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Vicki O’Grady is a Florida Licensed Mental Health Counselor, author, and accomplished workshop presenter.

She has worked in the fields of mental health, addictions, eating disorders and personal growth since the late 70’s.

Vicki has traveled throughout the United States and Israel presenting personal growth workshops and seminars.

She is the former President and founder of Personal Power and Prosperity, a personal growth organization.

In 2014, Vicki started the You Matter Compassion Project, which involves giving out YOU MATTER cards.

Upward of 2 million have been given out by people in the US, Israel and other countries.

Memorable Quotes:
  • “We’re all seeking through outside experiences and through other people to validate our specialness, our goodness. We’re trying to feel that unconditional love from a person that gives our life meaning. And one of the things that I found is that we all seek things outside of ourselves to try and give us that, whether it’s an addiction or a person or a job or exercise.”
  • “People say you can’t love other people until you love yourself. And I don’t believe that’s true. I know that I loved and gave love before I loved myself. But the difference was when I really did love myself, I trusted your love.”
  • “I don’t want to be a person who causes harm in the world. I want to be a person who does kind acts. And I want to make this distinction because I think it’s really important. I still think mean thoughts. I still shook my fist at somebody who pulled out in front of me yesterday. Twice. I still think these things, but I don’t give myself permission to act on them. That’s the difference today.”
What You’ll Learn:

The importance of telling other people that they matter and how to love others in spite of your own healing journey.

This Episode Includes:
  • How Vicki started the You Matter movement by writing signs to show people while in her car. Signs like “sorry” and “your tail lights are off” turned into a sign that said, “You Matter.”
  • Different reasons why people need to hear that they matter.
  • The “feel-good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine are released when we create connections with others.
  • Telling people they matter is a great way to build connections and spread kindness.
  • The origins of the You Matter Marathon movement.
  • A lot of people grow up not realizing how special they are. They look for meaning in other things that are not fulfilling.
  • When people feel like they matter, they stop looking for validation from outside sources.
  • We don’t have to be perfect to be kind, we simply have to refuse to act on mean impulses and choose kindness instead.
Three Takeaways from Today’s Episode:
  1. Choose one person today and tell them, “Hey, you matter.”
  2. Identify one act of kindness you can perform, either for yourself or someone else.
  3. Comfort, connection and compassion are vital to our growth and happiness, and all need to come from an outside source.
Transcript:

Dr. Robin

Welcome back to Small Changes, Big Shifts. And I have to tell you, I’m almost giddy about my guest today. You know how sometimes when you have been admiring a project and all of a sudden, you get a chance to chat with the founder of that project and somebody who has really created a ripple. And we’re in the middle of this kindness campaign and where we’re making a ripple from that heartland, East and West and North and South. And Vicky O’Grady has been doing that.

She’s the founder of the You Matter movement. She’s a mental health counselor, founder of Personal Power and Prosperity. She’s a speaker. She’s an author.

She started the You Matter project in 2014, which involves giving out You Matter cards.

And I bought a bunch of these cards. And I’m embarrassed to say, I’m at my home office. I don’t have one here. So, Vicky, I’m going to have you hold one up.

Upward of 2 million have been given out by people in the US, Israel, and other countries. Vicky, welcome to Small Changes, Big Shifts.

Vicki

Thank you for having me. I’m so happy you asked me to come.

Dr. Robin

Do you happen to have one of the cars handy?

Vicki

Yes.

Dr. Robin

Thank you. Thank you. Because that would have been a good thing today. You matter. So for all of you listening today, you matter. And I believe that people have on their forehead, MMFI “make me feel important.” And I believe when you hand out these few Matter cards, it touches people’s heart and soul. So that’s my personal experience. And we give them out of my office. So, share with me a little bit about why you started this movement.

Vicki

Well, I’m going back to the very beginning. When I was one day I was sitting in traffic and somebody let me out. And you know how you wave. And I’m like, I want to do something more than just a little wave. I want people to know that it means something to people when they do that. So, I created a little sign that says, thank you, that I hold up in traffic when somebody lets me in. And then one day I went, Oops, I pulled out too soon. I didn’t give enough. So, I created another sign that says, Sorry, and that’s what I drive in traffic.

