Deep Stretch: Naomi Osaka Taught Me

In this deep stretch episode, I talk about a few important lessons that I've taken from Naomi Osaka.

Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Inner Warmup. My name is Taylor Elyse Morrison, I'm the creator of Inner Workout. And you as always our expert guest, thank you for being here today. It's the end of the month, which means if you're new around here, that we do a deep stretch episode. So normally the episodes are interviews, they're an opportunity for you to reflect and check in. And deep stretch episodes are an opportunity for me to share what's been on my mind with regards to self care and mental health and inner work. But before I get into all of that, I still want to do a little something to bring you into this present moment. I just did this before I started recording, it's going to sound cheesy, bear with me. But I want you to smile and take a moment to let that happen. First, curl your lips up. Hold that for a moment, and then let your teeth show. I did this in a room by by myself, I felt uncomfortable and weird at first and then I started beaming, and got super excited to have this conversation with you. Just a little thing, but smiling does something in us neurochemically and I won't get into all of it, but there is some research around faking a smile. And you can still get the benefits of actually smiling. Your body doesn't necessarily know if it's real or if it's fake, so that's our little intro for today. And what I want to talk to you about, I want to frame it through the lens of a new story that popped up this month.

If you haven't heard, Naomi Osaka, who is an incredibly talented tennis player, she withdrew from the French Open, citing her mental health. I don't watch a lot of tennis admittedly, but apparently the journalists who are interviewing the athletes can really try and knock you off of your game. And Naomi originally was just going to skip out on that part. She's got tons of sponsorship money, and was like, I will pay the fine. I just don't want to do it. And the French Open tried to put her between a rock and a hard place and make her choose. And she said okay, I choose myself and stepped back from doing the French Open. And then a couple days ago, as of recording, she also stepped down from Wimbledon.

Those are two major stages for her, two major opportunities for her to show off her skill, to be on the world stage. And she said, you know what, mentally, emotionally, with my social anxiety, I can't handle it right now. And she stepped down. And I thought about this for a few days, I saw people posting about it right away. And it's hard for me to do that. Like I have to take some time to process and sometimes something will click in me and the words will flow out. And other times I'm just sitting and thinking about something that's happening in the news and it takes a bit for me to have an opinion on it. That's what happened when I read this news about Naomi Osaka, gut reaction was good for her and then I had some questions that flowed from that.

I wrote this post on LinkedIn, I'm gonna read some of what I wrote but I want to talk about it more than I could than in just writing a post on LinkedIn. The first thing that I said was that I have a lot of respect for her willingness, for Naomi's willingness to prioritize her mental health. Even if it meant missing out on a major opportunity, while she's at the top of her game. She still stepped back and said, no, not right now. Already in that there was something for me to learn because it is so easy for me, even as someone who works in the self care and the wellness and the mental health space, it's so easy for me to say, well, let me just push a little bit further. I know I'm exhausted. I know I'm nearing burnout but if I can just achieve this milestone, if I can just secure that partner. Then I can rest. Or I think back to last year when opportunities were coming at me left and right and I felt like I had to say yes to everything because maybe there wouldn't be an opportunity later. And because I've been through those experiences, seeing Naomi be willing to step back and walk away was awe inspiring, literally awe inspiring for me. It also gave me some questions that honestly, I'm still wrestling with but I'll just talk through them with you, and I invite you to jot them down or to think about them on your own. The first question that came to mind for me was, why do we feel like public figures owe us their voice?

So yes, in Naomi's instance, there was a contract in place, but she was willing to pay the fine as stipulated by the contract. And even beyond that, we look at people who are entrepreneurs, or who are athletes or have famous parents, and for whatever reason, we feel like because they have a large platform we are entitled to hear from them, we're entitled to know their innermost thoughts. And I wonder why that is? Even in my own life, where do I feel entitled to people at a smaller scale? Where do I feel entitled to them sharing things with me? This just came up earlier today, I was talking to someone and I was asking them about something rather personal. And I had to rewind and be like, if you're comfortable sharing that. Oftentimes, I don't have a problem sharing when the context is right and because I don't like small talk, it's easy for me to ask those deep questions. And this question was a nice check for me to make sure that I'm not feeling like because I asked a question, because I have a certain level of relationship with someone, because we're in a certain context, no one is obligated to share with me. No one owes me their voice or their opinion.

