stairs to move into my dorm.  By myself. “No, I don’t need any help, thank you very much!” Nope, no one knew what I needed. I was completely self-sufficient. I was great company, didn’t need anyone else’s. Or at least that’s what I told myself as I ate every meal alone for the first month of my college career. Lonely.  See, brain still not cooked.

After graduate school and about ten years into my career as a mental health therapist I decided I needed a change.  It seemed to me that almost everyone in treatment for mental health issues also had addiction issues. I decided to study more about addiction and learned one of the most important lessons in my life (aside from, “If the boy says he’s not good enough for you he most likely  isn’t.”). I volunteered to help lead a group for people struggling with addiction. These were some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life. All of them were clean for six months to two years and were so grateful. In the meetings we said the Serenity Prayer (see opening paragraph) and I finally understood what it meant for me.

“It was as if my Higher Power had shaken me while yelling, “MECHELE, WAKE UP!  THE ONLY THING YOU CAN CONTROL IS YOURSELF. YOU CAN NOT CONTROL ANYTHING ELSE AND YOUR EFFORTS TO DO SO ARE FUTILE”  That really scared the shit out of me.  Then I got mad at my Higher Power, who was he to tell me that I can’t control anything.  I controlled nothing and the only thing in my power was me and the changes I could make to myself?  And then I felt the most beautiful relief. I was no longer responsible for what happened in the world or what other people did or said!  It felt as if a weight had fallen off of my shoulders and scales from my eyes. My life would be so much easier if I just focused on being the best person I could be and didn’t judge what others did (more perfectionism).

I began living my life that way.  Most days were much more smooth and happy than before.  Some days I forgot and regressed a bit. I’m not perfect.

Sometimes when I tell my clients, “Control is just an illusion, let it go,” they freak out and fight to stay exactly where they are.  And sometimes they change and generally lead a happier life. It’s not an instant transformation and it takes work. There is a fork in your road.  Which way will you choose?

Wishing you serenity and much happiness,




Affirmations are positive things that we tell ourselves to feel better about ourselves, or others, or situations which wipe out Negative Cognitions.


What’s a negative cognition?  Well, that’s all the crap that we and/or others put in our brain over the years that basically tells us that we’re bad, that something’s wrong with us or that we will never succeed.  Here are some examples:

  1. I’m stupid, I will never get a good job.
  2. If people know the real me they would see that I’m a fake and hate me.
  3. Crying makes me weak.
  4. If my parents never loved me than no one will.
  5. It’s my destiny to be used.


The result of #1 may be that we feel stuck in the job we’re in and don’t dare try for something better.  This limits our belief in ourselves. Insteady try this, “I can get another job,” and slowly work up to this, “I have  many job opportunities.”


The thinking in #2 may make us hide ourselves from others by masking our emotions, beliefs and needs.  Then we never think that we have “real” friends and wonder why we do so much for everyone, but no one does for us. To fix this tell yourself something like, “My friends like me” or, “Some people like me,” and work your way up to, “I’m likeable” or “I like myself.”


For #3 we may have been told that we should never cry or that it’s never ok to cry in front of someone else. If we stifle that sad part of us we can never be truly happy (see that Disney movie, “Inside Out.”).  This one will take some action to fix and you may need to allow yourself to cry in front of someone you really trust like your partner, your best friend, or your cat/dog. They may not have the reaction you would want them to have as it may make them uncomfortable and they may not know what to do, but I can pretty much guarantee they won’t go running from the room.  Or you can start more slowly and tell yourself, “It’s ok to cry,” or, “everyone cries in front of someone eventually,” work your way up to, “It’s ok to cry in front of some people,” or simply, “Crying is a healthy expression of my feelings.”


If we find ourselves in #4 we may be right, but we may not be right as well. In any case, you’re loveable!  Be selective in who you choose to love, open yourself to love and you will have it. Maybe not the love you dreamed of as a child, or saw in a Disney Princess movie, but a real one.  Try starting with, “Someone must have loved me,” or if you know someone who did love you, a teacher, a grandparent think of them and say, “(insert name here) loved me,” and you can put your cat or dog (or whatever’s) name here if you can’t think of a person.  Work your way up to, “I am loveable,” or “I am deserving of love.”


Number 5 tends to be what we tell ourselves when we are stuck in codependent relationships and don’t know how to change and maybe don’t want to change.  Start putting yourself first and say no to people. It will be very uncomfortable at first, but eventually it feels great! We can take much better care of ourselves than anyone else and then we won’t attract as may needy people to ourselves. Try saying to yourself, “I will show myself love by doing one thing I want to do or one thing to take care of myself today,” and do it.  Work your way up to, “I can meet my own needs and will only chose relationships with people who take care of themselves too.”


There is a caveat to all of this affirmation stuff.  You have to at least believe a small percentage of what you’re saying on some level.  I’m a big ‘ole girl and if I were to have just begun using affirmations and the one I chose was, “I’m beautiful and love every part of my body the way it is,” I would laugh and never do this again because I wouldn’t believe it.  I would have to start more slowly and pick out some thing I like about my body, for example, “I love the colors in my hair,” or maybe, “I love how these legs have supported me my whole life and taken me to where I needed to go. Eventually I would work my way up to seeing the beauty in my body. Make sense?


And it’s not magic mumbo jumbo.  If I’ve heard how fat I was at least 30 times a year for most of my life that screwed up thought is going to be down deep in my mind and it may take years of working on this one issue with affirmations to learn to accept my body the way it is and be grateful for what it’s done for me.  


One must repeat these affirmations multiple times a day every freaking day!  It seems like a lot to ask, but you’ll get used to it. I was taught that I should look at myself in a mirror while I said these affirmations and eventually I was able, but at first it was all I could do to mumble them looking down at my feet.  If that’s where you need to start, that’s ok. Just don’t give up!


I once worked with a man who thought this was a load of crap.  Literally. He said, “This is a load of crap and there’s no way I’m doing it.”  He was very depressed and unhappy. I told him, “Try this as an experiment for 30 days. Put sticky notes with the affirmations all over your house, your car, your office where you will see them multiple times a day (or put some sort of sticker up that may not say the affirmation, but will remind you to do it multiple times a day).  If you follow this daily and you do not begin to feel better you can come back to me and I will admit that I was wrong and it didn’t work for you.” He really liked the idea of telling me where to stick my affirmations which he believed would never work. Sadly (for no one!), he never got to do this as in three weeks he started feeling a little less depressed and anxious and hopeless.  His wife reported that she was enjoying spending time with him as he was more of his old self and not so grumpy. And it lasted! From time to time over the years he would drop me a line with his progress.


So, I challenge you.  Pick out 1-2 negative things that you say about yourself and change them into positive statements.  Find some sticky notes or some stickers and put that positive statement, that you at least somewhat believe on some level, and tell it to yourself multiple times a day for at least 30 days. The worst thing that could happen is that you waste a few minutes every day.  And the best thing that could happen? You could feel better. Go feel better now!


Wishing you love, happiness, serenity, and joy!

Mechele Evans, LCSW