Gabbie Hanna: “Don’t be ashamed to feel shame”

Don’t be ashamed to feel shame. When looking inward, you’re going to find a whole lot of stuff you don’t like, stuff that would be easier to push back down. Ignore the urge to run from it. Feel it in all its ugliness and discomfort, then release it. Feeling guilt and embarrassment is human, but […]

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Don’t be ashamed to feel shame. When looking inward, you’re going to find a whole lot of stuff you don’t like, stuff that would be easier to push back down. Ignore the urge to run from it. Feel it in all its ugliness and discomfort, then release it. Feeling guilt and embarrassment is human, but if you don’t acknowledge and process it, it will become crippling.

As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Gabbie Hanna.

Gabbie Hanna is the Billboard-charting musical artist and New York Times best-selling author & illustrator of “Adultolescence.” Starting as a web based creator, she amassed over 20 million followers across her social media platforms as she focused on growing as an author and artist. A native of a small town in Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh graduate, Gabbie shocked her loved ones when she drove cross-country to pursue her dreams in Los Angeles where she currently resides. She has since crossed over 250 million music streams and 1 billion views on her YouTube channel. Her latest EP “Bad Karma” released in 2020, and Gabbie launches her second book into the world, “Dandelion,” with exclusive versions at both Target and Barnes & Noble.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Of course! When I was a kid, I always bounced around from saying I wanted to be an artist, then a rockstar, then an author… then I grew up and forgot. Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, it never really felt like an actual option to make a career out of my passions. So, I went to school to be a psychiatrist, ended up working in marketing, got fired, and started taking my social media posting more seriously. I was creating a lot on Vine at the time in my spare time. I turned my Vine audience into a Youtube audience, and my Youtube audience into a music and art audience. It’s been a strange and windy journey, but here I am!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Honestly, trying to reflect on the last 7 years or so, I wouldn’t even know where to start! But I think the overarching theme that I think is interesting in general is, because I’ve documented everything on social media, I get to see where the seeds of my projects first started to sprout. Some of the poems I wrote in my books were based on things I tweeted in 2010, some of my songs were written around something I wrote in an instagram caption in 2017. I’m able to look back at my journey as an author and singer in its entirety, and it’s a really humbling experience to watch yourself grow as an artist and as a person.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

When I started my singing career, I did it in front of an audience of millions. Most people have some privacy and anonymity while they work out the awkwardness and really find themselves- I didn’t. So taking on performances I wasn’t ready for has definitely led to some (now, at least) hilarious clips. If you’d like some lessons on becoming a meme, I could teach a master class.

The lesson would be to be patient. I was so eager to get started that I did so without perfecting my craft. I’m all for pulling the trigger and getting started on your goals, but do it with a little more practice and confidence!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Absolutely, so many people helped me up. The most note-worthy at this point in my life would be my production/co-writing team, LYRE. These two wonderful ladies, Alina Smith and Elli Moore, really gave me a safe space to try new things and tell my story. They’ve helped me find my voice, both technically and metaphorically. My music wouldn’t be what it is without their input, and my life wouldn’t be what it is without their friendship.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I’ve always been someone who has their hand in a lot of different projects at once. While this has helped me achieve a lot, it’s also been challenging to juggle. For a while, it felt like I was doing so much that everything was getting a fraction of my attention instead of fully immersing myself in one area. I still believe in trying everything you’re interested in to see what feels best… just make sure you’re giving each attempt 100% of your potential.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

I think it’s really important to find the people who share your vision and live on your wavelength. Someone can be extremely talented, but if they’re not excited about your project or if they have a different vision the process will be draining for everyone involved. When it comes to creative fields, truly no idea is a bad idea — it just might not line up with yours! Learn how to communicate that in a way that inspires without discouraging, and learn when to compromise your idea for theirs. People get way more excited to work if they feel they had a hand in the creative. And lastly, hire people who inspire you to be better at your craft.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

