The practice of being yourself

The biggest shift in opinion that I’ve noticed in my eleven years of executive coaching practice is our attitudes to the concept of mental health.

Back in the day, most of the non-useful attitudes and judgements fell into two main categories: weirdness and weakness.

The diversity movement has encouraged us to celebrate that which is different, but we’re still prone to harshness when noticing a struggle in one of our colleagues (and we’re absolutely our own harshest critic when we’re struggling ourselves).

So, despite significant progress, we’re not there yet. As an example, in my work, and this is also true of many of my colleagues, I tend to refer to mental fitness and mental strength rather than mental health. This is for a variety of reasons, mostly to lower our resistance to self-examination and to making progress without unhelpful judgement.

My favourite mental fitness/strength/health quote is from Canadian author Mark Freeman:

Mental health is the practice of being yourself.

Of course, the key word here is practice. Acting in alignment with who we are and who we want to be is useful in the moment and allows us to build strength in different arenas.

The opposite is also true: acting out of alignment with who we are creates greater suffering for ourselves and others.

Mark’s book is called You Are Not A Rock and I’ve given this to many clients, and recommended it in talks, since it came out.

It’s far more useful for us to realise that all of us are on a continuum of mental health, just like physical health. So, rather than wasting time creating judgements about good or bad, strong or weak, we shouldn’t lose sight of our ability to improve our mental fitness through our own choices and actions.

Go practice being yourself. ❤️


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. This extract is part of a summer series sharing great quotes from great books. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

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