The Dark Coffee Podcast was created to start open, honest and authentic conversations around mental health and wellbeing.
With 67 episodes and counting, we’ve had a lot of useful, actionable and downright profound advice around a wealth of topics.
The one topic that permeates the podcast time and time again, though, is authenticity.
Whether it’s self-expression, becoming more comfortable in life, or acceptance, authenticity seems to be a strong part of everyone’s journey – knowingly or unknowingly.
So, in line with this month’s focus on authenticity, why not take a look at some of the best pieces of advice, and experiences of, authenticity?
“People are not prepared to talk about what they’re genuinely going through for fear of falling foul of that trope that’s being set.” – Vikas Shah (Ep. 67 ‘The Nuance of Mental Health’)
Try as we might to eradicate it, the stigma around mental health persists.
It is this stigma that continues to enable harmful stereotypes around mental health conditions and all mental health-related discussions, particularly around suicide.
Fear is a strong emotion when it comes to authenticity, because it’s one of the many barriers we face in acceptance of ourselves and our circumstances.
In this episode in particular, Vikas describes the difficulties that even seasoned professionals have around getting conversations ‘right’, but asserts that “…but if we’re scared of having difficult conversations, then the consequences are even more dire.”
Part of authenticity is being temporarily uncomfortable for these very reasons. We’re fearful of how we are perceived and fearful of even approaching a conversation around ‘sensitive’ subjects because of how we might appear in the eyes of others.
The best piece of advice from this episode in approaching authenticity?
“I’ve had so many people who’ve often said, ‘My employer won’t support me when I’m going through this’ – well, quit. Why the hell does your employer deserve you in that situation?”
Though Vikas stresses this isn’t applicable for those who need their job to survive, he also emphasises that for ignorance towards other social issues, such as sexism and racism, we have a far firmer stance in taking action than we do towards our mental health being undervalued.
We should have this stance towards mental health, too.
The key takeaway?
It’s important to also hold your mental health as an important part of yourself that deserves to be respected, rather than staying in environments that are detrimental to it.
“How I would describe therapy now is someone showing you the way. I had these problems in my head and how to get past that, and she very much helped me problem-solve those.” – Natalie Williams (Ep. 54 ‘Therapy and Me’)
Remember how I said earlier that mental heath was still heavily stigmatised?
One of the areas that is still stigmatised the most is therapy, even accounting for the fact that therapy is becoming more common with access to services such as IAPT, with more than one million people accessing these services to overcome depression and anxiety .
In this episode, Natalie describes how the thought of therapy had previously seemed unappealing to her due to the stigma and stereotypes around therapy, particularly for a self-directed individual such as herself that was very self-aware.
“Therapy is someone helping you get a different viewpoint to help you solve the problems in your head, but also give you new tools.”
After beginning therapy, Natalie began to appreciate the challenging to viewpoints and opinions she held, being a person geared towards problem-solving and practical approaches.
The best advice in relation to authenticity?
“I felt like I shared all of those coping mechanisms and the wall I put up to defend myself, as it were, but in fact if I want to have the experiences in life that I do want, then I’m going to have to let that go and be open to it and shed it.”
By accepting help and acknowledging our struggles and all aspects of ourselves, we become a step closer to understanding our authentic self – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being guided there by someone else.
“We have influence over other people. We only have agency over ourselves.” – Alice Lyons (Ep. 19 ‘Suicide Prevention Strategies’)
Having managed suicidal feelings over a ten-year period and on an ongoing basis, Dark Coffee Founder and Podcast Host Alice Lyons has more than enough experience with the struggles of uncomfortable conversations and truths.
When it comes to mental health, it can be hard to sift through all of the thoughts racing through your mind at any given time, and the time it takes to even acknowledge them can seem overwhelming.
“When you’re struggling with your mental health, if you’ve got depression or anxiety, your thoughts are going too quickly to understand them. Whereas if you slow down and you have to actually put words to them, they begin to make a lot more sense.”
Slowing down to truly think about how we’re feeling, putting some meaning to or behind it, whether it’s words in a journal or art, we can slowly start to unpack how we’re actually feeling and potentially why we’re feeling that way.
Alice recommends journaling for streams of consciousness, to get all of the thoughts out of your head. This is particularly helpful when it comes to the uncomfortable acknowledgements that can often come alongside something we may have been putting off for a long time.
The best piece of advice?
Invest in yourself.
Whether that means therapy, creative outlets, a set of fancy journals or taking time away from work when you need to – an investment in yourself is an investment in your health.
There’s nothing more empowering than acknowledging and being proactive towards your mental health, because it means you’re no longer approaching it with fear.
Self-acceptance isn’t easy, but it’s totally worth it.
Plus, it makes for really insightful podcast episodes!
If you’d like to start putting authenticity at the centre of your personal brand as someone who’s self-employed, you might enjoy our online workshop, ‘Authenticity in Business’, an interactive and engaging format including group discussions.
Alternatively, if you want to cultivate authenticity in your workplace, our webinar on ‘Authenticity at Work’ might be your cup of tea, where you can sit back with your camera off and take notes at your leisure!