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Waje walks away from music: What to do when your mental health is under threat

The inspiration to write this article came after I recently watched a YouTube video posted by the Nigerian female musician, Waje. Even though Waje hasn’t been able to gather the kind of following that other Nigerian female singers like Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade have, she is still one of the top female musicians in Nigeria. However, after recently listening to this video where she declared she wanted to walk away from her music career, it got me thinking and asking myself this question: is talent overrated? I ask this question because there are theories that will have us believe that conscientiousness is a major factor in human performance. So, according to this line of thinking if you are talented but not conscientious, you may not necessarily be a performer. Nevertheless, Waje has shown us that she has meticulously nurtured her career, as she knows she is as talented as these other artists. Therefore, a mix of conscientiousness and talent just may not be enough. So, what can we do when talent cannot sustain us, and nothing seems to work? Let us look to theories of leadership, motivation, and change in order to find some answers. As Edgar Schein advises, we must seek modifications when existing circumstances are not working, digging deep beneath the iceberg, to determine what needs to be altered. Thus, we can learn from Waje herself who is courageously taking the first steps to alter her life, proudly admitting that change is good.

Waje
Waje

First, she is facing her problem and admitting there is something wrong agreeing that continued investment in her music may be a waste of time, if it is not yielding the desired reward. 

This is awesome, considering that we live in a society where we continuously have “to represent” and “to maintain”. It’s almost a taboo to admit that you have problems and that you are failing at something. For example, married couples are often not encouraged to talk about their challenges until we read in the pages of the newspaper about how one spouse killed the other. The stories are almost becoming frightfully consistent, with narratives of verbal, emotional and physical abuse or adultery, usually preceding the bloodshed. Interestingly, in team dynamics, non-violent conflict is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is the non-resolution of disagreements through the mature interrogation of issues that often leads to discord.

The same thing goes for talking about mental or emotional problems, for fear of the accompanying stigma. Isn’t there a popular missive in this country not to marry into certain families because somebody in the family has something wrong with them? These are very damning stereotypes which need to be destroyed, considering a recent World Bank study that states that approximately 22 percent of Nigeria’s population suffer from chronic depression; and, given that the country’s Ministry of Health has advised a rethink of the approach to mental health, after openly confessing 60 million Nigerians suffer from mental disorders!

READ ALSO: Nollywood producers, distributors advised to shun films that debase societal values

Thank God for the Amazon Mrs. Betty Irabor who boldly came out to talk about her menopausal challenges with insomnia, depression and attempted suicide, . She was brave enough to reveal publicly how these afflictions ultimately led to a session with a shrink at Yaba Left. Is it not because she decided to admit her problem that she is still alive and was able to turn 62 recently? I loved the birthday video of Madam Betty displaying the ageless beauty that she is, as she danced the Zanku like someone who is 18.

Second, like Waje, call a time-out and walk away from the challenge for a while. Unfortunately, sometimes this may mean our walking away from intrinsic drivers, so that we can depend on extrinsic motivators instead. After all, though there are studies that suggest that inner creativity is what motivates the human being to perform, there are other accounts that suggest that people temporarily can be satisfied in the pursuit of exterior incentives. Sola Shobowale, the very talented Nollywood thespian, did this when she walked away from acting some years ago, moving to England where she worked as a social worker. Her complaint at the time she withdrew from acting was that the profession was not enabling her to make enough money to take care of her children’s education. It was these same children who encouraged her to return to acting, after they came across the advert calling for actors to audition for the Wedding Party Movie. I suppose in her case, she also reaped the seed of someone who sacrificed her career to care for her children.

She eventually got the lead role part she auditioned for and the movie was an amazing success, recording the highest revenue that a film has ever made in Nigeria. It went on to spawn a second part in which she also starred and when this also made a lot of money, Sola Shobowale was back on top of her game. Indeed, the confirmation of her return to Nollywood stardom was sealed when the indomitable Kemi Adetiba cast her as the star character in the King of Boys, another fantastic blockbuster production.

Third, just as Waje showed us, we should not be afraid to walk away from everything and from everyone that does not want to help us sort ourselves out. The famous change management and leadership specialist, Harvard Professor, John Kotter, refers to this as removing barriers to change. 

There are change and vision killers out there who don’t necessarily act out of their hatred for you. Some will help you to frustrate your destiny because they love you and believe that they are acting in your best interest. These people will see you are breaking under the pressure and still encourage you to move in the same direction that the onslaught is coming from. They do not seem to know that it is folly to advise a person to keep doing things the same way and still expect to get different results.

Did not the twins Peter and Paul Okoye of Psquare separate from each other and is anyone dying as a result of the separation? Their reaction is very much in line with studies on human well-being, that suggest counterbalancing negative situations or feelings with positive ones. They knew that if they continued to work together the toxicity would further increase, so they decided it was better for them to part. Their fans begged them not to break up, but they did. Right now, are they not building successful new solo careers, with Peter trying his hand at acting?

Lastly, like Waje has also shown as she tries out her hand at being a movie producer in in Nollywood, and like research on adaptive leadership postulates, rather than give up we should dare to try something new. Adaptive leaders can sense a shift and take bold steps in order to manage the dictates of change. I am sure we can remember waking up to hear the news that Angelina Jolie, the international superstar actress, had been appointed as a visiting professor at the prestigious university, the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. How on earth did an actress with little training in academics end up becoming a part-time academic at a premiere university? She dared to do something different and as the saying goes, fortune will always favour the brave.

 Ema Clark is a TESOL, HR and organisations specialist and a lawyer.

Email: capacityminers@gmail.com

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