Jade Kearney of ‘She Matters’: “Laughter”

Laughter. Make it a habit to laugh. Laugh at yourself. Seriously, I laugh at myself and don’t take myself too seriously. I’m not a surgeon. If I mess up, no one is going to die. Don’t take yourself too seriously. As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, […]

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Laughter. Make it a habit to laugh. Laugh at yourself. Seriously, I laugh at myself and don’t take myself too seriously. I’m not a surgeon. If I mess up, no one is going to die. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jade Kearney.

Jade Kearney is a Mental Health Entrepreneur & Advocate, and the Founder & CEO of She Matters, a community designed to support the mental health needs of Black women.

Jade’s mental wellness journey began soon after giving birth to her daughter. Jade experienced postpartum depression and anxiety and had difficulty finding a community and culturally competent resources to turn to. The birth of her daughter made her realize the neglect black mothers face when it comes to their mental well-being.

Jade’s drive to take charge of her own mental wellness inadvertently led to the creation of the She Matters platform.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I’m from Newark, New Jersey and I grew up in a household with my grandparents and my mom. My dad was a drug dealer. He was in and out of jail, and my mom was in and out of rehab most of my life. I’m the oldest of eight children. I partially grew up between Newark, NJ and Los Angeles, CA. My mom lives in California now.

I went to majority all-white schools growing up, but I definitely had the influence of my neighborhood as well (from both Los Angeles and Newark). I appreciate my upbringing. My grandparents are a huge influence. Both sets of grandparents went to college. My grandmother has a master’s degree, and they both retired from companies where they worked for many years. So, I had a dual upbringing where I saw the worst of the worst, but also the best — black people who experience opportunity. I feel very blessed that I got to experience both. It made me a very humble child.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I founded She Matters, a community designed to support and meet the mental health needs of Black women. So, Black women inspired me to pursue this career. When I went through my postpartum OCD, and I started to converse with women — mostly only the white women were expressive, we were absent, and when I did speak to black women, we all were experiencing the same things. I noticed we were suffering in silence and I wanted to create a safe space where we don’t have to suffer alone. As soon as you tell your story, you have the ability to help someone else with theirs.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Sure, I think the person who’s inspired me the most is my mom. It’s awkward because my mom has eight children and she struggled with drug abuse her whole life. My mom has fair skin with light eyes, but she always told me, don’t ever think that the way you look will change your life. Make sure that you work hard because — “look at me, I should be more successful”. “I was always smart and I’m not successful, and it’s because of the things that I dealt with in my life.” She told me that I need to move forward, and push on, and not to let anybody define who I am.

A big thing with my mom was, she really relied on her looks to get a lot of things early on in life because that’s what she knew. So I’ve been blessed with a mom who said, “I have children as dark as a Hershey bar, and as light as clouds, and none of that matters — what matters is how hard you work.”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The fact that I thought that I could work a full-time job, and also be an entrepreneur is the funniest thing ever. Something will suffer, and it was usually with my job because being an entrepreneur was the most important thing to me. Also, trying to balance being a mom, having a full-time job, starting She Matters, and being a grad student. I look back like wow, you were really trying to do all of that?! Are you crazy? It seems crazy, but when I was in it, I was trying to accomplish things and be responsible. One thing that I learned from that as I’m laughing at myself, is that being responsible is making decisions about what you want to do with your life and not just doing everything because that’s also irresponsible if you’re not taking care of yourself.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Never accept no. No just makes me want to do more. When somebody tells me no, I’m already thinking about yes. If I listened to no, I would not have done any of the things I’ve done. If you want to do it, you can do it. There’s no way you can be unsuccessful if you keep going. So when people tell you no, you have to decide if that no is a challenge for you to open the door to yes.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Super Rich by Russel Simmons. I read it three times. This was before I became a Buddhist, but it gives you the game from a spiritual aspect. I liked it because it was Hip Hop, it was Buddhist, it was Yogi. It really helps you understand that you can’t be selfish when you’re trying to change the world. So the best way to do things is to give what you’re doing away for free for a certain period of time, so people can see what you’re about. Offer free resources. When spending money to make money, your ego has to take a backseat. The book really helped me understand that I’m in this work not just for myself, but for black women. I don’t want to charge black women. I want to make money, but it shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of women who are already disenfranchised in health care and mental health.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I’m a huge Jay Z fan. It’s probably really corny. But he said, “I’m from the bottom.” The first thing you’ll hear me saying in any interview is that I’m from Newark, New Jersey because without Newark, I definitely wouldn’t be myself. I’m so grateful for my experiences at home and for what I’ve seen growing up. So, just always remember where you come from. I don’t care how much money you have, what you do, or what you have. I’m still just like a girl from Newark.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The She Matters App will be launching soon. I’m excited because it will extend the community interaction, increase the accessibility of our resources, and offer a directory of licensed, culturally competent therapists. I created this app by myself. It was my thesis project in grad school. So to see it come to fruition and have women download it is crazy to me because I really struggled in grad school. So I’m in awe that I completed something that is really going to help women connect with each other and with mental health professionals. The fellowship that I received from NYU is huge because it helps me to continue this work without really being financially stressed.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

