Mallory Gothelf of ‘Find Your/self Boxes’: “Hire your weakness”

Hire your weakness: You know your strengths and you also know your weaknesses. In order to run a successful business, you need to know where you might be lacking. It’s okay to not be strong in an area of your business! Nobody expects you to know everything. For instance, I am NOT a numbers person. […]

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Hire your weakness: You know your strengths and you also know your weaknesses. In order to run a successful business, you need to know where you might be lacking. It’s okay to not be strong in an area of your business! Nobody expects you to know everything. For instance, I am NOT a numbers person. Math makes me sweat. I went out and hired an accountant so I didn’t have to break into a cold sweat every time my financials came into question. I believe in hiring experts who can assist you in those weaker areas. This will give you the opportunity to grow effectively and focus on the areas you know best.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mallory Gothelf.

Mallory is an unabashed mental health advocate who has spoken and written extensively on mental health and mental illness. She is now working full-time spreading joy, hope, calm, and comfort through her mental health focused business, Find Your/self Boxes. If she ever has a spare moment she enjoys cooking and pretending she’s a Food Network Star, hiking to find waterfalls with her friends, blasting an eclectic playlist of music while writing or dancing wildly (sorry neighbors), and cheering on the Baltimore Ravens on football Sundays.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

The other day I found myself watching home videos of myself as a kid. I was watching tiny Mallory on the screen. She was something! Her energy was untamed and unending. The confidence in her voice rarely wavered. She was loud and bold and truly free. She listened to ACDC with her dad to hype herself up for soccer games and felt the music pierce her soul. She danced like nobody was watching while forcing everyone to watch. But she was also sensitive. At the age of 4, my mom took me to go so Tarzan. She said she looked over during a sad part of the movie and saw me wiping my eyes with my tiny hands. In that moment, she knew I was someone who felt emotions with great depth. That piece of me that was sensitive quickly learned sympathy and empathy and felt them to great degrees. I became an anxious child, always worried about pain and suffering, for myself, and others. I felt life on a level that most of my peers did not seem to feel. My life grew from a place of intense emotion, both elation and depression. Looking back now, who I’ve become is a direct reflection of who I was. I still carry these pieces of me as my yin and yang. I’m a goof with a propensity for emotional reflection. I was lucky enough to grow up with a family that embraced (and sometimes teased me playfully) for who I was.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have a quote tattooed on my wrist that says, “And in that moment I felt infinite”. It’s a quote adapted from “Perks of Being a Wallflower”. That quote initially resonated with me in my healing journey after being diagnosed with a mental illness. When I chose to invest in my healing I felt as though I had infinite possibilities in life. My potential, my joy, and my path in life wasn’t to be confined just because I had a mental illness. This quote serves as a continuous reminder that when I choose to invest in things that make me feel passionate and alive, there is no limit to what I am capable of doing. I truly feel free, uninhibited, and infinite.

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

I rarely read books off the New York Time bestseller list. That’s not how I choose a story to throw myself into. I’m often not reading the “hot” book of the season. That is until someone suggested I read “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. I’m in my second read through of this book because of how deeply it struck me the first time. She speaks to not living within the confines of societal cages. There is a wild, uninhibited self within that deserves to live the truest and most beautiful version of life. I’ve spent so many years in search of the truest and most beautiful version of my life and this book has helped me begin building that version of life. The words in this book are teaching me how to let go of things that aren’t for me and find what makes me happy. I don’t need to fit into a certain mold and I can just be Mallory, in all of my wild and pure glory. I think that’s what is so special about this book. Glennon opens her heart and shares her stories with an honesty that makes you want to get honest with yourself.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

Prior to the pandemic I was bouncing around trying to find my calling. I had a degree in psychology but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the field of mental health. I had worked in communications and marketing roles, I had worked in a psychiatric hospital, and I even held a management role at a massage and acupuncture studio. Prior to the pandemic I spent my days working at a start-up that provided mobile optometry services. In the evenings, I was following my love of psychology by doing some public speaking work on the topic of mental health. I was also spending my evenings working with a business coach to hone in on a business idea I was trying to bring to fruition. I loved my day job. I was working with talented and driven individuals while learning how a business operates, but I knew my heart was always in the field of mental health. That is where I truly wanted to be. I just hadn’t quite figured out how to contribute to the field as my full-time job.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

