407 – Charlamagne Tha God: Mental Health & Coping with Anxiety

Charlamagne got kicked out of two different high schools.

He was “disruptive.” That’s what his teachers said. Now he gets paid to be disruptive and a class clown… on radio.

“I took those so called flaws and made them my strength,” he said.

Now he’s the number one radio personality out there.

I wanted to know how he got there. Especially because he has anxiety. He even wrote a book about it, “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me.”

He writes about his life and the impacts anxiety has had on him during sex, at work, on the street, as a parent. He talks about how it has made him question his identity, his confidence, his belonging.

“I just hope the book makes people want to live their truth when it comes to anxiety and having fears,” he said.

And people relate.

“I’ve got people whispering to me on the sets of TV shows, ‘Thank you, because I suffer from anxiety, and I’m on everything right now just to keep it together.’ I’m like, ‘Alright, cool, we’re all in this together.’”

I could relate. Because I have anxiety, too.

Here are 6 anxiety driven experiences I learned from Charlamagne Tha God. And tools to help cope:

 

1. ANXIETY DURING SEX

Charlamagne had a three-some. Now he’s married.

But in the book, he describes how the three-some gave him anxiety. He didn’t know which woman to focus on.

“I can’t relate,” I said.

The audience laughed.  

We were doing the podcast live at Stand Up New York (if you’re reading this, you’re invited to the next one).

 

2. PARENTAL ANXIETY

Charlamagne called this “parental paranoia.”

He has three daughters.

“I was constantly thinking about the world and the effect that the world could have on my kids. My daughter is ten. [I] can’t control what happens to her. She goes to school and you see things like school shootings on television. You hear about human trafficking. And all of that stuff bugs you out.”

And the more you focus on the thoughts, the scarier they are.

Charlamagne said, “For me, I really believe my thoughts become things. I really believe in the power of my mind in that way. I’m a law of attraction type of guy. So the things I want in my life, I constantly think about. The things that I don’t want to happen, I try not to think about at all.

So the fear of the news (and the love of his daughters) was causing more anxiety.

He said, “When you’ve got those thoughts constantly popping in your head, you think that something bad is going to happen. And you’re going to be the one who manifests it. That’s what gives you the panic attack.”

And that’s what drew him to therapy.

“I wanted to get a handle on that irrational anxiety.”

 

3. RELATIONSHIP ANXIETY

Charlamagne’s parents got a divorce 20 years ago. His mom went to therapy for it.

But he didn’t know. He just found out.

“If I would’ve known that 20 years ago, then I would’ve known there’s this resource available that helps you organize all the bullshit I got going on in my brain.”

 

4. ANXIETY ABOUT GETTING FIRED

“I got fired by Taco Bell… by my sister who was the manager. [She] fired me after two weeks. She told me they were going in another direction. I was like, ‘I live with you. What other direction are you going in?’”

He heard this same line at every job that fired him.

“We’re moving in another direction.”

But Charlamagne sees this differently from most people.

“I have a homegirl named Kendra G. Kendra G said, ‘Listen, every time they call you into these offices, they tell you that they’re moving in a different direction. It’s not them moving in another direction, it’s God moving you in another direction.’ And the reason I’ll always embrace that is because every single time that I would get fired, I would always get fired up. I would always end up at a better radio station.”

I like that. “Get fired up.” To a better place.

Part of this is surrender. And Charlamagne talks about this in “Shook One.”

Find the lesson and take it forward.

That helps reduce anxiety.

It helps you see the future as opportunity. Not “over.”

 

5. IMPOSTER SYNDROME ANXIETY

“The first time I got fired from radio, I really felt like my life was over. Because I didn’t go to college. I didn’t have any degrees. I was selling crack. So I already felt like I wasn’t supposed to be here anyway. I felt like it was only a matter of time before somebody looks up and says, ‘Ya know what, this guy does not know what the hell he’s doing. Why do we have him at this radio station?’”

But he actually did know what he was doing. He just wasn’t giving himself the credit he deserved. He took one station from #14 in the city to #2.

He thought they’d see him as an imposter. But that was in his head. And those thoughts caused the anxiety.

I always say fear and gratitude can’t exist in the same brain. A lot of the time I think of ways to be grateful about my external life. But I could use this on myself. I could write things other people are grateful about me.

Not “should be grateful,” because that creates resentment.

If we know our worth, we can keep rising.

Charlamagne still got fired from that job. But he didn’t take it personally.

 

6. ANXIETY ABOUT FOLLOWING YOUR PATH

Growing up, Charlamagne wanted to be a rapper.

“Like most brothers in the hood, that’s what I wanted to be, a rapper. And, my mentor, Dr. Robert Evans, he told me, ‘Rap is not your thing. You should stick to radio because you’re really good at that. If you focus on radio, you could be one of the biggest radio personalities in the country.’’’

Charlamagne listened to him. Because he knew.

“I didn’t fight him on that. And the reason I didn’t fight him on that… is because I really enjoyed radio more than I enjoyed rapping.”

Rapping wasn’t natural to him.

“Did you feel something different the first time you started doing a radio show?”

“Yeah, I just felt it man. Like, I would do this for free. I genuinely enjoy doing it. It lifts me up. It makes me feel empowered. It inspires me.”

And I know a lot of listeners want that feeling. So I asked him, “How do you find that feeling?”

“Let’s say somebody listening to this is 40 years old, they just got fired and want to figure out what they love. What could be the first step?”

“At 40!?”

“Yeah”

“Forty?! I don’t know.”

I didn’t want to let the listeners down. Because I’ve seen people reinvent at all different ages.

“They’re listening in their car. They’re on the edge of their seats. They want to reinvent…”

I tried to show him the visual.

He got it. And told me about getting thrown out of school for being “disruptive.”

And how he turned this from a negative to a positive. “You might’ve been the guy in school who was always drawing. And got in trouble for not doing your homework. Did you ever pursue art?”

Charlamagne is lucky because his passion became his job. But some of us give up on what we love because we can’t attach it to a check.

That’s when the conversation switches to depression. Or misery.

Because mental health has all different aspects.

Charlamagne decided to just do what’s natural for him. He didn’t give up on himself. Or who he was or how he was built.

He said, “A lot of times it’s not our dream we’re chasing, it’s just something we see working for somebody else. And when you see it working for somebody else, you’re like, ‘Oh, I can do that, too.’ But it’s not your dream. It’s not the path that God wanted you to walk.”

 

Links and Resources

Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me” by Charlamagne Tha God 

Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It” by Charlamagne Tha God

Follow Charlamagne Tha God on Instagram + Twitter 

Watch “The Breakfast Club” on Youtube

  • Oh that Imposter Anxiety one is big, James. Something we all deal with at some time during our careers. Fabulous advice from Tha God.

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