Especially if they're public figures and I challenge you to listen to the conversations that go on around you, see if you hear elements of this trickling in. I've heard it in conversations where we feel like oh, this person, they should speak up about that. Or how come they didn't comment on this thing that's happening. And I know for me personally, when I'm not commenting on something, it's because I don't feel informed about it. It could be because I am feeling it so deeply that I'm not ready feels raw. And sharing that raw part of me would open me up to infection. That's just the metaphor that came to mind, but the sense of like, this cuts so deep, and if I put this opinion into the world, I'm inviting people to comment on it. And I could not bear that because I can't even bear this thing that's happening right now.

There are a myriad of different reasons. They could be having conversations with people who they actually know beyond someone who follows them or watches them on TV. And so I just invite all of us to notice where we're feeling like people, especially public figures, especially these parasocial relationships, where we feel like we know someone because we've clicked follow. But we don't actually have an in person relationship with them. And this conversation itself could be a long conversation. There's so much nuance to it but these are, these are just my initial thoughts and I want to get to some of these other questions. So if you're like well, what about this or what do you think about that? I'd love for you to put it in the community and let's have a more robust dialogue around it.

The second question that I put up here was, how might we create opportunities for people who aren't multimillionaires to prioritize their mental health without fear of losing their livelihood?

This is the million dollar question, isn't it? I love, especially because Naomi Osaka is a multiracial woman, that she has the ability to walk away from things. I would venture to guess that she could never lift her tennis racquet again and still be set for life as long as her investments are put in order, which I would assume that they are. So she has a certain level of privilege that not every person who is inspired by her story has. So what could it look like for us as a society, for us as smaller communities, to create space for people to say, you know what, I need to step back right now. I need to prioritize my mental health, without fear of losing their job, or losing a relationship or losing some other opportunity. I think that there is a lot that can happen internally at companies. I was reading a Twitter thread, maybe last week, about someone whose company gave her an entrepreneurial leave, because she was feeling pulled in as she was trying to grow her business on the side and work this full time job that she loved. She was fully ready to quit and they said, you know, what, why don't you take a six month leave, focus on this entrepreneurial venture of yours, and then we can revisit in six months if you want to come back or if you want to fly.

That's pretty cool. And I know that doesn't seem directly related to the topic of mental health. It's not like a burnout leave, for example, but she probably was getting burned out trying to pull the two things. I don't believe it's a paid leave so again, she has a certain level of privilege that she had enough in savings or enough going in her side hustle that she felt like she could support herself. But wow, I have never heard of a company doing something like that, in the context of entrepreneurship. I've heard of short term disability. I've heard of parental leave, but not like oh, you are really pulled in two places. Let's give you a chance to explore this other option. I think it looks like mental health days, instituting mental health days, and I have heard more organizations doing this of, okay, we're just taking a mental health day we're off on this day. I was also on a panel, where I think it was my colleague and friend, L'Oreal Thomson Payton, she was moderating. And I was talking about how companies often have resources. If you have a full time job at a corporation, there's a very high chance that you have access to an employee assistance program, which is essentially free therapy on a targeted topic. And organizations don't do a good job of advertising that, they don't.

How can organizations make it really easy to access those resources? And then, and this is what L'Oreal shared, if you're going to institute mental health days, or have this employee assistance program, how can leadership model the use of them? Like it's great, you have unlimited vacation, but are your leaders working for 14 hours a day and emailing at all hours of the day and night? Then employees probably aren't going to feel empowered to take advantage of the resources that the company is trying to offer to support mental health. Again, each of these could be its own podcast episode. And if you don't know this about me, I studied human and organizational development, with a focus on leadership and organizational effectiveness. So I am always thinking about how organizations work, and how people work and the intersections of those things. So this topic I could nerd out on, and I'd be curious if any of your employers have done something really cool. Let us know, I'd be curious to hear.

I think we're at a turning point, as we, I mean, honestly continue to be living through this pandemic, that there's a lot more room for there to be wild cards on the table. Stuff that was completely just pie in the sky, so far fetched around working, is now possible. Like Deloitte, one of the consulting firms is saying everyone can work from home forever. Like a lot of times you're on site at the client, but when you're not, you can work from home. That's huge. I perceive them as someone who has a lot of classmates who ended up working at Deloitte and Deloitte's competitors. I perceive consulting as like a relatively buttoned up corporate, even just in a tire and hierarchy approach, probably a little bit of a work hard, play hard approach. And so to see something that is a little bit more traditional, say, hey, you all can work from home. That's cool. And because we're having these conversations, where can we push it a little bit further to say okay, what about mental health days? What about instituting an employee assistance program? What about, I don't know, stuff that I'm not even thinking that's possible, like, this is the time where we can have those conversations. Because HR professionals are having to figure out how they can keep people who have become accustomed to different ways of working and maybe don't want to go back to things as usual. And then the last question that I posed in this LinkedIn post, and that I'll pose here, is for the sake of my own mental health, is there anything that I need to withdraw from?

