Book review: ‘Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?’

‘Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?’

By Dr. Julie Smith

(351 pages, self help, 2022)


“Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?” is a concise and accessible self-help book for folks looking to strengthen their personal repertoire for dealing with life’s ups and downs. “People should not have to pay to come and see someone like me just to get access to…education about how their mind works,” says the author, clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith, in the introduction. “This book … is a toolbox filled to the brim with different tools” to help readers understand and plot a response to common mental health struggles, such as low mood, grief, self-doubt, and coping with anxiety.

Smith structures this book in short chapters with a summary at the end of each. Interspersed throughout the text are diagrams and prompts to help illustrate the ideas in the chapter and promote self-reflection. The book is full of practical, straightforward tips, which are written in plain English rather than esoteric psychological jargon. For example, a passage from Chapter 8, On a Meaningful Life, reads, “Emotions are always a part of our experience. But, just like the weather, some moments are pleasant and others are hard to endure. … Sometimes we are not happy because we are human and life is difficult a lot of the time. … Happy moments are just one flower in a very large bouquet.” I enjoyed the print version of this book because it allowed me to really absorb the visual models that don’t translate well to audio. However, the audiobook version (available on Hoopla) features the author’s delightfully soothing British accent, which is a great enhancement in its own right.

This book is not an appropriate resource for diagnosing or treating serious mental illness, nor is it meant to serve as a substitute for visiting a professional therapist if that is something that you find valuable. It is, however, a way to help readers understand and manage their responses to some of life’s most common stressors. Metacognition — thinking about thinking — is a powerful tool for gaining insight into our triggers and coping mechanisms and changing our unhealthy behavior patterns. Dr. Smith’s advice can help readers to be more self-aware, resilient, and in control in their own lives, without the time and expense of seeing a professional. After all, we are only human, and we’re each only here for a limited time span. We may as well work to make the best of it, and Dr. Smith is here to help.

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Faithe Miller Lakowicz

Author: Insider Staff

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