Jen Gotch wants to start a movement. This wasn’t something Jen set out to do, but has truly become her new calling. It’s in recent years that she’s become an ambassador for mental health and transparency. Jen has opened up about her struggles with depression, bipolar disorder and vulnerabilities in all areas of life. It’s refreshing in a world of perfect highlight reels. She even launched a podcast with Girlboss Media this year called, “Jen Gotch Is OK … Sometimes.” She talks about things like creative blocks, therapy, medications, all with a hilarious and honest take from her own experiences.
If you don’t know Jen, she’s most well-known as being the Chief Creative Officer of the colorful, quirky and fun brand ban.do. I first discovered ban.do in its early years when it was selling beautiful, vintage headpieces. Right from the start, I was enamored with its unique point of view. It was clear that Jen was incredibly talented and knew how to create things that people would clamor for. Glitter Guide featured her old office in 2011 when ban.do was still a very intimate team.
What’s always drawn me to Jen was that she’s an open book. She’s not trying to hide the fact that she struggles. She shares her creative process, and she is always open to interviews and helping people. A few years ago, she emailed me randomly that she was obsessed with my Tumblr. It was a small gesture, but made an impact on me. I remember I told her she needed to write a book, that it would be something I would 100 percent buy! Fast-forward a couple years and she is! I asked Jen to share details of her creative process, how she pushes through insecurities and what she does to get inspired.
Photography by Em Scott.
Tell me a little about you? How did you get to where you are today?
It was a long and winding road, that’s for sure. I got here by trying and failing and trying again, by learning from those failures, and by creative problem solving. I did it by using resilience, humor and optimism. I tried lots of ways of being, of working and of relating. I got here by saying “yes” and by saying “no.” Oh, I got here by LUCK! And by working through personal challenges with the support of friends, family, doctors, therapists and the kindness of strangers. I committed to building my own emotional intelligence, self-awareness and empathy. And honestly, “where I am today” consistently feels like the beginning of something rather than an end.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember dreaming of being a waitress when I was a little girl. I’d walk around the house and take my family’s orders. However, I was a waitress once and hated it. After that, I don’t remember having any specific aspirations. I think I needed to really fully understand myself, understand people and understand the expansive scope of occupations out there in order to really want to be something. I’m still working on it.
“I mostly think it is about removing judgement—self-judgement and our own discrimination against our thoughts.”
What is creativity to you?
An outward expression of what is inside my mind.
If your creative work were edible, what would it taste like?
In my dream scenario, it would be different for everyone. For example, if french fries were your favorite food, I would want it to taste like the best, most satisfying french fry you had ever had.
What is your favorite color? What color describes you?
My power color is YELLOW. I’ve been really drawn to things that radiate light and positivity, so it makes sense. That said, I have an affinity for most colors and mostly get described as a rainbow.
Do you think that creativity involves putting your heart and soul into your work? Or is it more like letting your mind flow freely to witness the surprising results of your actions?
I definitely think it involves opening your heart in order to let your creative energy pass through you and out of your body. And yes, there is a lot of “flow” involved. Sometimes though, my creativity is more practical, like when I am problem solving. I mostly think it is about removing judgement—self-judgement and our own discrimination against our thoughts.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I’m lucky enough to have work that is very tied to my passion and purpose, so I’m naturally motivated. I also try to pay attention to my attitudes toward work and if I feel like they are going in a negative direction, I take time to think about that and understand it, so I can course correct. I am incredibly lucky to have work that allows me to pivot and cater to my personal ambitions.
…in general, people fear that it makes them look weak or vulnerable. I have actually found strength in vulnerability and power in exposing the picture of what it looks like to be in the middle of figuring it out, that success on many levels is a facade and that there are problems that we have—personal, professional, physical, emotional—that as humans we share, but rarely talk about.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Uhh yeah, pretty much every day—often multiple times a day. I actually did a podcast episode on self-doubt because I was so plagued by it. It got to a point where that little voice inside my head (my mind, my ego, my “roommate,” whatever you want to call it) was so loud and aggressive it was like I was constantly being screamed at from the inside. Not a cool feeling at all. I’ve done lots of things to understand the hows and whys of it. First and foremost, understanding that I am not my thoughts, so I don’t have to identify them or accept them. Mindfulness, meditation, talk therapy, EMDR…even just rationalizing with that voice. Thanking it for its input and letting it know that it can be quiet—like “OK, OK, I hear you and thank you so much, but I’m gonna have to ask you to leave right now while I do something scary and intimidating and I’ll just check in with you when I’m done. Bye.”
