Book Review: Everything Isn’t Terrible

The book is held up in focus with blurred orange flowers in the background. The cover is a colorful teal blue with starburst graphics in different colors, white and yellow text.

Sometimes a book just finds you at the perfect time. I pre-ordered Dr. Kathleen Smith’s December 2019 book “Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down” because I really, really enjoyed her book “The Fangirl Life.”


Her first book was so insightful and impacting and I enjoyed her writing style, so I wanted to check out the new release. But quite honestly, I don’t consider myself to be a particularly anxious person or feel I have problems coping with my anxiety. So I didn’t think I would feel as many connections with this book as I had felt with the previous one.


To my surprise, I found this book was really necessary for me to read. For me, ultimately, this book is about managing your role in relationships, especially dysfunctional or anxious ones. I never really considered the frustration, sadness, anger, or loss I felt dealing with family, co-workers, or others on social media to be anxiety. But these relationship interactions definitely cause me to react and cope in ways that aren’t healthy and do ultimately contribute to a lot of anxiety in my life.


I already knew that the only thing I could genuinely control in any of these situations was myself and that I should respond mindfully and compassionately—I have been a practicing lay Buddhist for some time now. But this book really explains why this is so important and de-mystifies the inner workings that structure these social dynamics. And, wow, now that I can’t unsee these things, I feel much more able to focus on my role and take responsibility for myself and my actions—which, as the author eloquently illustrates, helps you as an individual feel better and calm down as well as has the potential to have a similar effect on the group.


The author uses concepts in Bowen Theory to explain group dynamics and highlight the role you play in contributing to an anxious group. She explains how these roles we all play are actually groups trying to calm down and function but sometimes when left unchecked they can cause more drama and anxiety.


I know I fell into a bad habit of thinking there was nothing I could do to calm an anxious social group whether it be with family members, co-workers, or online interactions. I blamed others for acting immature but I see now that I was also reacting in ways that were immature. I think sometimes we either feel genuinely helpless or actively decide that being helpless is an easier option, and thus shut off our mindfulness and individual power or accountability. This book offers useful tools to keep and work on mindfulness and individual power and to, yes, even calm down.


The author also has a down-to-earth view. As she illustrates with her case examples, things don’t always work out perfectly. Some people or groups won’t calm down. But you can feel better and build a healthier, more content day to day life for yourself and with that you can do great things.


The author has a strong voice and a great sense of humor. I found the author explains concepts clearly, illustrates with believable and diverse case studies, and remains firm when we need her to.


The biggest thing I took away from this book really was showing me the role that I play in these systems. Sometimes in a really conflicted group it’s easy for us to step back and say, “Wow, they are all ridiculous and I’m just sitting here on the sidelines completely aghast and unable to do anything!” But I can focus on myself and respond in more mature ways.


And it does help you to calm down, as it were. Securing a sense of agency, understanding, and personal accountability can go a long way.


I also really like that the author pointed out if you are fixated or ruminating on changing others you’ve already lost the idea. It’s about focusing on your role and your calm.


I really, really recommend this book, especially because we are all involved in so many anxious groups nowadays. (I also really love Dr. Smith’s newsletter that I get in my email. I tend to keep a lot of them saved to read and reference later!) There’s a lot of great information that I have applied to my life, and I am so grateful for doing so. I’m so happy this book found me.


If you want to check it out, the book is available in print and ebook.

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