So that was going along just fine. And then I was sitting in an intersection, and I looked over at the person beside me, and I was thinking, I see you. I just want you to know that I see you. And so, I created another sign. It just has a little blue heart on it. I put one of the You Matter bumper stickers on it. And so, I would hold up this sign that just was saying, “Hello, I see you,” and then, so I would do that at this one intersection.

And a friend of mine who has since passed, he stands on a street corner in Orlando, and he had a sign that said, “Be encouraged, John 316.” And one day a guy came up and told him that because of his sign, he didn’t died by suicide. He wanted to kill himself. And he didn’t. And I’ve been in that space. And a lot of people that I know have been in the space of really depressed, in a dark space, and not knowing how they’re going to go on.

And I thought, what did I need to hear? And I heard the words, you matter in my brain. And so I made a sign that says, “you matter,” and this is what I hold up in traffic now, double-sided. And I hold that up in traffic.

And so, then I got the idea, I have these other signs. I’m the sign Queen, your taillights out, just because people get a ticket, your tires need air, and last, but not least, your headlight is out. So, I drive around with those. And then when Robin Williams died, I got the idea to do the cards. And so, I’ve been giving out 15,000 a month since 2014.

Dr. Robin

15,000 a month?

Vicki

Yeah, that’s what I give out. And I know over the years, I think I’ve never counted. But I think I’ve personally given out over a million. And there’s other extensions of this. That, where people are doing it. They make their own. They create their own cards. And a friend of mine made some in Hebrew over in Israel. And I heard there’s some in France. And so it just brings a lot of joy to me to do it.

Dr. Robin

You know, I’m curious. I’m curious, soul. I’m curious. Tell me about your mental health professional. So, what might expect this question, who taught you that “You matter?”

Vicki

Who taught me that I matter? I think my whole life, I think when I was growing up, I felt like the child in the family who didn’t matter. I had a lot of little quirky things, sensory issues, ADHD stuff. And those were treated as behavior problems. And so, I grew up kind of not knowing what was wrong with me.

Today. There would be things that would be there to help me. But back then, it was just treated behaviorally as a behavior problem. And so, I think I grew up with a really bad self-esteem. So, through my life, I’ve had, you know, I’m in recovery from addictions. The people in recovery taught me that I matter. I did that by helping other people. I feel like there’s a lot of value that I feel that I am reaching out to other people and doing things.

So, my recovery community taught me that. And then I got involved with the workshop, the Personal Power and Prosperity. And I felt a lot of value in there. I felt like I was giving back to people what I have been given. And I think, but the ultimate really was giving out these cards has been probably the place where I feel like it gave me, like, the icing on the cake, of how I mattered, that I can go up to someone and give them a card, and we make eye contact with strangers. We burst into tears, crying at the connection that we have. We hug, God bless you, people say that all the time. So, I think that was kind of like the icing on the cake. But I think it’s only in giving to other people that I felt like I mattered.

Dr. Robin

Well, you know, this being a mental health professional, that the body has these three neurotransmitters, oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, that they’re kind of the feel-good hormones. And when you are helping yourself or helping somebody else or being kind to a pet or a neighbor, they get released, and they help your brain function at a higher level. Tell me a story about someone that you gave a card to that changed their life. I know you have one.

Vicki

Wow. Well, I am trying to think of, oh, I was, I was speaking in this recovery meeting, and it was a meeting in the Bronx, and I was talking about my experience with a particular aspect of recovery. And, of course, I’m in the Orlando area, and this was a meeting out of the Bronx. And at the end of my talking, this lady raised her hand and she spoke, and she held up a card. And she said, “I’m in Nevada, and my case manager just gave me one of these cards today.” And I couldn’t believe it. People will tell me somebody in California gave me one, somebody and this lady, she couldn’t believe we were just, like, spell bound by the connection that we were both in this one meeting at the exact same time, and she had just gotten it that day. It’s unbelievable.

