If you’ve ever gone down a TikTok rabbit hole of corporate millennials and all their little quirks (being afraid of their boss, adding way too many exclamation points to emails, playing Disney Channel bops at their 9-to-5 just to feel something again, etc., etc.), you’ve probably felt way too seen by Rod Thill.
A ’90s kid navigating corporate America, Rod has built a massive following of fellow anxious people trying to figure out this adulting thing. After a tough year filled with his fair share of ups and downs, Rod’s anxiety is much more manageable these days, and he’s focused on appreciating where he’s at right now. Here, Rod tells us about what growing up in the ’90s meant for his mental health, the cool thing he uses therapy for, and dealing with the not-so-shiny side of TikTok fame.
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WM: How are you doing lately?
Rod Thill: Lately, I feel like I'm doing a lot better than I have been the past year. From the outside, it looks like things are so successful with social media growth, starting my own company, and all this stuff, but then my personal life has been—there's no better way to put it than absolute shit. So it's kind of a traumatic experience, but I feel like the dust is settling, and I'm able to see clearer, which has been really good. And my anxiety is at an all-time low, which is encouraging. Now I'm seeing how I can grow through this.
WM: Do you mind sharing a bit about your mental health journey and living with anxiety?
RT: I grew up in the '90s. I grew up in a great home—[I] love my parents. But growing up in the '90s and even into the 2000s, anxiety—especially in men— wasn’t talked about. In society, there was pressure [to not] talk about it. So I think suppressing my anxiety made it even worse. Then trying to figure it out in your 20s and 30s is such an interesting experience, especially when you grow up with a backing of religion too.
WM: What has your experience with therapy been like?
RT: I started going to therapy in 2016. As a millennial, at least in the Midwest—even here in the Chicago area where I’m from—therapy was a taboo word. If you were in therapy, that means that something really traumatic happened to you. I've had some traumas from my past, but it was interesting to see that even when I got into the nitty gritty, therapy isn't just to solve an issue. I’ve used it to learn how I communicate best and how to be more honest with myself and others. This isn't the point of therapy, but [it’s nice] for me to have an unbiased opinion to speak with who can give me an outside perspective on things.
WM: When you were having a tough time in your personal life while growing your career, what helped you manage those different situations so you could focus on what you needed to at any given time?
RT: Time management. I've been more intentional with [it] and just being around my family and protecting my peace. No one prepares you for virality on TikTok specifically. You’ve seen in Hollywood there are teams around [celebrities], and there’s coaching. What you see on the internet is me literally filming in my room alone—that's what it was. So [when] reading the comments, for every one hate comment, there are a hundred good ones, but you want to focus on the hate comment. No one prepares you for that level of exposure.
I've learned to protect my peace. I was like, “Oh my God, I need to post three TikToks today in order to go viral again or whatever.” … Even if I stop at where I'm at now, I have over a million followers on TikTok. Yeah, people have more, but I've created this community that interacts with me and that I can help other people relate to and help other people speak openly about their anxieties.
WM: What does getting support through TikTok fame look like for you now?
RT: I have representation, and they're great. I love my team; they help me with my organization and time management and even connecting me with the right people. … Connecting with Lance Bass was really good for me because [he’s] someone who was in an era of fame and had to come out publicly. So even as little as we relate, it was nice to have connections with people who have been in the spotlight who can [understand].
WM: A lot of your content centers on workplace anxiety and millennials in corporate America. What differences have you noticed in your mental health since quitting your corporate job and becoming your own boss?
RT: I still have imposter syndrome every day. I still go through the fear that no one likes me. If we're looking at TikTok as my boss, it's [thinking], Is someone going to get a promotion over me because they're liked more? Same with virality. But I've overcome that by understanding that I'm in a different spot than I was two years ago, and I'm grateful for the spot that I'm in.
WM: If you could talk to yourself like your favorite coworker, what would you say?
RT: It's exactly what my old work bestie, who I’m still really good friends with, would say. But I would say, “You're overreacting.” I don't really respond well to that, but that’s truly it. I would list the successes [I’ve had] and where I'm at [in life]. That imposter syndrome is going to be creeping in, but have the outside perspective of: This is what you have accomplished, and this is what you are good at.
And the biggest thing I've learned is your success and someone else's success will not affect each other. I'm a creature of comparison—it’s my biggest fault. Especially on TikTok and Instagram, you see all these people doing cool things, and it's like, I wanna do that. First of all, would that make sense for me to do that? Will that fulfill me personally? Will that take away from my peace?
WM: What else would you like to add about mental health or your career?
RT: I am so grateful that this [fame] happened in my 30s. Rest in peace, Aaron Carter—that really hit me because I loved his music. … It was a big sadness to see that [a lot of his unhappiness] was because of the internet. I think people need to understand you don't know what people are going through in their personal life. You might think you do, but there's a lot more [going on than] what's shown on the internet. … In this era of virality, it's like people [feel] entitled to every part of someone's life just because they put a part of it on social media. But at the end of the day, protecting your peace is the biggest piece of advice and the biggest way that I have prioritized my mental health.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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