If you could choose a theme song for your life, what would it be?
Such a tough question. My assistant said, “Sex Hair” by Mouse Rat. I’m tempted to say the theme song from Rocky. Maybe “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin?
You have a very creative background. What is your favorite thing to create?
I’ve definitely gravitated recently to creating work that uses my knowledge and experience to help people.
Now that you’re running a very successful business with investors and people who you have to run things past, how do you feel it influences the brand’s creativity? Have there been times you wanted to create something and felt like you couldn’t?
I’ve been so fortunate to work in an environment that is very supportive of my creative voice and direction. That’s not to say it’s always been perfect, but we’ve always worked it out in the end.
How do you tune out all the noise and focus on being truly authentic?
I think being 46 helps with that a lot. I just see a lot more value in being who I am than anything or anyone else.
You’re very open and vulnerable on social media. How do you keep the courage to be you and tune out the negativity?
I honestly don’t know how to NOT be that way. It’s very natural for me to be open. And I am lucky in that I receive only a tiny bit of negativity, which obviously hurts, but I feel very tied to what I am doing and I know my intentions are pure, so I do what I can to not let myself get distracted by negativity.
You started a podcast. Why did you start it and what do you love and not love about it?
I wanted to do a podcast because the thing I hear more than anything else is that somehow my sharing, or oversharing in some cases, makes a lot of people feel less alone. Oh, and I have come to find out that up until this point, people seemed to think that I had it all together. I wanted to prove that I don’t and to dispel the myth that anyone actually does. We can present as such, but we’re all just figuring things out, and once you have it “all figured out,” you get served up a whole new set of circumstances. It never ends, but no one ever talks about it, I think because in general, people fear that it makes them look weak or vulnerable. I have actually found strength in vulnerability and power in exposing the picture of what it looks like to be in the middle of figuring it out, that success on many levels is a facade and that there are problems that we have—personal, professional, physical, emotional—that as humans we share, but rarely talk about. I wanted to help my audience build their emotional intelligence, become more self-aware and informed and more than anything, feel less alone! I love that I have been given a platform where I can do that and reach lots of people each week. I don’t love that it is a business that has its success measured by data points and analytics. I find it really distracting and it sometimes misleads me from my true intention, which is not to be popular, but to help people who need the help.
How do you unplug? Does it encourage your creativity or does it make you just want to say “F IT” to everything?
I nap. I meditate. I drive. I go on a walk. I lock my phone in a safe I don’t know the combination to—OK, well I don’t do that, but sometimes I wish I had a safe to lock it in. I generally never want to say “F IT” to everything.
How do you influence creativity among your team?
Leading by example and trying to create a safe space where ideas are welcomed and not judged. I mean eventually they are evaluated, but I try to create an environment that encourages everybody.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
I try my very best not to panic (which is hard, especially when you are on a deadline) and trust the fact that the creativity will flow again soon. Stressing about it or trying to “push” myself through a true block has never worked.
Give me a quick rundown of your typical creative process.
It really depends on what I am doing. If it has to do with creating products, photography, etc. for ban.do, it usually starts with finding visual and thematic inspiration and then communing with a small group to see what is resonating. If it is writing, it’s just about committing to sitting down, releasing initial judgement of my work and trying to find that flow.
Favorite reads for when you’re feeling uninspired?
- The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
- The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav
- The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield
3 films or shows to watch to get inspired?
Song that lifts your mood?
I have lots of favorites . . . this is one of them:
“Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” —Don Miguel Ruiz
What’s something you have yet to do, but want to?
Start a MOVEMENT!
Songs that make Jen happy, sad, nostalgic and ready to dance.