What does it mean to ‘Bare It All'? Does it mean to rip your clothes off and give the world a brown eye? Sign up to a nudist colony and become one with nature? Well, I guess taking everything off and completely exposing yourself is one way of putting yourself out there. It shows a level of comfort and being at ease with one’s physical form, where surely you care little for what anyone else has to say about the imperfections and weird little abnormalities that we all have on our bodies. After all, the level of perfection that we compare ourselves to, through the only means available, Instagram, is simply unattainable. In fact, it’s so far out of our reach it’s almost as if what we see is all fake. Crazy! Luckily for everyone in Comet, we chose to interpret the theme of 'Bare All' to mean being open to making ourselves vulnerable - something which can be really uncomfortable.
On Saturday night, the 30th of March, Ed and I were invited out to speak at the Inaugural Comet Bare All Charity Ball. The first thing about the event that struck both Ed and I, was the level of commitment and dedication from the Comet River Social Association, made up of early to mid-twenties go-getters from the Central Highlands. The CRSA came together to create the first event of it’s kind in almost 30 years to be held at the local showgrounds. Originally intended to be a B & S Ball, the committee came up against a roadblock, with the cost of insurance for a B & S pricing that idea well out of contention. Apparently 30 years ago they used to party pretty bloody hard and get reasonably loose. Sounds about right – Baby Boomers getting to have all the fun and then leaving the cost fairly out of reach for the millennials. A sit-down dinner and charity ball is what it became, and what the committee pulled off was one of the finest and most well-respected displays of a community event that both Ed and I have ever been to. The theme of the night being the conversation around mental health and to ‘Bare all' was directly reflected by the vibe and behaviour from everyone who attended – High spirited and fun with reverence around the fact that the community has been recently shaken by a number of suicides.
I think the theme and message of the Comet charity ball on Saturday night was extremely poignant and aligned perfectly with the ethos of TradeMutt. We are all about encouraging vulnerability because that is definitely what it takes for someone to open up about mental health struggles. We were extremely touched by the fact that there were so many parents, families and friends in attendance who had lost loved ones to suicide as recently as December. It is never easy to have a conversation with a family who are still processing the fact that their youngest son, who was a nice and happy young chap, had taken his life only a few months earlier. And although the parents put on a brave face, there is no hiding the emotions and the loss that is being felt, and clearly visible in a mother's eyes. Something that no parent or family should ever have to go through.
My interpretation of baring it all comes back to the theme of vulnerability, and the relationship between what it takes to open up and talk about mental health and how that reflects on us personally. The reality is, that given the perception of weakness and shame that has been attached to talking about mental health struggles for so long, it really does take a lot of courage to put your hand up and ask for help. The physical part of putting your hand up is easy, but navigating what can be a difficult and confronting internal battle let the words come out of your mouth is the challenging part. It’s also the invisible part. To talk openly about internal emotional battles is a lot like the feeling in that dream when you realise you’re standing on a stage in front of your entire school, completely naked with everyone laughing at you. To be perfectly honest, I reckon I would rather open up about struggles with mental health than being caught with my pants down in front of the entire school.
So how do we create an environment where people actually feel comfortable and safe enough to be able to bare it all? Well, this is the challenge that we are faced with and the environment that we are determined to create. The shirts are a great start given that they are a visual icon of a mental health advocate and someone who is open to having a real conversation with anyone. What I think is even more powerful than the visual representation of a mental health advocate is for those of us who are in a mentally healthy frame of mind to talk about our own struggles and battles, to drop the facade of success or a tough outer shell and start to talk more openly about the worries and stresses that we have had in our lives and how we navigated that tricky path. When we break it down and start to unpack the root causes of declining emotional and mental health, two things seem to pop up regularly, and that is relationships and finance. These two factors have caused a great deal of stress and worry for many people before us and will continue to do so for many people after us. For anyone who has struggled and overcome these kinds of stresses, it is important that they express this and talk about openly so that anyone who may be in the midst of their own battle, can relate and know that they are not the only ones who are going through these kinds of situations.
To ‘Bare it all' would be for Ed and I to talk about the fact that although on the surface we have had a lot of early-stage success in business with TradeMutt, we have the exact same concerns and worries that everyone else in business has, and that is structuring a business in such a way that it is sustainable and manageable. The fact that sometimes we disagree about certain things to do with running the business and it's not always beer and skittles. Or on a personal level, that we both have external factors outside of the business, in our own personal lives that bring us stress and anxiety and heavily contribute to us having both good days and bad days. But the reality is, that is ok. That is what it means to be human, to experience the ups and downs, the high's and low and to understand our mental health and how different factors affect it. Through all of it though, there is one thing that remains consistent, and that is our ability to communicate openly, to express to each other how we are feeling and why, and to talk through it all and come to an understanding. Sometimes we have hard conversations, but because we've practised having these conversations many times before, it becomes easier to do it again when something comes up.
The success of the Comet Bare All Charity Ball was not an accident. The Committee put in a massive effort to pull that thing together and we had an awesome time. We weren’t sure if we might have dropped a few too many ‘F’ bombs during our speech, but sometimes when you’re passionate you can get a bit carried away. Also, everything was pushed back by about half an hour, so we managed to sneak in another couple of beers before we got up there which might have had something to do with it. The committee has used the money raised from the event to fund further workshops in the community run by Rural Minds, who provide extremely important information, particularly to young people, and deliver their workshops in a very relatable and non-confrontational way. Having spoken to many of the committee members, I know that they are all pumped about the success they had from this event and are already looking forward to future events, driving community engagement and further promoting and encouraging mental health support services available to anyone in and around the community. A really awesome night that we would love to go back for next year and really profound message about putting yourself out there and ‘Baring it all’!
Pictured with Ed and I is a fellow by the name of Tom who was lucky enough to win the round of 'One-Up' that we played to give out a shirt. The poor bugger was given 7 shirts for winning with the task of having to give them out to anyone who came up and started a conversation with him!