25 May

The Beauty and Power of Vulnerability

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s also American Cheese Month and I’ll celebrate both for sure but today I’ll spend some time on mental health.

I had the great honor of presenting at the “Who is Jay?” symposium earlier this month and as I typically do I wove in themes about the “hard parts” of happiness. So, who was Jay? Jay was a young man, he took his own life while battling with mental health challenges. His parents did the incredibly hard thing of stepping up to make their own loss into a mental health symposium to serve others.

During the symposium four brave souls stepped on stage during lunch and shared their story of mental health “This is My Brave.” Their performances included spoken word, poetry, and live music and it was so powerful. They were brave and also incredible performers.

Everyone is suffering. Everyone is struggling with something.

My presentation followed “This is My Brave” and I shared a story about happiness being like trying to put up a tent in a rainstorm. Putting up a tent in the wind gets easier once you get a stake in the ground. And it’s easier to put the tent up if you have someone helping you. It’s even easier if you have the right gear to weather the storm and skills to navigate the task at hand. And some would suggest glamping instead where someone else sets up the tent or better yet just rent and Airbnb.

This metaphor was shared by a friend who used it to describe a time in his life where he was in a dark place.

Everyone is suffering. Everyone is struggling with something.

A great song “Iodine” by (my new favorite band!) Pinegrove. The lyrics touch on mental health.

“I followed it inside
From room to room to try to see if something catches me right

But nothing I try
Can abbreviate the time
Can alleviate my mind

When you get down, stay down, way down, weighed down”

Everyone is suffering. Everyone is struggling with something.

In my business peer group one person broke down in tears yesterday sharing both professional and personal struggles. And I’m so glad they cried. We all need that safe space to talk through our challenges.

My friends are suffering. One is being brave enough to try and normalize mental health at work. His story shows where we are as a society.

Most of us can say:

“Can’t make that meeting. I have a doctor’s appointment.”

We’ve mostly normalized that. Mostly. But what about:

“Can’t make that meeting. I have an appointment with my therapist.”

We’ve got a ways to go in our workplaces and even our societies before we can openly say that. Even me.

Everyone is suffering. Everyone is struggling with something.

A friend lost her father and while deeply painful our dialogue has been beautiful with her insights profound.

I’m suffering through things too. What I hope is that I can continue to put my struggles into their appropriate context, so they don’t weigh on me more than other things. I had my moment in the dark place about a decade ago and didn’t realize it was a bout with depression at the time. Now, I talk to others, both friends and professionals, about what’s tumbling around in my head before the tumbling unravels me.

My coach, Paul Duba, and I landed on something important recently after a great conversation. No matter my own struggles I committed to approaching life with a “generosity of spirit” and to quit worrying about my own needs. The Universe listened and shortly thereafter I was featured on the podcast of Dr. Dan Amallazag and he shared this quote from the late and great Zig Ziglar:

“You get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

What’s interesting about that quote is that Positive Psychology researchers have found that when you’re at your lowest doing something for someone else can be incredibly powerful for you as much as for the recipient.

Thanks Zig. I’m all in.

This month, have a little cheese with a friend a colleague or professional and create space for others to open up about their struggles. Your workplace culture soars when you build relationships where this type of sharing is the norm.

Need a happiness boost? Get my free “GET HAPPY NOW!” workbook.

Anthony Poponi is an energetic presenter, a jokester from birth, and self-admitted lover of downtowns as much as wild spaces. He specializes in putting joy in our workplaces and in our communities through workshops and keynotes that leave his audiences buzzing. Being a hard act to follow on stage is always his goal.

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