Outspoken Observations: A co-founder's personal experience with mental health

I think and talk a lot about mental health. I believe the discussion is important, and admitting my own battles with anxiety has eased the plight for a lot of my friends.  There is value in feeling like you’re not alone in your struggles.  And I’m grateful that organizations like Movember are putting a spotlight on the benefits of sharing your feelings, and putting programs in place to help people open up - because it isn’t always easy.  But it seems like a great place to start.

For most of my life, I have suffered with an anxiety disorder surrounding communication. For instance, if a friend didn’t respond to a text or email in what I considered to be an expedient manner, my go to thought would be “I did something to make them not like me” or “that person is angry with me.” And I deeply believed that to be true. My mind would start shuffling through possible scenarios where I had wronged said person. “Well maybe it was because I spilled wine on her couch” or “maybe she doesn’t want to be my friend because I got too drunk at that party.”  This would go on for hours. What had I done to make myself so unlikeable that someone could just throw me to the wayside? What mistake had I made to make myself so discardable? And then they would respond to my text. I’d be relieved.  And that’s how I lived and interacted with the world. I terrorized myself.  

I thought this was normal. I thought it was normal that I had set a standard on communication response time and that any one who didn’t adhere to such standard was in the wrong, and I would lash out. Then finally, people had a logical reason to not want to be around me. It wasn’t because I spilled wine on their couch or got too drunk at whatever party, it was because I made it impossible to please me. I was a walking and talking self-fulfilling prophecy. And the question that I finally had to ask myself was:  why?  

After some time spent in therapy, I finally found an answer: I hated myself. My self-worth was low. And the reason why I was doubting my relationships was because I truly believed that I wasn’t worthy of friendship and love.  

I’m lucky, in that, I’m educated and I have a support system. I have the wherewith-all to research my symptoms and strategize a plan to get better. And I have the resources to execute that plan. I also have the desire for self-improvement. Think about how rare that combination is. If any piece of that puzzle was missing, I would never get the chance to be happy.    

I’m no longer a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m walking, talking proof that speaking openly about your feelings is a solution to having a healthy mind.  

During these last two weeks of November, it’s important to keep conversations like this top of mind. We love working with organizations like Movember and their co-founder Adam Garone who recognize the importance of being vulnerable with one another, and help us all to feel a little less alone, in part with their month-long (and year round) campaign in support of men’s health.  Adam, as well as General Donald Bolduc, are both strong proponents in advocating for the discussion of mental health issues, including suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress (PTS). We continue to support them in getting their messages out to our event hosts for programming ideas at their next event. Building community and supporting a healthy mind makes any organization that much stronger. Always here to talk on or offline about this subject that is especially near and dear to me.

Bust it,


Visionary Videos: Jesse Israel & The Big Quiet

Not our normal speaker video, check out new exclusive Jesse Israel's recent Big Quiet mass meditation at the World Trade Observatory in NYC and the unique experience of mindful meditation in one of the world's busiest cities and most recognizable buildings.

The Big Quiet draws entrepreneurs and meditators to group meditations at awe-inspiring spots.

Read the story: https://www.fastcompany.com/videos/list/jVdHZUiT/video/urTTys28/what-its-like-to-meditate-on-top-of-the-world-trade-center

Candid Conversations: Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

For our monthly Candid Conversations series and in honor of Women's History Month, we asked Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, health and wellness expert and history/culture podcast host, to answers some questions about what she's Outspoken about and how that translates to her speaking content.

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OA: What are you Outspoken about?
NMP: U.S. culture and politics, past and present. More specifically, feminism, fitness, wellness, and education.

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?
NMP: My first book was about education and civil rights around sexuality, language, and immigration, and it was really clear to the people I interviewed for that project and everyone to whom I spoke about it that this was a very important and serious topic. Now, writing about fitness culture in the U.S., one of the most exciting things is opening people's eyes to the fact that, as I say, "the gym is not just the gym" and that this routine of so many people's everyday lives (and by routine, I mean even thinking you SHOULD exercise, not even actually doing it) is a very recent and development. It's really exciting to share the research that shows how this transformation has happened. Beyond this project, having to speak to a wide range of topics each week on my podcast, Past Present, forces me to look at the big picture in American news and politics and to ask, "what does a historical perspective add to the 24-hour news cycle's hot takes?" It's pushed me to get educated and eloquent on a lot of topics beyond my specific expertise!

OA: How do speaking events help your professional growth?
NMP: There's the obvious "exposure" factor of speaking that is helpful, but I find that I learn something new from every single audience I encounter, both in how I write a talk and from the insights people share during Q and A. I've spoken to everyone from 8th-grade girls to non-profit professionals to entrepreneurs to academics and more, and I find with every event I emerge not just a better speaker, but a clearer thinker. I am grateful for that!

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?
NMP: It's hard with big groups, but I love unconventional setups that challenge the usual "sage on a stage" setting. Recently, I was on a panel around a fire on a mountaintop lodge on Powder Mountain in Utah; a less glamorous but similarly inspiring setting was speaking about the politics of wellness in Union Square NYC, which with its Greenmarket, fitness studios, and rising rents, is a really exciting spot to discuss these dynamics.

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event?
NMP: As a historian, I am always so excited when older folks who lived through the eras I am talking about approach me and both confirm I "get it" (phew!) but more importantly, when they share that my historical perspective gave them new insights on their own lives. This happens a lot when I speak about feminism and fitness; I can't count the number of times I have gotten some variation of, "I never thought I was making history..."

OA: How can people become more involved or engaged with some of the work you do?
NMP: Join me at an event or contact me to create one together. In addition to researching fitness culture, I have been teaching an amazing mind-body class called intenSati for over a decade and there are some really cool possibilities to create experiences with both an embodied and intellectual component. In January 2017, when it was both peak New Year's Resolution season and peak political anxiety before the inauguration, I ran a workout-dinner-conversation series called EXERCISE YOUR POWER, in which we did intenSati, shared a meal, and engaged emotionally, intellectually, and as activists around the very fraught moment. It's exciting to be able to co-create experiences beyond the standard Expert Sharing Expertise model.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech in person alive or dead, who would it be and why?
NMP: Gloria Steinem because she has not only lived feminist history but also has been crucial in making it. Role model!