I am not good at tennis. It is my goal to start playing tennis recreationally. But there might be things that I need to step back from, whether it's things that we have running in the business that aren't necessary or aren't driving our ultimate results, they're not moving us towards our vision of a world without burnout. I might need to withdraw from those. We've been talking about relationships this week, it might be some relationships that I need to step back from, that I don't have the energy to invest in right now. It could just be like, I need to not look at as many screens after work. I am coming off of a glorious weekend where I started and finished three books in one weekend. And then I finished a fourth one that I had started previously. I was barely looking at screens all weekend, except for the screen of my Kindle, which I don't really count because it's paperwhite. And it was so beautiful. My brain felt different not being on a screen, even for fun things like playing chess. So maybe I need to withdraw even more from screens even if I think it's something fun. What are those things that you need to step back from? Responsibilities, obligations, expectations that you're imposing on yourself, things that used to feel really loving and supporting that don't in this season of your life? That's a question to ask yourself, and draw on some of the example and the strength that Naomi Osaka exhibited, and being able to step back.

And to tie all of this to the theme, this month of relationships, it's all really about how we relate to each other. All of these questions...feeling like people owe us their voice is a relationship dynamic that we can easily accept without questioning. Creating opportunities for people to prioritize their mental health is about relationships. It's how companies relate to their employees. It's how managers relate to their direct reports. It's all relationships. And then this last piece, this withdrawing piece I mentioned, it might be withdrawing from relationships, it might be creating a shift and how you relate to yourself. It's all about relationships. I don't know about you, but this month has been really powerful for me to be able to have these conversations with you and to reflect on these questions related to relationships. Because I didn't realize how much had shifted and also flourished in my relationship with myself and my relationship with the people that I consider to be my close circle. I want you to feel empowered, to continue to do this work. I hope you know that even as we move through different themes over the months, this is a starting point. This podcast, its whole goal is to give you an opportunity to start your inner work and you get to continue it. So if you, like me, are really into thinking about relationships at every scale, hangout there, journal, reflect, whatever feels good, experiment on your own life with regards to relationships. But content wise, I'm really excited.

We are going to move into a series of focusing on the different dimensions of wellbeing. If you're not familiar, Inner Workout has five dimensions of well being. You can figure out how you relate to each of them in our take care assessment. And next month we're going to focus on the mental and the emotional dimension. So we'll be looking at your thoughts, and your feelings, and how you are using and growing and developing that beautiful brain of yours. So you can look forward to that in the next month. And part of why we're going to be focusing on these dimensions is because we're launching products that are aligned to each of these dimensions, which I am really excited about. So you all are the first to hear this, you people who have stuck around to the end of the episode. Next month, we are re-launching our Inner Workout journal, which I'll probably speak about it more, but I'm a pretty avid journaler. And I took my favorite pieces of other journals and used those inputs to develop this journal. And so we're re-launching that and as a companion, we have created these really beautiful journaling pens. Think of them as like your pilot g two gel pen. If you're that into pens, then you know what I'm talking about, but beautiful. So it's in this beautiful metal casing. And it's reasonable too. We'll also be selling the gel replacement so that you can keep your shells and then just rotate out these replacement gels, make it a little bit more eco friendly - so you're not throwing away a plastic pen every time.

I'm really excited about it, I'm excited to dive into the mental and the emotional dimension, and to talk about what it can look like to journal and reflect and to connect with this mental and emotional dimension in your own life. So July is going to be good and it's going to keep getting better, but it's going to consistently, hopefully, be good and interesting and exciting for you. I don't know about you, but I get really energized through the inner work. Not to say that it's always easy, but little things where I sit, I can see oh, I'm speaking to myself differently in the situation. Oh, I don't feel as nervous or frustrated by this anymore. And it's because of things like this, of doing this podcast, of taking time to reflect on understanding how I'm relating to myself and to others. And we're going to do even more of that in the coming months.

So I need to take a deep breath because I'm getting super excited. And we're getting into this next month but if there's more, if you also geek out on this stuff, feel free to come hang out in Inner Workout's free online community. Like I said y'all are the first to know about which products are launching next month. And I think we'll keep that going, so in the deep stretch episodes, make sure you listen to the end because you'll get a little sneak peek of what is coming products wise.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for your expertise. I hope you take some time to reflect on your own. Take care!