Dr. Robin

Such a small world. Let’s talk about, what is the You Matter marathon. And actually, this is so interesting. I was on a call recently with my friends over at Lockon, who sponsored this campaign last year. Our sponsor this year, City Wide, Facilities Solutions. But we were talking, and I have a new team member, Jamie. Jamie was talking about the You Matter marathon, and she had no idea that you and I were actually talking today. Is that crazy? She brought it up. That’s an example in my world, how you collided right into it. And Jamie had no idea. So I’m interviewing her tomorrow and talking about the You Matter marathon.

Vicki

Well, I was at a conference for what’s called Imago Therapy, Imago. It was created out of Harville Hendrix “Getting the Love You Want” book, which is one of my favorite books. And I was at this conference, and I leave these cards everywhere. Anonymously. They don’t have anything on the back, and I don’t want anything to be on the back because I don’t want them to be associated with me. So, I left a pile of them on the sign in table, and this one therapist up in Philadelphia took one. She took a few of them, and she took them back to Philadelphia, and she gave them to this amazing lady named Cheryl Rice.

And Cheryl is a coach, a life coach, and one of the most delightful people I’ve ever met. Well, Cheryl started her own little cards. Hers just are white with black letters, and they say You Matter. And she got the amazing idea in the month of November, she gets people to give out one card a day for 30 days in the gratitude month. And she sends people 30 free cards to give out. She asks people to keep one for themselves and give out 30.

And she has gotten, she’s so ambitious, she’s gotten all these businesses to contribute. Now she’s going into the schools in Philadelphia, and she has been a godsend and we promote her “You Matter Marathon” so that we want to reach a million people in the month of November, so people can find her Facebook page, You Matter marathon, and they say no running required. You can find that on Facebook, and I think they have a website, too. We’re called “You Matter Compassion Project” on Facebook so they can find us too.

Dr. Robin

You Matter Compassion Project. You Matter Marathon starting November 1. Give out a card, You Matter, every day and pay attention to your mail because some of you might be getting some cards in the mail. I encourage you to support this movement. My heart hurts. I get sos calls, unfortunately frequently, from parents saying, this is in the last couple of days, someone some said my son’s science partner, freshman high school, took his life and by suicide and what do I do?

And so, you never know where it’s going to help. This is so personal to me, Vicki, because I was a lonely kid as well. And people’s kindness and showing up for me and looking at me soul to soul changed my life. And I’m here with you today. So, this movement is very personal. It’s my favorite time of the year.

It goes from October 14 to November 13. World Kindness Day, and it’s really special. So, thank you for what you’re doing.

Why do you think people need to know they matter from a clinical perspective?

Vicki

I think people grow up not really knowing how special they are. I think there’s a lot of times, two extremes either. They’re coddled and they’re given the participation trophies too much so they can’t distinguish. They don’t really grow up with a lot of pain, develop compassion and then their children whose parents, I don’t think there’s any parent who can meet every child’s need as soon as the child has a need.

So, we all grow up with some pain that we haven’t healed. And through that pain, we’re looking, if you use the IMAGO model, we’re all seeking through outside experiences and through other people to validate our specialness, our goodness. We’re trying to feel that unconditional love from a person that gives our life meaning. And one of the things that I found is that we all seek things outside of ourselves to try and give us that, whether it’s an addiction or a person or a job or exercise.

And one of the most valuable things that I have learned from receiving, being on the receiving end of so much love from people as an adult. When I got those needs met, then I learned that to stop doing things for what I got from an outside source. That I began to do things because of how I wanted to feel as a person. And so, I think that, and I say that when we yield, we need the three C’S “Comfort, Connection and Compassion” and that they all have to come from an outside source.

We can’t give them to ourselves until they’re given to us first, and we fill up that cup, and then we can do it. And another thing that I talk about is people say you can’t love other people until you love yourself. And I don’t believe that’s true. I know that I loved and gave love before I loved myself. But the difference was when I really did love myself. I trusted your love, and I believed you and I didn’t make you wrong and try and sabotage the love that I was receiving from other people.