At the beginning of March, the start-up I worked for had us all working from home. They did a great job trying to keep our spirits lifted but as a start-up that was unable to operate at full capacity, it became difficult for them to retain all of their employees. On March 26th, 2020 I was laid off from my job along with three quarters of the staff. I took the rest of that day to feel everything I needed to feel. As my tears slowly started to subside later that evening, I realized I had the opportunity to chase my dreams. I always said I didn’t have enough hours in the day to launch my business while working full-time. On March 27th, 2020 I dedicated myself to my own business with a ferocity I had never known. Find Your/self Boxes was created as a self-care box for people struggling with their mental health. Speaking about your own mental health or speaking to someone about their mental health has always felt like a difficult subject to broach. The stigma attached to this topic makes the healing journey really difficult for the person and those around them. I wanted to create a box that people could send to themselves or a loved one to promote healing. A lot of times we don’t know what to say or do for those struggling with their mental health, and this box became a really easy way to open the door for conversation and connection. On April 16th, 2020 I launched Find Your/self Boxes to the world.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

The Aha moment for me came a few years ago when I received a call from a parent worried about their child. I had been openly sharing my story about my mental illness and people often reached out to glean any information they could to help a loved one. I remember this parent telling me they had such a hard time connecting with their kid and just couldn’t seem to break that barrier. I could hear the love, care, and worry in their voice. It was reminiscent of my own mom and dad trying so desperately to help me. It was in that moment I knew I needed to create a way for people to connect with themselves and their loved ones when going through something like a mental illness. It wasn’t until several years later that I was able to find the right avenue to create that connection and make an impact, but that conversation never left my mind in all of those years. It was the driving force behind what I created.

How are things going with this new initiative?

This new initiative has been beyond my wildest dreams. I am still very much learning how to run and grow a business but I have watched this thing grow into something I am truly proud of. I was featured on GMA3 What You Need To Know, I’ve shared an Instagram live screen with a professional NFL player who is a passionate mental health advocate, and I’ve shipped 230+ boxes all over the country from the tiny second bedroom in my apartment. It has been a whirlwind. The most rewarding thing about this business is that my job is to get up every day and help people send love and hope in the form of a box.

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?

I don’t think there is enough time to talk about the gratitude I have for the people in my life. From my family and friends, to my partner and mental health heroes, I have had so many people help lead me to this moment in time. As for my pivot, I have to give a huge shout out to the person who made this business possible: my business coach Harper Spero. When I was first doing preliminary research about self-care and mental health practices, I put a feeler out on Facebook for people to talk to me about what they would want in a mental-health focused gift-box. Harper, a good friend of my brother, commented on my post saying she wanted to work with me. She said it was the first time she reached out to someone to work with them, as opposed to them coming to her. When we started working together, I really wasn’t sure how to structure my business. My business didn’t even have a name! What I love about Harper is her honesty. We spent months together structuring this business. Whenever there was something she thought wasn’t working or wouldn’t be successful she was unafraid to let me know that it needed to be changed. I valued that. I wasn’t interested in having someone coddle and praise my ideas. I needed someone to push me and help me create something that was viable and special. I continue to work with Harper to this day. She has been around for every step of my business. I truly believe if it weren’t for her I never would have gotten past the idea phase.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

I think one of the most surreal moments since starting this business was my feature on GMA3. Watching my business and my journey on national television was an overwhelming experience. I remember when the segment ended, I burst into tears. To see myself representing my business and sharing my story about my mental illness so publicly was freeing. Receiving a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder at the age of 15 made me feel so alone and so isolated from the people around me. I didn’t think I’d make it past my 16th birthday. And yet there I was, at the age of 25, talking about mental health on television. When I wiped away those tears, I found my inbox flooded with emails from people who wanted to tell me their story. People felt safe enough to share their stories or those of their family members with me. There are no words I can string together to say how humbling that moment was. It validated all of the hard work I had put into my recovery and I finally felt like I had come into my own.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Find a mentor: Starting a business has a lot of intricacies that you wouldn’t really know about unless you have experience running a business. To have a mentor who can guide you through the intricacies will save you so much time and energy (and tears if you’re like me and cry when you’re frustrated).

Hire your weakness: You know your strengths and you also know your weaknesses. In order to run a successful business, you need to know where you might be lacking. It’s okay to not be strong in an area of your business! Nobody expects you to know everything. For instance, I am NOT a numbers person. Math makes me sweat. I went out and hired an accountant so I didn’t have to break into a cold sweat every time my financials came into question. I believe in hiring experts who can assist you in those weaker areas. This will give you the opportunity to grow effectively and focus on the areas you know best.

Don’t be afraid to delegate: I’m someone who likes to do everything. I love to have my hand in everything, but this just isn’t feasible when running a business. There are many moving parts and if I were to do all of them on my own, I would not only be unsuccessful, but I probably would never sleep or eat (which is a recipe for me being the equivalent of Oscar the Grouch). I’ve learned it’s okay to put your trust in other people. Your mind, body, and sanity will thank you.