It is important to create good habits because success comes from consistency. It’s something I have to work on daily, but there are things I don’t compromise on like chanting, reviewing my calendar in the morning, and touching base with my team daily. I can’t do everything, but being consistent in these things solidifies that I have back up in case I am not perfect (which is most times) and need some help.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Sure. Not making excuses. When things aren’t going well, I always look at what I am doing. So during the week, I take Thursday and I just reflect on what I got done, and what I didn’t. I first look at myself and ask, why didn’t you get this done? It’s not beating myself up, it’s not negative. The self-talk is “you didn’t get this done because you were tired or you didn’t get this done because you’re not really that interested in it”. It’s about being real with myself, being honest, and doing that once a week. In the upcoming week, my schedule will look different because I’m not going to do things that I don’t want to do, otherwise it’ll be done incorrectly. If I’m failing at something because I don’t want to do it, then I don’t need to do it.

So, we all do things that we don’t want to do, but some things we do to get where we need to go. Then there are other things we just do to make other people happy. I don’t do that anymore.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

I have so many bad habits, good Lord! So I’ll start with that. For bad habits, look at your life and ask yourself, do you feel accomplished at the end of the day? Stopping bad habits is being honest with yourself. Why are you negative 25 dollars? What did you buy? What did you project in your week? What did you do wrong? Evaluating yourself with an honest lens helps.

In order to build good habits, I write everything down. I noticed when I was depressed, I stopped writing stuff down. I was like whatever I don’t need to write things down. I just need to live life. No. I have to write it down. I have post-it notes everywhere. My daughter makes fun of me. When she’s pretending to be mommy, she’s writing stuff down. When I write it down, it becomes real for me. So, write it down. Don’t just put it in your phone, but write it down on paper and make it real.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

Sure, one good habit is positive, self-talk. When you’re thinking negatively, immediately change that negative thought to positive. For instance, I have COVID. Anytime I think about something negative, I just say what’s the positive of that? So I have COVID, but I have mild symptoms — that’s positive. I’m grateful for that. I don’t go down the rabbit hole of the negativity.

Eating well, that’s another healthy habit. I do not eat gluten, I do not eat meat. I do not eat processed foods, I do not eat things that don’t make me feel well. I don’t look for temporary fullness or temporary wellness. Occasionally, I will have a piece of chocolate cake or something like that, but usually, I try to keep it vegan. Eating well can help how you feel. It can help how you think. It keeps you healthy and builds your immune system. It’s very important in the longevity of our lives.

The third thing is to love no matter what. I try to do everything in love and look at what other people do from a place of wanting, and needing love, or not experiencing love — if it’s negative. I also try not to take things personally. You don’t really take things personally when you do things in love.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

I have people around me that hold me accountable, it’s not just me. When I was in grad school, I had a mentor. A mentor can really help you focus. I don’t care how old you are. Get someone who can speak to you weekly about what you’re doing or not doing. A mentor is someone who is doing better than you. It has to be someone you aspire to be like so they can help you grow and give you honest conversation. This has been very helpful throughout my career because every time I messed up they would say “What did you do, what could you have done better?” Take responsibility for yourself and make sure you have a tight circle that you trust to check you. I just had someone check me last week. It’s super important.

Networking. Even though people act like networking is more difficult right now, networking for a mentor is great. You can go online and look for a mentor in your field. It’s actually easier to do it online than in person.

