Special guests in attendance include mental wellness advocates (especially for the #woc communities) and actress Monique Coleman (High School Musical) and one of the Miami Heat’s very own dancers, Brittany Lue-Choy.
After the one-hour discussion panel on kindness and mental health, asienne caught up with Born This Way Foundation’s very own Executive Director, Maya Smith. Here’s what we chatted about:
A: Earlier [on the panel] you talked about how happiness shouldn’t be the goal. Nowadays, with the ‘positive thinking’ movement and all, we’re all kind of forced to chase happiness as opposed to just be.
MS: Yeah, I definitely don’t think that happiness is the goal. I think that’s actually an incomplete way of thinking about the full range of emotions that we experience.
I think the goal of our lives is to really understand the full experience of our emotions. The idea of happy being a goal in today’s world of social media and comparison is actually just not the most healthy way of talking about it.
I’ve experienced some of the most important, painful, difficult learning experiences that have made me appreciate the highs because of the lows. I think the two go hand in hand.
We don’t talk about the lows as often as we talk about the highs but we all experience both, right?
So, I think we owe it to ourselves and to each other to talk about both sides of it and present a picture of both.
The Foundation tries to be really honest and real in our conversations around kindness and in our conversations around mental wellness and social media and the positive and negative influences of those.
A: One thing you also talked about is parents being honest to their children about their experiences. That’s almost unheard of in Asian communities.
MS: So, I’m a first-generation and my parents came here from Romania and watching them give-up everything to bring me to a country where I have freedoms, rights and opportunities…you grow up with a lot of pressure.
[While] I will never struggle the way that my parents struggled, it’s been a learning experience for me to understand the sacrifices that my parents made for me and be grateful for those and to understand that I’m going to make a different set of sacrifices.
They’re not better or worse. I can’t judge my sacrifices against my parents’ sacrifices. I’m grateful for the experiences and opportunities that I have because my parents were brave enough to come here.
But I think it’s romanticized a lot, at least as a first-generation kid. It wasn’t until later that they really honestly talked about their sacrifices and as a parent, myself, I’m just trying to figure it out now.
I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old, so I haven’t figured it out yet but we try and be honest and real and talk to our kids as if they understand because they do.
In addition to talking to them because they do hear us, it’s showing them with our behavior. So, if I’m not kind to my husband, it doesn’t matter how much I talk about kindness because they’re watching me be unkind.
It’s hard to work in kindness because sometimes [we’re] unkind.
Sometimes I snap at my kids or I yell at them, or I’m short with my friend or I have to apologize to a colleague.
So, again the happiness piece: it’s not about holding ourselves to perfection. It’s about continuing to try and get better, acknowledging mistakes and asking for forgiveness.
A: Does The Foundation have possible programs just for women of color and LGBT groups?
MS: We don’t have specific programs but we try and be as inclusive as possible. #BeKind21 can maybe start opening the conversation around mental health and kindness [in these communities].
For asienne’s interview with Miami Heat’s Brittany Lue-Choy click HERE!
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