Happy, Not Perfect: An Interview with Poppy Jamie On Mental Health + Social Media
Poppy Jamie, is a mental health activist, Erno Laszlo’s first ever Global Wellness Advisor and author of the new Happy Not Perfect. We’re talking to the new author about the ever so relevant topic of social media and mental health, especially as it applies to the youngest among us. Read along with us and grab her new book for the kinds of tools we all need…
The Chalkboard: Where did your passion for mental health advocacy begin?
Poppy Jamie: I grew up learning how important it was to look after the mind. My mother is a psychotherapist and my father suffered chronic mental health issues from an early age so I could see how problematic mental health could be.
In my twenties, I began a career in the media industry as a TV reporter for one of the largest news networks in the UK and it was only then that I started to notice the fragility of my own mental health. The pressure I put on myself to “do well”, to look a certain way and move forward in my career caused my stress and anxiety levels to skyrocket and led to physical symptoms like skin rashes, bloating and trouble sleeping.
I was lucky that I had a mother who understood how I was feeling but I then started to ask myself questions like: ‘’What if she hadn’t been a mental health professional, what would I have done?”. I started receiving an influx of messages from people who were watching my show at the time voicing their worries and mental health concerns and for me that was the turning point. I knew I had to do something about it.
Back in 2015, no one was talking about mental health and there were no accessible tools to help people if they were struggling. Therapy is expensive and seeking help can be daunting, so I decided it was my mission to democratise access to mindfulness resources and help those around the world who were struggling too. I went on to develop and launch the Happy Not Perfect app and have recently written the Happy Not Perfectbook to give readers a deeper understanding of the mind and provide them with research backed tools to ease anxiety.
TCM: Mental health advocacy from women who have achieved some level of cultural success has a special value. Wouldn’t you agree? When women who appear to have it altogether discuss their struggles with anxiety or depression that feels especially important. Let’s talk about that…
JA: I think every persons’ truth can set another free. When we hear the REALITY of what people are feeling and thinking, we realise, none of us are alone in what we experience.
It is so easy to become distracted by other people’s highlight reel on social media and assume that everybody else has their life together, is gloriously happy or feels super confident about their body. In actuality, when we peel the surface back, we are all a little bit insecure and battle a bitchy inner critic that taunts us with our fears.
I make a conscious effort to manage my mind daily to ensure I am prioritising compassion, optimism and a flexible mindset.
Through my work I want to help people challenge what “cultural success” means because at the end of the day we won’t remember how many ‘likes’ people had on social media or how much money they made. Instead, we will remember people for their kindness and how they made people feel special and loved. We collectively put so much weight on “cultural success” and forget the power of true success. I arguably have had a lot of cultural success but in those moments, I was often damaging my health, my relationships and even my understanding of who I truly was. I learned the hard way that external validation does not create internal validation and that self esteem can only come from within! I explore this in detail in my book.
TCM: So, so true about external vs. internal validation. What would you love every 15 year old girl out there to know about social media and mental health?
JA: Social media lies — please don’t believe what you see and encourage everyone to restrict the time they spend on it to protect their self esteem. When was the last time social media actually made you feel really good about yourself, and not just for a split second? Most of the time, you’re probably either worried about how many likes or views you have or you’re surfing other people’s feeds and comparing yourself.
It is almost impossible for us not to compare ourselves — sadly, that’s just how the human mind works. There will always be someone prettier, funnier, more successful, or more intelligent than us and THAT is ok because every single one of us has our own unique and wonderful skills. Social media blindsides us, causes us to forget our strengths and how special we are because we’re too absorbed looking at others.
Just remember, you are doing FAR better than you think and everything is unfolding just how it should be for you. We are all on different journeys and we will all have growth spurts at different times. Don’t let social media make you think otherwise.
In my book I write about a method called THE FLEX that will help you manage your mind when online! It’s worked for me in a BIG way and I hope it will for you too.
TCM: Who is making an impact on the topics of social media and mental health right now that you admire?
PJ: Jameela Jamil — she is incredible with her work on I_Weigh. She is truly breaking down so many barriers for women and helping us all feel so much more accepted and empowered.
TCM: What advice or insights might you share with the women reading this who enjoy participating in social media, but also don’t want to fuel mental health issues among young women?
PJ: Before you post anything — ask yourself Why? Is this to serve me or others? It’s fine to serve yourself but it’s important to be aware of how your content is making other people feel. More compassionate posting online will make it a much nicer place for everyone.
TCM: How have things changed since your TEDTalk in 2016? In some ways, I feel like we’re worse now than ever!
PJ: I agree!! I think so much of our lives have moved online in a way they weren’t before. For example, we shop, we chat, we find recipes, read the news, do virtual workouts… the online world is fulfilling all of our needs making it difficult to break the habit. The pandemic has definitely accelerated this but this is why we need to actively force ourselves to take a break because it’s far too easy to spend every waking day and minute on it.
In 2016, I had only just begun to see how addictive social media was and five years later, it’s proven to be even more than I had anticipated. Before we can change anything though, we have to become VERY aware of the problem. Change only happens when there is a BIG desire for it, otherwise (like with all addictions), they’re impossible to break.
TCM: I literally can’t imagine growing up in this filtered culture as a 14 year old girl. Ugh. What advice do you have for young women?
PJ: Trust that your life is unfolding FOR you because it is. Social media makes us question our identity and puts pressure on us to look like everyone else, sound like everyone else, post like everyone else etc. The greatest thinkers and creative minds in the history of mankind were people who were willing to think outside the box, go against the grain and stand up for their individuality. It can feel really hard to break away from “ the crowd” but try and stay true to yourself and ask yourself how it makes you feel.
My book will guide you through the process of flexible thinking, a way to think that helps you befriend your mind and create a future that aligns with YOUR values, not other peoples.
TCM: Lastly, what advice do you have for their mothers and those of us in leadership in the lifestyle space?
PJ: Lead by example. It doesn’t matter what age you are, we are all in danger of falling victim to the toxic world of social media and comparison culture. I would say that Mums have it even worse, with mum culture being competitive and braggy, and can cause so many other mums to feel inadequate.
We need to remind ourselves that no one is perfect. It’s not possible to look like a goddess, run 15km, make gluten-free pancakes and organic lunch boxes for 6 children before 5am without A LOT OF HELP.
We are all doing our best and the older we are, the more pressure there is to set an example for the younger generation. We have to be unphased by likes, limit our time on our devices and practice being present when we are with family and friends. If parents are worrying whether their last post has been liked or not, how can their children not be affected?
When I started practicing the skill of FLEXIBLE THINKING, a method I share in my book, my perspective totally shifted and I realised it was my habits and behaviours that were keeping me stuck in negative, low energetic emotions and glued to social media. So my biggest piece of advice is to become a flexible thinker because it creates a sense of freedom and space from the pressures of the lifestyle space.