It’s been a whirlwind since about September 2 for me! Yes, I know #SHRM21 didn’t technically start until September 9, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by people I love to celebrate my birthday Labor Day weekend, and it was a CELEBRATION!
The “me” of 5-10 years ago would have gone all out, saying yes to every invitation, double and triple booking myself, staying out way too late, getting up way too early or missing something important because I had overextended myself and couldn’t actually be in more than one place during that time — imagine that.
Thankfully, this birthday was a milestone that brought some additional wisdom, space for downtime, and very intentional yeses. I also made sure to take care of myself — both physically and mentally in Vegas, and I was so encouraged to see, on the big stage in a general session, Michael Phelps with a call to action for us all to normalize ensuring that we are not only physically taking care of ourselves, but mentally as well.
I did not walk into the conversation with Michael Phelps thinking this would be in my top three at a SHRM Annual Conference and Expo. I’m fortunate to have seen Mike Rowe, Coach K, and Robin Roberts among others previously. It was so incredibly timely for this conversation at this time, though, and I’m thankful that I was there to listen.
As a superstar athlete, vulnerability and humility would not have been top of mind to describe Michael Phelps until I saw him in person for myself and let me tell you, I’ve not witnessed such a genuine, vulnerable, REAL conversation. There were no buzzwords, nothing to promote himself, and when he essentially let us all know that he got (what my children and I affectionally refer to as being) “squirreled” while talking, the room leaned in just a little bit more.
He was humble, funny, relatable, and he made a room full of exhausted HR pros release a deep breath that I doubt many of us even realized we were holding.
He shared with us how he embraced his humanity and stopped thinking of himself as a swimmer first. If you check out his Twitter profile, you’ll see that he’s living that humanity. While most of us think of him as an Olympic Gold medal swimmer first, he’s thinking of himself differently.
My dear friend and fellow #SHRM21Influencer, Kyra Matkovich summed it up perfectly: "When we see public figures like Michael Phelps and Simone Biles talk about mental health, it makes it easier for us (HR) to talk about mental health."
Michael Phelps made it just a little bit easier and acceptable for us all to embrace the state of our own mental health as well as those in our care as HR leaders in our organizations and communities.
As Phelps stated in his discussion, we can’t take care of others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, and if we want to be our best self, we have to take care of our physical and mental health.
Taking care of your health (physical and mental) looks different for everyone. For me, it meant that I did not attend the 4 p.m. PST session and FaceTimed with my 13-year-old daughter for 50 minutes. It was 7 p.m. in Ohio, and she had a full week of school to tell me all about. I can’t help but think that maybe I felt a little more okay, a little less guilty for taking that time to do that because that’s what self-care looked like for me at that point in time.
Thanks for the reminder, Michael Phelps.