I say positive affirmations. The human brain doesn’t know the difference between something real or imagined. Saying positive affirmations can feel fake at first, but over time the affirmations become real due to repetition. Like self-talk audios, the affirmations also become a part of my inner dialogue and negate the negative talk that I heard growing up.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Mike Veny.
What do you get when you mix mental health challenges with a passion for drumming? A dynamic speaker and musician who delivers raw energy with a fresh perspective on wellness!
Mike Veny is a highly sought-after keynote mental health speaker, corporate drumming event facilitator, author, and luggage enthusiast. Seriously, you’d completely get it if you did all the traveling he did! He’s the author of the book Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, Mike is recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the healthcare industry.
He loves working with leaders who are tired of bringing the same old textbook presentations to their events. If you are looking for a proven speaker who will connect with, entertain, and engage your audience — all while educating and uniting them around improving wellness — you’ve come to the right place.
You can feel confident having Mike as your keynote speaker or workshop facilitator. Over the years, his expertise has been honored with remarkable and notable accolades. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Fender Music Foundation and the Rotary Club of Wall Street New York; he is an ambassador for Self-Employment in the Arts and was a presenter at the Haiti Entrepreneurship Camp.
Mike’s path to becoming a public speaker became evident at an early age. He convinced the staff at psychiatric hospitals to discharge him three times during his childhood. In addition to being hospitalized as a child, he was expelled from three schools, attempted suicide, and was medicated in efforts to reduce his emotional instability and behavioral outbursts.
By the fifth grade, Mike was put in a special education class. Aside from getting more individualized attention from the teacher, he learned that pencil erasers make a great sound when tapped on a desk. He had no idea that drumming would become his career or his path to recovery.
As an adult, Mike spent many years facilitating drum workshops for children with special needs, teaching them to channel their energy by banging a drum and at the same time learning how to listen, focus, work together and succeed through teamwork. The project was such a hit that he continued to expand his drumming program, first to adults in recovery and eventually into the corporate setting.
Whether the focus of your event is leadership, motivation, or suicide prevention, Mike draws on his personal and painful experiences to deliver keynotes, presentations, and workshops that take your event to the next level.
With more than fifteen years of experience making meeting planners look good, Mike is committed to:
- Provide an abundance of helpful information to audiences
- Create innovative drumming workshops to empower teamwork
- Deliver epic live events that inspire action
Mike’s perspectives have been featured on ABC, NBC, and CBS News. He was a former guest on The Fresh Outlook TV news show, a writer for Corporate Wellness Magazine and HealthCentral.com. Mental Illness is An Asset, his compelling TEDx talk, has been used in college classrooms and gotten sensational reviews.
Mike’s authenticity, straightforward approach, and easy-to-understand takeaways set him apart from other speakers. The audience will walk away with the knowledge that they can put to use immediately in their own lives, with their loved ones, or in the workplace.
Mike’s vision for events aligns with your vision — hold a powerful and unforgettable experience that provides real value to your meeting attendees.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s Get Intimate! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
In 2011, I was living in Queens, New York, a borough of New York City. I had been living with my girlfriend for six years. As the Spring season began winding down, that’s when my mental health breakdown started. It started with me feeling like something was off with me with my thoughts and feelings.
After several months, it escalated into me feeling intense anger, verbally attacking family members, and harassing them via text and social media. When I wasn’t acting out, I felt overwhelmed with sadness and confusion. The situation became dire when I would leave my apartment, often for days without telling my girlfriend.
I would stay in my car and self-harm. I would then plot how I would end my life so I could take the pain away. She would be home calling the police out of fear for my safety.
This pattern kept continuing until I desperately decided to reach out for help. I called a woman named Cheryl. I knew she worked in the mental health field and could advise me on where to begin regarding getting professional help. Instead of doing that, she invited me to be the keynote speaker at her mental health conference. I resisted at first but eventually agreed.
After I delivered my first mental health presentation, I made the decision to dedicate my work to support people in healing emotional pain. No one should have to go through what I went through and I know many people have it so much worse.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
At the time of this writing, I have quite a few exciting projects in the works:
- I am finishing a second book. The title will be revealed soon.
- I am producing free online content through my blog and YouTube channel. The goal of everything that I produce is to offer simple and practical tools to support people in healing emotional pain.
- I am writing mental health articles for HealthCentral.
- I delivering presentations as a mental health keynote speaker at conferences, colleges, and companies throughout the country.
- I am continuing to facilitate corporate drumming events for team building.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
I spent the first 38 years of my life hating myself and wishing that I could be someone else. I would often say to myself, “If I only had X, I would be happy.” The thought process was a catalyst for me constantly pursuing different ways to find happiness. No matter what I did or how hard I worked, I always ended up hating myself and wishing that I could be someone else.
Once I became committed to learning new knowledge and surrendered to the experience of others who were much happier than me, life began to change. Instead of pursuing happiness, I started focusing on learning about myself.
My journey to self-understanding and self-love is a daily process that I am committed to until the day I die. It’s a commitment to showing up for my emotions (especially the difficult ones), taking a brutally honest inventory of my behavior, and striving to take actions that show respect for myself. For me, self-love is a result of consistently practicing self-respect.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
Whether it’s social media or how we socialize with each other, people are in the habit of constantly thinking about how they look to others. In one sense, it’s necessary for survival. Imagine if people showed up for job interviews and didn’t care about their appearance. That wouldn’t work out too well. On the other hand, it becomes a problem when people are unaware of this happening in their minds.