So, I want people to feel inner focused, and the way that I get validation now is by giving the cards away without, sometimes I leave them anonymously, so I don’t get validation for the person receiving them. That’s helpful to me too.

Dr. Robin

I want to say thank you for that clarity as a wellness practitioner for 30 plus years and in my own healing journey of really starting to love myself, it helped me not look for love in the wrong places, but I think I was capable of loving other people. I just was not able to sustain my own self as I healed inside those wounds in my childhood, which I believe that I experienced that I’d be having this conversation with you. Now as we age, get wisdom and you’re like, you know what, that was maybe done for me so that I could do my part in my purpose and calling. Is there any other takeaways that you want our listeners to have today about kindness?

Vicki

I want to say this, I got involved with I’ve always been interested in Buddhist principles, which involve loving kindness and compassion. And at the beginning of COVID, I found these meditation meetings where we talk about that and we meditate. Some of the meditations are about that. And I learned that when I do, like I would say, “Karma”. I used to say, oh, that’s bad Karma.

And then I realized that’s sort of like saying something bad’s going to happen to me if I do something bad. And there was an opportunity that I had one day to..I could have caused mischief to somebody who had done something mean to me. And I went no, no, no, Karma, Karma, Karma. And then I went, no, I’m not going to do that because that’s not the person I am.

I don’t want to be a person who causes harm in the world. I want to be a person who does kind acts. And I want to make this distinction because I think it’s really important.

I still think mean thoughts. I still shook my fist at somebody who pulled out in front of me yesterday. Twice. I still think these things, but I don’t give myself permission to act on them. That’s the difference today. I don’t know that we ever cannot have a painful emotion or a painful thought, but we can stop acting on things that cause ourselves and others harm. That’s what kindness is. When I die, I don’t want anybody to say I’m still mad at her. I want them to say, yes, she did this, but she came and cleaned it up. I want to live that way. I want to clean up my method so that I can take a peaceful breath as my last one.

Dr. Robin

That’s a mic drop. You know, how do you put your head down every night, and with some peace? And I believe that we have a sleep issue because we don’t have peace, whether it’s peace because our body doesn’t like the food we’re eating or peace because of the interaction we had that we maybe acted out like you said, I don’t want to be that person that does it just because somebody else did it to me. Such wisdom. As we wrap up the conversation I want to say from my heart, my heart to your heart. Thank you for creating the You Matter movement. I love my cards. I’m going to buy some more. I’m curious. Do you have a song or a book or a quote that keeps you inspired to some days you just don’t want to. Do you want to put that on about you? Sometimes I want to put the blanket over my head and then something, I’ll read something or I’ll listen to a podcast or I’ll pull out a quote and all of a sudden, I’m back in the game again. Do you have anything like that that you use to keep you motivated?

Vicki

Okay, well, I shouldn’t say this, but my favorite song is Baby Got Back, and that will get me in a good mood. But I think that the song by Adele, Make You Feel My Love is a song where we can pour out our hearts and where we can feel love from other people. It’s just a song that brings out that peacefulness. That loving kindness that, you know, I want people to feel my love. And when I give these cards out, people will sometimes say, you know, you have no idea what this means to me, I was having a really bad day, and that’s what I want people to feel.

Dr. Robin

Well, such a great reminder. Thank you for the movement to all of you listening today. Hey, if you want to participate in this You Matter Marathon. If you send me an email, Michelle@Small ChangeBigShifts, I will actually send you the 30 cards so you can do it. I’m going to invest in some so that we can all continue to be part of our annual Kindness Campaign to participate in this You Matter marathon so we could create a ripple once again from the heartland, east and West, north and south so that our kids know what a flag to matter. Vicky, thanks for joining me on Small changes, Big shifts.

Vicki

Thank you so much, Michelle, thank you for everything you’re doing. It makes a big sparkle in the world. Thank you so much.

Dr. Robin

Alright to all of you listening. Hey, go out and make somebody’s day today, including your own blessings to all of you. Thank you.

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