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On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.

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Welcome to tales that tethr, a series written by and for the tethr community. If you’d like to share your own story of strength and support, click here. Today we’re honored to share Van's story.

When I think of my mental health or wellbeing journey, the moment that stood out as my defining moment would be in 2020 when I embarked on the biggest personal growth journey of my life. I went through several periods of time throughout my life when 'moments' became 'revelations' and I thought that I truly achieved a level of self-worth. However, it was not until my last relationship where I had to truly face 'who I am'.

My ex one night asked me a very specific question as we tried to work through her challenges when it came to my identity. She asked me, "Van do you really love yourself like you say you do. You said you did the work and you love who you see but do you really love yourself or do you love the idea of loving yourself?" That messed me up. At first in such a bad way and when we broke up shortly after it projected me in the best change of my entire life.

Live fearlessly, act on every instinct, make every mistake and learn from them.

Looking back on that time in my life, the best advice I believe I would be able to give my younger self is that the only opinion that matters about you is yours. Stop worrying about what you look like. Stop worrying about what people think of you. Live fearlessly, act on every instinct, make every mistake and learn from them. Don't be afraid to be vocal both at work and in your personal life. If you like someone, tell them. If you don't like how they make you feel, tell them. If they don't appreciate you for who you really are then leave them. Don't be afraid of being alone. There is so much to learn when you are happy being with yourself.

I am so lucky in the fact that most people have one or two best friends and I have something closer to around 15 of them. I truly believe that the people you have supporting you can make a world of a difference in who you are or who you become in the future. My friends in general are my biggest supporters.

I would not be able to pinpoint any specific advice or wisdom. However, during 2020 the best thing they did for me was get me out there doing things I thought I never would do or could do or should do for whichever reason. This took me out of my comfort zone and turbocharged me to where I am today.

They helped me progress through weightlifting, getting me into playing sports like softball and golf when I was always the non-sport type (or so I thought), they kept me company playing video games online which enabled healthy and fun competition in my life, they took me hiking so I had opportunities to reconnect with nature and my own spirituality.

Talking to a therapist really helped me understand what legitimate things I was feeling versus things my ego was telling me to worry about.

Further to the benefits of having peer support, I started seeking professional assistance as well. Talking to a therapist really helped me understand what legitimate things I was feeling versus things my ego was telling me to worry about. I was also able to learn that I was doing nothing wrong in certain areas of my life like my relationship at the time. My eyes were really opened up that I was putting in all that I was able to.

I am a huge believer in everything happens for a reason and if it is happening it is the will of the Universe. For this reason I would not change how things have happened. Everything came at the right time even if at first I was unable to see it. When I struggle I always look back to all the things that made me happy which were heavy weights, sports, competition, meditation, gratitude and connection through my friends/family.

What I learned was a lot of people were so grateful that I reached out to ask them how they were doing.

Supporting others is the whole reason I started my own personal passion project. It all started with me being aware that I sucked at reaching out to people especially my bros. Early on in 2020 I decided to make a calendar appointment every Friday to reach out to people. When that appointment came I picked up my phone and started reaching out to my friends and to specific bros as well.

What I learned was a lot of people were so grateful that I reached out to ask them how they were doing. Some of my bros, it took a few tries to get a real answer but when it happened we had amazing conversations. Every time I would have dinner with one of them, I would receive a text when I got home from them giving me thanks and that they never knew they needed that conversation. I wanted to be able to take my learned experience and share it with other people.

We live in a world of how many people now? I just quickly checked and there are 7.7 billion people on this Earth. This means that when I share my own experiences with people at least one person is going to be able to relate and connect my experiences to their own lives. That my friends is powerful.

The orange Tethr circle to me symbolizes the strength and courage of all Men to support one another through life and their own personal experiences.

While I am super lucky to have such a great support system, I understand not everyone has an equal opportunity to that. I also have learned even with good friends, the conversations that are needed can be very challenging to have sometimes. What I have found for myself personally is that strangers are the best listeners. They do not know who you are at first, there is no judgement in your situations or feelings and emotions. Eventually, they become some pretty important people to you even if they don't know it!

Tethr has been so great for me in many ways. It has allowed me to really see a variety of experiences of which I can relate to. I have been able to provide my own experiences but more importantly when I needed support the most; the community was right there for me. The orange Tethr circle to me symbolizes the strength and courage of all Men to support one another through life and their own personal experiences. It is a sign of understanding, compassion and a commitment to shed any stigmas around what a Man can and cannot feel. When I see the orange Tethr circle I always know it is not the support of one Man but it is the support of all Men.

Van has been a valued member of the tethr community since October 2020.

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tethr is the first peer-to-peer support platform that connects men for open conversations about real life. We provide men with a safe, barrier-free online space for open dialogue and genuine support, allowing men to connect deeply with themselves, other men, and everyone their lives touch.