I wanted to share a story with you, a very personal story.
I believe many of us often don’t know our own self-worth in a world that’s dealing with a lot of mental health issues. As a mom, it hit home for me when my confident and strong 20-year-old, who is studying at Cornell and is a volunteer firefighter, told me how lonely he was. On the exterior, he’s a kid who’s got it all together. Goes to a great school, has found volunteer work he enjoys, has a family who loves him. He’s got the world in his hands, or so we thought. When he finally shared with me how lonely he was, I asked him why?
He told me how competitive the school was, how their culture was cutthroat, and that no matter how hard he worked, he was scraping by with B’s. School had always been easy for him, but with the sliding scale grading policy, the students were ruthless and would even sabotage you to ensure their own grade. He had lost friends, couldn’t’ trust people, and was constantly studying to keep his grades up.
OMG! Where had I sent my child? College was supposed to be fun; we did tours and, when he walked onto that campus, he fell in love. He was focused and determined to get in — and did! But now, here was my child questioning his own self-worth. He was struggling, and like every mother out there, I wanted to fix it. But inside I was completely distraught that my baby was struggling. Even writing this brings tears to my eyes.
I shared with him an analogy that I heard and I want to share with you. Get a $100 bill. Now fold it. Scrunch it up. Spill coffee on it. Stomp on it. What do you have — it’s still a $100 bill, right? Its value hasn’t been diminished because it’s all wrinkled and stained. You see, life is going to stomp on you, throw shit your way, and it’ll be tough, but no matter what happens it does not change your value — you are still a $100 bill.
Now don’t worry, my son is much better. He needed to share his angst to finally be able to process it. Sometimes putting it out into the universe helps take what seems huge in your mind and gain perspective. Graduating with B’s isn’t so bad; some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs don’t even have degrees. You want to take a gap year, okay, do what’s good for you. What we didn’t realize was how much pressure he put on himself.
This doesn’t just apply to our children; it applies to all of us. How many times have we made a problem bigger than it was? Spent the entire night awake and worrying, berating ourselves for whatever mistake we think we made? Allowing others’ opinions to define how we see ourselves? It took me years to understand my true value, to not allow others’ opinions of me define me, and to allow my mind to believe it. We’re our harshest critics, and often our own opinion of ourselves is based on what we believe others think of us, or if we think we have let someone down.
We take mental health very seriously at ITBD. In fact, Sunny has built an entire program for our company that focuses on both their physical and mental well-being. We know that it’s one of the most significant silent killers our generation has ever faced. So, we talk about it, bring professionals to support our team, and make sure there is an open dialogue about it. It’s not a taboo topic and does not diminish anyone in any way. In fact, many have gathered strength by sharing.
Our mental health matters. Everyone struggles with it; I did for years as well. Not understanding my true value and worth. Over these years, I have learned a few certainties that I want to share:
- No matter what happens, you are still a $100 bill. Life’s circumstances don’t devalue you as an individual.
- Problems are often bigger in our minds than in reality.
- Communicate what’s going on in your mind — whether with a family member, friend, or professional. They will help you gain perspective.
- Mental calmness doesn’t mean you can’t be aggressive or a high achiever. It just means that your ambition will not come at the sacrifice of your mental state.
- We each have unique strengths. Comparing ourselves to others and what they have accomplished versus what you have accomplished is not healthy. You have your unique strengths, live up to that, and not the comparison of others.
- And finally, my life mantra: People’s opinions of you don’t define you, only you can do that.
I hope this article helps you start the conversation. If you don’t have a program in your organization, consider starting one or providing your team with access to resources. If you have any questions, please feel free to DM me and I’ll try to help put you in touch with people who can help. I’m in no way an expert, I’m simply sharing my experiences and hope that you all know how valuable you are. Much love.
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