Smile More Often

About six weeks ago, I posted a story on my personal Instagram account, asking if anyone would be interested in It’s All Sad clothing. I received a great deal of feedback, which was all positive. So, thank you for that, since it gave me the encouragement to proceed, and I’m very happy with the result. Today I’ve released the first iteration of what that looks like. 

When I began It’s All Sad back in November, it was about exploring my relationship with depression as an entrepreneur and millennial in the digital age. 

Thus far, it’s been one of the most interesting journeys I’ve ever embarked upon. Throughout the last few months, I’ve allowed myself to become more vulnerable, exposed and honest than I’ve ever been, which has been an uncomfortable, and at times, extremely painful experience. 

I had a few assumptions at the onset about what this journey might look like. The most fascinating learnings, however, have come from all of you. As such, I’d like to share those learnings and why it compelled me to make clothing.

Like most websites, It’s All Sad collects a lot of data. 

Since January, It’s All Sad has received over 17,000 views from nearly 1,500 unique visitors. Those visitors have come from 25 countries. The most read article has been, “Why it’s all sad.” The most inbound clicks have been from Facebook. And the most outbound clicks have been to Dopesite.

By no means am I breaking the internet here, but admittedly, I had much more modest goals with It’s All Sad. I’d hoped, more or less, to write an article every month, and share those articles with my friends.

Disclaimer: I do not have 1,500 friends.

Growing pains.

Amusingly, despite that readership, the articles haven’t generated any shares (17,000 reads and zero shares.) At first, this was a very curious statistic for me. From that data, I drew three possible conclusions. 

First, my writing sucks. 

Second, my writing doesn’t suck, but most people don’t find it relevant. 

Third, my writing doesn’t suck, and it’s relevant, but people still have hang ups about discussing anything related to sadness, depression, anxiety or anything that might reflect negatively upon them.

I’ve tried to take an honest look at those conclusions, so here’s the other data I took into consideration. 

I’ve had over 100 private conversations on social media with people, many of whom I don’t really know, who’ve all opened up with me about their own journeys with depression after I shared mine. They thanked me and expressed their desire to find a similar confidence to share their own journeys.

In addition to that, I’ve had many in-person conversations with people close to me that go like this, “I knew you were sad. Like, you’ve said it before, but I never knew it was like that. Like, depressed? Really? Your life’s great though. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way, but do you have to feel so sad all the time?”

Those were the responses I’ve been used to my whole life. Whenever I opened up, I was cutdown, and therefore, regressed back into solitude. It’s very unhealthy and still perplexes me to this day. Many things that I thought hindered me throughout life have actually led me to do more interesting and exciting things with it. 

You don’t have to feel the way others feel. It’s impossible. No one experiences life in exactly the same way that you do. In fact, the basis of any good relationship is a general acceptance, and if you’re lucky, understanding of the other person’s feelings. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you have to feel that way. 

My mother, in particular, was guilty of this for most of my life. 

Miraculously, since I’ve been writing about my depression, she’s not only understood it, but also, accepted it. I think it’s very difficult for a parent to accept. They believe it’s a reflection of themselves somehow. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Either way, it doesn’t matter. 

I’ve never felt healthier about our relationship, which was always mostly good, than I do today.

People are so concerned about how the world will judge them. The more you appease the masses, the less you know about yourself. This is a travesty and it’s not an outlier unfortunately. Be honest with yourself, like, really honest, there are many aspects of your life that other’s dictate for you. 

I find that to be very sad. You should be yourself. Most people think by faking, imitating, or putting on a front, they will succeed, or at minimum, be accepted – you will not. Steve Jobs was notoriously difficult to work with, because he was successful, we gloss over this. 

You have to be yourself, but in today’s world, I think we know less and less of what that might be.

Take the time to know yourself and be confident enough to be that. That’s what It’s All Sad is about and it’s why I’ve started to make clothing.

The answer.

After a lot of reflection, I came to the third conclusion. Depression, anything negative really, is still a very difficult thing for a lot of us to talk about openly or share. I never liked bullies in high-school. I always stood up for those who were marginalized. Funnily enough, and this has been an interesting learning in my own journey, by becoming a creative, I joined them.

Last Saturday, my friend, La Mar, who also happens to be a creative I deeply admire asked, “How do you overcome the downturns in your creativity?”

“I go back to my childhood, but I also do things like this,” I told him as I pulled at the It’s All Sad tank top I was wearing. The truth is, It’s All Sad is my childhood, the one I wasn’t allowed to explore.

Thank you for letting me explore it with you the last few months. Just like back in high-school when I stood up for the underrepresented, It’s All Sad clothing is about giving a voice to those who aren’t confident enough to speak their truth yet.

Many of those kids from high-school went on to be very successful and interesting people. I hope the same for this current generation. I hope that by expressing your sadness aloud and feeling like you belong somewhere that you will find the confidence to share your own stories. 

Every voice deserves to be heard.

Nowadays, I don’t regress into solitude when those close to me fail to understand. I’m confident enough in myself now to know they aren’t wrong and accept my own shortcomings. I don’t have to feel so sad all the time. Indeed, my life is great, but sometimes, it’s not. 

I hope that as you continue to read my stories, you will come to understand that in the same way I should smile more often, you should cry more often.

You can start by being more honest with yourself. More so, you don’t have to publicly share It’s All Sad if you aren’t ready, but perhaps, share it with someone that’s expressed they’re feeling a certain way. Two months ago, a friend of mine that I never knew was battling depression, jumped off a balcony. 

Life is heavy and you never know what weight you might alleviate with even the simplest of gestures.

Accept the future.

Beyond my friend, who also happened to be in the creative industries, we’ve lost many wonderful creative spirits this year to depression and mental health illnesses. Mac Miller, for me, still sits heavy. As I write this now, I’m listening to “2009.” As such, 10% of all net sales go towards supporting HXOUSE.

As I always sign off… 

It’s all sad but it’s not bad,   


***The photo for this article was taken at the Drake Devonshire a few months ago. It’s of me and my wife. It was taken by our friend while we were celebrating our friend’s birthday. We were with some of the most incredibly talented young creatives on the come up. The next generation has so many issues, but they’re honest about it, and that made me smile. 

The future is bright. You can shop the clothing here.

Author avatar
Stephen Shaw
I've worked with artists like Janet Jackson and Sammy Adams, I've helped with causes like HXOUSE and Fashion Cares, and I've consulted for brands like Adidas and Budweiser. These days I make things like Dopesite, Artful Record® and It’s All Sad™ 🌎🌍🌏


  1. Adam Madrzyk

    Love you bruv❤️ thank you for being brave enough to share your stories, struggles/hardships and for helping normalize a very pressing topic that has never been more relevant. It’s about time that we flip the narrative, except our flaws and not be afraid to openly talk about our mental health.

  2. Stephen Shaw

    Embrace the negative. It’s part of who you are. We all have so many negative attributes that we try to hide away. People are so dishonest and never realize their true potential. Own that part of yourself. The more honest you can be, the closer you’ll get to your complete self. That’s the only self that matters and it’s far better than any half version you think the world wants to see from you ❤️

  3. Auntie Bonnie

    Life is complicated. We can’t shut ours selves off from the world All though some times I wish I could shut myself off from all things negative

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