  1. There’s no other way to start this other than get to therapy. I think everyone can benefit from therapy, even people who would consider themselves mentally well. There’s always something we can learn about ourselves. I started going to therapy because my anxiety was interrupting my life to a degree that I could no longer ignore, and I ended up learning all the ways in which I was contributing to my own problems.
  2. Don’t be ashamed to feel shame. When looking inward, you’re going to find a whole lot of stuff you don’t like, stuff that would be easier to push back down. Ignore the urge to run from it. Feel it in all its ugliness and discomfort, then release it. Feeling guilt and embarrassment is human, but if you don’t acknowledge and process it, it will become crippling.
  3. Be still. I suppose a more common word for this would be meditation, but there are a lot of ways to be still. If you’re anything like me, you feel a constant urge to be productive or, at the very least, distracted. It wasn’t until I rescued kittens that I fully realized what stillness was, though. They were feral and had never been held by humans before, so any opportunity I had to hold them I would sit there as long as they let me before they got bored and bounced away. Sometimes it was an hour or more. At first my brain was telling me I needed to go do something else and I would get agitated or restless. After a while, though, I learned to just relax and enjoy the moments of peace and love.
  4. Get a cat. Just kidding, kinda. But in case you’re allergic or can’t care for a cat right now, number four would be to be grateful. Sorry if this list sounds cliche, but it’s all true. When our mental health is kicking us down, it’s important not to let the dark parts devour the light. Your entire life may feel like it’s crumbling, but what part isn’t? What part is in your control? What friend, or song, or accomplishment, or hobby made you smile last? Are you otherwise healthy? Do you have a place to sleep and food to eat? Again, cliche, and I don’t mean to diminish your problems by saying others have it worse. And for all I know, you have it the absolute worst. I’m just saying… give the positive stuff a moment, too. I have a reminder set on my phone every morning to stop and reflect on things I’m grateful for as soon as I wake up.. I started that when I was at one of my lowest points as a way to keep my head above water.
  5. Be honest with yourself and those around you. Sometimes we cross our own boundaries and don’t even realize it, sometimes we create stories in our minds to help us avoid self-reflection. If something or someone is crossing a boundary (including yourself), express it in a healthy and constructive way. You may not even know what that means yet, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get to know yourself and your needs. Journaling helps!

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

I don’t often like to comment on things that I haven’t experienced myself, but from a purely empathetic standpoint as someone who loves to work, I imagine this transition could be an extremely challenging one. I feel like the best way to look at retirement is probably freedom. All those loose ends in life you never got around to, all the things you wanted to learn or try… now’s the time! Who knows, maybe this is the start of a whole new journey that you had never planned, or the start of new relationships you didn’t think you’d have the opportunity to form. There will always be people looking for your wisdom in whatever field you can offer it. Or hey… relax. You deserve it.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Stay away from social media as much as you’re able. I’m aware that we’re in a different time from when I was in school, and I know that social media has become a lifeline to a lot of people (young and old alike). That’s why you need to try your best to ground yourself in reality, away from the likes and comments and gossip and rumors and the constant desire to be seen. As an adult, it’s unbearable some days to be online; I’m very grateful I didn’t have that pressure as a teenager, and I’m so sorry to anyone who feels trapped by it. At the end of the day, you are what matters, not the pictures of you that you post.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

My mind always goes back to a childhood favorite, A Little Princess. The story is about a very wealthy girl who lost her father while at a boarding school. Now a burden to the school as her primary caregiver, they took away everything and made her a servant. I read it over and over and cried every time she gave away the little bits that she had to those who needed it a little bit more; she would rather go cold and hungry than allow someone else to be cold and hungry.

It just made me want to be a more thoughtful person when someone would benefit more than me from something, even if it’s in a small way. I recently was with my friend on the anniversary of her mother’s death and I sprayed my favorite perfume. She immediately said it reminded her of her mother at Myrtle Beach on their childhood vacations, and I insisted that she keep it. I can’t replace it because it was a limited run from a random vendor at a flea market. I loved that scent… but she needed that scent. To her, it’s a reminder of her mother but also of the sisterhood that is alive and well. That’s a lot more special than if I were to wear it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would really love it if laws were passed that subsidized healthy, fresh foods for individuals and families in need. Everyone should be able to afford to eat healthy. What we put into our bodies affects us physically and mentally, and the current cost of organic foods should be a crime against humanity. If you’re financially struggling, the last thing you need to worry about is the choice between going hungry or eating junk food.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Make your tragedies a work of art.” This is my life motto. It’s a reminder to be actively grateful for hardship, because you know you can turn it into something impactful later on. Tough times don’t last, but the work you do will be immortalized.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

@GabbieHanna across the board, or for books, music, podcast and more exciting stuff to come!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you so much for spending your time with me, as well! I’m very grateful and honored.

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