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"Everything Isn’t Terrible" Book Review

"Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety and Finally Calm Down."

By Kathleen Smith

What is this book about?

This is a clever, witty, relatable book about how to live intentionally and take control of your life, “acting, leading, and calming the hell down” (Smith, 2020). Life involves changes and challenges which cause natural stress, and we live in busy, anxious, challenging times. This means that a lot of people are feeling stressed and anxious about everything from their health, to finances, to relationships, parenting, family, work, community, and even broader things like the economy and politics. And how do we respond to stress? Our responses are typically learnt in our ‘first school of life and love’ – our family of origin – and so we are often enacting old family patterns and reacting to old family tensions and templates…and then unconsciously passing these on to our children.

Stress and anxiety invite us to become reactive, and often we move through life on autopilot not conscious of the patterns we’ve fallen into and ideas about life and relationships that we’ve inherited from our family of origin. Unconscious patterns, beliefs and ideas don’t always serve us well. This book will help you get off autopilot and grab the controls of life with information, anecdotes, questions for reflection, engaging exercises and action points. Essentially, you’ll learn how to “shed your anxious habits and build a solid sense of self” (Smith, 2020), or as I like to say, how to become the best version of yourself.

Everything Isn’t Terrible makes some of my favourite and most helpful Family Therapy ideas so easy for everyone to access, and covers a wealth of ideas including:

  • What anxiety is and how it invites us into unhelpful patterns

    • Including being overly focused on what we cannot control…others

    • Including becoming a relationship blob. One of my favourite metaphors Kathleen uses is the relationship blob, and the need to ask ourselves “Are you separate people or a relationship blob?”

  • What a self-focus is, and how it’s helpful. A self-focus is very different from selfish

  • Differentiation: The difference between thinking and feeling, and the importance of being able to get good at this and how to do this

  • The importance of being able to distinguish your thoughts and feelings from other people’s thoughts and feelings (making other’s anxiety and tensions less contagious), the importance of getting good at this and how to do this

  • How to move from reacting to responding thoughtfully

  • A solid self: what this is, why it’s important and how to work towards it including really fleshing out your values, beliefs, and principles and how to stick to them…even in anxious times…and even in important and challenging relationships

  • The predictable patterns people fall into when anxiety is at the helm, and how to free yourself from these

  • A three-step process for readers to follow based on all this information, that will lead them down the path towards becoming their best self

  • In Family Therapy the word we use is differentiation and Kathleen will help you to understand what this is and how it relates to emotional maturity and being your best self

  • Friendly tip: in Family Therapy we appreciate that emotional maturity is a life-long journey, none of us ever fully get there, and we are all human and face the challenges of being human in relationships (yep – even therapists too!). We also appreciate that it’s well worth the effort to keep working on it!

Ultimately, this book will give you the knowledge and tools to take responsibility for yourself and “change how you operate in the world” (Smith, 2019). And in a variety of life settings – in your family, in romantic relationships, friendships, community, and work.

Why do I like this book?

Actually I don’t like this book – I love it! This book is one of my absolute favourites. After finding it, I was captivated and couldn’t put it down until I’d read every single page (and re-read a few) … and then I had to share it with my Family Therapy family … who also fell in love with it!

I love that this book offers ways to develop a solid self and emotional maturity that allows people to navigate life on their own terms according to their values and principles. It literally is life changing.

But this can also change more than one life. One of the things I most love about being a Family Therapist is when I have the opportunity to work with people to support them to get off automatic pilot, and live intentionally, and in doing so change intergenerational legacies. Finding out about where we come from in order to decide consciously what our values are and how we want to live creates a powerful, positive legacy for the next generation.

I love Kathleen’s writing style. She makes complex family therapy theory incredibly practical, easily understandable, fun, and accessible. I also love the very relatable stories she has chosen to illustrate the ideas, including her own story. I am grateful for this engaging book that can make a big difference in life, love, and relationships for readers.

I had many favourite sentences and had to settle on a small paragraph to share with you as my ‘favourite sentence’ for this review,

Who wouldn’t want this in life?

How do I use the book?

I use these ideas in working with individuals, couples, families, and teams. I often introduce these concepts to clients, and we work on developing a solid sense of self, getting off autopilot, taking back control in life and changing intergenerational legacies for the better.

I frequently recommend the book as ‘homework’ reading for my clients, and ‘personal and professional development’ for those I mentor in the helping profession.

I also use this book in teaching Family Therapy and recommend it to students and trainee Family Therapists and Counsellors. More than one quote from this book shows up in workshops I run!

Always, as a Systemic Family Therapist, I hold these ideas in mind in my own life and in my work.

I love this book. It’s another one that I have found to be incredibly useful personally and professionally. I hope you find it helpful too.

Let me know your thoughts and how you use the book.


Please note - this article is educational in nature and does not constitute therapy advice.

Please seek help from a professional if you require support.

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