One symptom of this lack of awareness is when people spend more time comparing themselves to others rather than taking the time to appreciate themselves. Appreciating yourself is especially difficult when people use social media.
Think about how often people pick up their phones to check Facebook or Instagram and scroll through their timelines. Regardless of what they see, it makes it so easy to compare themselves to others.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this comparison process begins within 30 seconds of looking at social media. And how could we NOT compare ourselves to others when people often show themselves in the best light possible through social media updates. One of my mentors refers to Facebook as “the CNN of envy.”
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
Loving yourself is important because you can only love someone else to the extent that you love yourself.
What you are about to read may get me some hate mail. I stand behind it regardless:
People who claim to be loving people because they put everyone before themselves are SELFISH. Sadly, they are lying to themselves.
There is no way that you can fully love someone else if you are hating yourself deep down inside or burned out. That’s why it’s crucial to learn to love yourself first. This way you can be emotionally available to love others genuinely.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
One of the lessons that I am learning is that people don’t often define their standards and boundaries BEFORE they enter into a relationship. When I refer to relationships, this includes work relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, etc.
When you to predefine your standards and boundaries, along with LOVING YOURSELF enough to stick to them, you end up in mediocre relationships. It’s that simple. Again, this is why it’s important to love yourself first.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
Asking myself questions to increase my self-awareness is something that I do several times throughout the day. Here are some questions that I ask myself:
- “What do I need right now?” This answer to this question gives me the opportunity to be a good parent to myself.
- “What is going on inside me right now?” The answer to this question gives me the opportunity to locate emotions in my body.
- “How am I feeling right now?” The answer to this question gives me the opportunity to identify and sit with my emotions.
LOVING YOURSELF is not only about asking these questions. It’s also about your willingness to listen to the answers regardless of how uncomfortable it is.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
Spending time alone is essential for self-understanding and self-love. In my opinion, people find it difficult to spend time alone because it is during this time that difficult emotions arise. Our cultural habits encourage people to escape from these emotions by distracting ourselves.
Even the most extreme introverts who spend time alone distract themselves with television and social media. If people engage in these activities alone, those mediums inherently provide a sense of interaction with others.
For me, spending time alone includes time spent in still and in silence. I typically do this daily through meditation or just sitting on the couch and allowing myself to be present with the moment.
Over the years, I’ve grown to look forward to this time to relax and rejuvenate my energy. The result has been that I am more present in my relationships with others.
Please don’t get me wrong; I don’t believe that people should spend most of their time alone. We are tribal by nature, but alone time gives us space to show up better in our relationships with others.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
The ability to which you understand and love yourself directly correlates with your ability to connect and deepen your relationships with others.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I encourage individuals to:
- Make writing in a journal each a day a habit.
- Begin seeing a therapist or counselor.
- Read books and take classes that focus on self-improvement.
I encourage groups to:
- Promote making self-care a daily priority, especially in the workplace.
- Openly discuss how we often shame people without realizing it.
- Learn to interact with each other through being present and seeing each other’s humanity.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
- I listen to positive self-talk audios. Like many of us, I didn’t always hear the most positive words from my parents and other people growing up. Part of learning to love yourself includes becoming intentional about reparenting yourself. By listening to self-talk audios, I hear positive and encouraging words in my ears. These words soon become a part of my inner dialogue and negate the negative talk that I heard growing up.
- I say positive affirmations. The human brain doesn’t know the difference between something real or imagined. Saying positive affirmations can feel fake at first, but over time the affirmations become real due to repetition. Like self-talk audios, the affirmations also become a part of my inner dialogue and negate the negative talk that I heard growing up.
- I spend time taking care of myself each day. The book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod inspired me to focus on the 6 Life S.A.V.E.R.S. each morning. These include silence (meditation), affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing (writing). From the moment that I wake up, the degree to which I follow my morning routine sets the tone for my entire day.
- I sit with my feelings. For my entire life, I have struggled with anger, anxiety, and depression. The feelings often are painful and uncomfortable. Learning to sit with them has allowed me to become friends with them. They are powerful teachers.
- I strive to be aware of how my decisions show honor and respect for myself. A question I often ask myself is “What are the consequences of this choice that I am making?” I then have the choice of whether or not to listen to the answer my instinct tells me.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
- Podcast: Lead to Win with Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt-Miller. The show gives actionable insights to help you win at work, succeed at life, and lead with confidence. It’s the perfect show for high-achievers like me. Listening to it keeps me constantly learning ways to improve in all areas of my life.
- Book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. In my opinion, this book is the BEST tool for self-awareness and self-love. Every time I read it, it forces me to be brutally honest with myself. Even though it’s a long book with lots of details, it’s worth reading and rereading.
- Book: What to Say When You Talk to Your Self by Shad Helmstetter. The title says it all. This book taught me a lot about self-love including learning to listen to the dialogue in my mind and learning how to take control of those inner conversations. Taking control of those conversations now includes the self-talk audios and affirmations that I mentioned previously.
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? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
The Be Proactive About Healing Emotional Pain movement!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” — Vince Lombardi
This quote has inspired me since I was in high school. It was relevant to me then because I was struggling with my mental health challenges. Between my angry outbursts, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide attempts, all I would dream about was a better life. This quote gave me a profound sense of hope that this better life was possible if I focused on excellence.
To the readers: I hope you to take some time to reflect on this quote. I encourage you to embrace the challenge of improving the quality of your life. I invite you to get excited about self-understanding and enjoy the process of self-love.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!