Have a fluid plan: Sometimes you’ll create a plan for your business and then you’ll suddenly realize that plan needs to change. That’s okay. As your business grows and takes shape you’ll need to adjust accordingly. Having a rigid plan will make it extremely difficult to adapt and shift. My business has changed the way we sell our products four times since we launched in April. Each iteration has come from feedback and trial and error. I’ve changed the website workflow six times. With a set plan it would feel impossible to make these changes, which is why having a plan with wiggle room is so important.

Trust your gut: People are going to have all kinds of opinions about how you should run your business. Their input and feedback is something you should always listen to and take into consideration, but never should the voices of others take away from your gut instinct. There are certain suggestions I’ve taken to heart because I felt like I could better my business. However, there have been people who have told me to shift my mission, dress a certain way, or use certain language. While I will always listen politely, I know some of these opinions simply don’t resonate with me and my mission. I know where the mission of my business lies and I won’t compromise what feels true to what I’ve set out to do. You know what is best for your business so don’t be afraid to stand your ground on the pieces of work you don’t want to change.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

This is an awesome question for someone who runs a business that focuses on mental wellness and self-care. Self-care is going to look different for everyone. Each journey is unique to the person experiencing it. However, there are a few things I think can be helpful to anyone’s self-care practice.

I am a big believer in self-talk. The way we speak to ourselves plays a big role in how we feel about ourselves. My guess is most of us don’t speak as kindly to ourselves as we should. By changing the way, we speak to ourselves we are rewiring the brain to think differently about our being. This ultimately changes how we feel about our being. I strongly believe in affirmations. I write down affirmations in a journal and I stand in front of my mirror hyping myself up with them in the morning. The more you do it the better the results. Use any phrase that speaks to you, there is no judgment (as long as it’s not a negative statement)! It doesn’t even have to be an overtly positive message. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying you are grateful for what your body does for you instead of tearing it down for what it can’t do or look like. It’s also important to catch when you are speaking negatively to yourself. It often happens without us noticing. Paying attention to when we do it, and stepping back to reframe that negative self-talk helps us bolster our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

Another thing I think is powerful, regardless of your healing journey, is finding an expressive outlet for your emotions. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to feel emotions like anger, frustration, jealousy, fear, or sadness. Those emotions exist to serve an important function. By not allowing ourselves to feel them we never get to fully process what is going on in our lives. I think it’s important to let yourself feel what you need to feel and then channel that emotion into whatever it is that helps you move through the emotion constructively. That activity could be cooking, boxing, painting, rapping, writing, sculpting, etc. Whatever activity you feel most connected to, and grounded by, should be what you use to channel those difficult emotions. It’s a really great way to ensure you aren’t dismissing your feelings but also not getting stuck in them

The final thing I think is helpful for all self-care journeys is to show up for yourself, however that may look. I believe in being consistent with your self-care routines, but in the same breath I think it’s important to listen to your mind and body. For example, working out is crucial in maintaining my mental health. However, if I’m feeling exhausted, haven’t eaten enough, or my body is in physical pain, working out will not be the answer. I need to listen to where I am and show up for myself by taking the day off, eating more, or giving my body some TLC. By listening to what you need and showing up for yourself you’re making the commitment to understand your mind and body on a deeper level.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

If I could inspire a movement it would be in the direction of mental health. I want to normalize talking about mental health, shatter stigma around mental illnesses, and make treatment more accessible and socially acceptable. Mental illness touches so many lives, whether it be the lives of those with the mental illness or the people around them. I’d want to be a part of programming that brings mental health education into schools. I want to lead organizations that make treatment accessible to people who may not have the means. I want to be unafraid to talk about all the difficult pieces of mental illness so people feel less alone and more willing to engage in conversation. Just like there are so many wonderful leaders and movements for physical health I want to lead people to stand for those battling mental illnesses. Through connection and education, we can see changes in the field that will ultimately save lives. I couldn’t think of a more noble cause to stand for.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

I would love to have lunch with Demi Lovato. Her tenacity, her outspoken nature, her unapologetic insistence on staying true to herself, are all things that make her a force. So often women are force fed this message that we need to shrink ourselves (physically and emotionally) in order to be lovable and valued. Demi has struggled with demons, just as I have, and I think her healing journey has shown how she will no longer choose to fit into the mold society says she needs to fit into. It’s something I strive for in my recovery. She’s also super funny and fun which is amazing. When you go through such dark moments you never want that darkness to eclipse your spirit. She very much embodies the kind of healing I want for myself and others. Our paths and stories may be different but to learn how to empower ourselves, live authentically, and enjoy life, well that’s something we could all stand to do more of. I want to spend more time with people who live their lives out loud, people like Demi.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on Instagram @findyourselfboxes or on Facebook at Find Your/self Boxes. You can also check out my website to shop and sign up for my newsletter.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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