Another practice is writing things down. Writing what is important to you. A popular organizational method is using green, yellow, and red color-coding. Green for tasks you’ve completed, yellow for things that should get done, and red is for things that haven’t been done with the understanding that things in the red category should move to green because you want to meet your goals.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Wake up early, because when you wake up late, your whole day is off. Wake up early, take a long shower, sing. I sing Brown Sugar by D’Angelo. I play that every morning before my daughter gets up, and I kinda dance around. I also might talk to my Auntie. This is before I even start my day. Then I chant and start my day.

Exercising. I hate strenuous exercise. I don’t like regular exercise. I had an Ayurvedic life scan done, and strenuous exercise isn’t actually good for my blood type. So, I have to do cooling exercises like Yoga, walking, Tai Chi, and I really do believe in those things.

Laughter. Make it a habit to laugh. Laugh at yourself. Seriously, I laugh at myself and don’t take myself too seriously. I’m not a surgeon. If I mess up, no one is going to die. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Keep a calendar. Make sure you check in with yourself daily to see what you have to do especially in the virtual world. You would think we would all be less busy, but we’re even busier. I have all these Zoom meetings, and it can be hard to keep track of the details, and you forget what you have to do. So keeping a calendar and looking at it is important. When working in a physical building, it’s easier to navigate conference rooms, but when you’re home it’s really easy to get distracted. A lot of people put things on calendars but don’t look at it. Make sure you pay attention to your calendar.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Positive talk. I mentioned that already but I don’t think enough people do that. We are our worst critics.

I had a professor in grad school send me a letter about what a great person I am and how intelligent I am. My reaction was — this is great but I feel bad that other professors didn’t say that. Maybe I didn’t try as hard in other classes. My therapist was like, why isn’t that enough? I had to learn to be nicer to myself. So positive self-talk is important and, and taking it easy on Jade and I say it in a third person but, take it easy on yourself. Whoever you are, whoever you’re dealing with. Take it easy on them. They deserve your love and empathy just as much as anybody else, and that’ll make for much better focus. A lot of times we’re distracted because we’re so busy thinking of what we didn’t do. We don’t focus on what we did.

So, when you’re nicer to yourself, it’s much easier to focus on the things you need to get done instead of what you didn’t do. Some other good habits for focus are time management and work-life balance. As I mentioned before, a calendar is great for time management. And work-life balance helps prevent burnout. If you’re stressed and overworked, how can you focus on the task at hand?

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

Positive affirmations can help move you through the day. Sometimes all it takes is one call to throw your entire day off. Say something positive to yourself during those negative moments. Think about all the wonderful things you’ve done and move forward.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

I think people can achieve a state of flow by doing what they love. I can talk about mental health for black women all day. It’s my favorite thing to talk about. I can talk about postpartum mental health for black women all day. It’s something that I’ve researched, it’s something that I’ve lived and experienced. It’s like being a part of what your life work is. Try to make your work what your purpose in life is because then you’re always talking about what you’re passionate about. Do what you love and it won’t feel like work — it’s just speaking from experience and enjoying what you do. Embodying and living your truth makes it easier for you to achieve a state of flow.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

To care about black women’s mental health, because our mental health can save the world.

Look at all of the things that we do. We are one of the most college-educated groups in this country. We have the highest business growth, more than any other group of people in America, yet we also have the highest growth of mental illness. If anybody can affect the longevity or the health of a country, it’s us. We’ve proven that by always giving of ourselves without taking care of ourselves. Imagine what we can accomplish if we were actually mentally healthy and if we believed in taking care of ourselves. We’re doing this on “E”, imagine if our tank was full? Oh my God, we’d soar!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would love to have a conversation with Jay Z. I think his outreach towards the community is exemplary. I aspire to do what he does. He’s so humble and he really looks at things from a wide lens. Teaming up with someone like him could reach so many black women. Having him talk about mental health for black women, from his perspective would change how black men feel about their partner’s mental health as well.

He’s such an influence in the community. If Jay Z said the mental health of black women is really the foundation of our community, and this is what we need to do, and here is the initiative, it can really help change a lot for black women. I’m a huge fan of what he does in the community.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Website: https://shematters.io/

Instagram: shematters.io

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shematters2.us

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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