A couple of days ago I was asked if I’d be interested on going on Good Morning Britain to talk about whether self-help books can change your life. It was pegged to Adele saying that Untamed by Glennon Doyle changed hers.*
My first thought was – no, I don’t want to. My second thought was – pull yourself together, be professional, this is a great opportunity.
So I spent a night thinking on it. I imagined all the tough questions I’d be asked and me saying stupid. I imagined twitter taking the p*ss out of something I said. I imagined my face looking like a sweaty moon.
When the book came out, I did a fair amount of TV. Some of it was fun, some of it was stressful. One of the more stressful ones was on a BBC news programme where the presenter kept asking versions of: ‘SO ARE YOU SAYING THESE BOOKS ARE A CON?’ and I kept looking like a rabbit in the headlights, saying ‘Er, no!’.
I tried to move the topic on to a funny story about naked yoga but she wasn’t having any of it.
And so when there was talk of changing the angle of today’s show to ‘Do self-help books help?’ to ‘Is self-help preying on a vulnerable women?’ I decided not to take part. The latter is not a question I wanted to answer on morning television.
And so I said ‘no, thank you’ and as soon as I did, I felt relieved.
It got me thinking (Carrie Bradshaw style) about whether bigger is always better and whether exposure is all it’s cracked up to be.
In the year the book came out I did more than 200 interviews on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and at book fairs etc.
I was flown to New York to appear on the TODAY show, straight after Martha Stewart. I appeared on another morning show on Poland, just before a slot on diamanté-encrusted cat litter trays. I stood on stages and talked to hundreds of people.
It was totally F*CKING AMAZING and ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING I WANTED.
(Well, not everything. I wanted to be on Oprah but that didn’t happen. I actually tried emailing her a few times. I googled ‘How to email Oprah’ and saw on the Contact Any Celebrity website that Oprah’s personal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I imagine she was starstruck when she saw my name which is why she didn’t reply.)
But when I look back on the year after the book came out I see that I was in a state of overwhelm. It was exciting and gratifying and validating and it was also scary, lonely and nerve-wracking. I broke out in spots for about six months.
I don’t know that I have the stomach for that kind of exposure anymore.
So now I’m wondering if there is a different way to do it? Would it be OK to work in smaller ways that don’t ramp up my adrenaline so much? Would it be enough to keep writing for you and put my energy into work I enjoy doing?
We’re all told to AIM BIG but maybe it’s ok to just AIM MEDIUM? (should we get a t-shirt made?)
The biggest surprise of lockdown has been doing the writing workshops (have I mentioned the workshops before?!). A friend suggested I do one for fun and I figured I’d give it a go. No stress, no expectations.
And it was so much fun, I have kept doing them. But they are more than fun. They feel GOOD. In my heart they feel GOOD. Being on screen with people around the world scribbling and having a chat just feels GOOD.
I felt the same after going into schools to give talks about self-doubt and comparing yourself to others. Every time I left the bright, funny, clever, shy, cheeky students, I felt warm, connected, happy. On the train home I’d think: ‘I’m glad I did that.’
So maybe going forward I can keep doing the work that makes me feel good, and not do so much of the sweat/spot inducing/heart palpitation stuff. Maybe you don’t have to go big or go home. Maybe you can stay home, quietly do your work, sweat a normal amount, see friends and that’s enough. Do the scary stuff only when your gut says ‘I’m scared sh*tless but I want to do this.’
But thinking this way is an adjustment to my boom/bust, all or nothing tendencies.
I still fall into the trap of seeing someone on telly or with 200,000 Insta followers and thinking they have it all sorted. They are so successful and gorgeous and their lives must be amazing. But must they? Maybe they are and maybe they are not.
All I know is that when I really pay attention to when I feel happiest it has little to do with being on television or seeing my face in papers. It’s cheesy but my happiest moments are when I am laughing with old friends and playing with my friends’ kids and going home to Ireland and swimming in the sea and getting messages from you and sitting by windows and lying next to someone on the grass, in bed, on the sofa…
I watched the slot on Good Morning Britain yesterday. They went back to the original question of ‘Do self-help books help?’ Psychologist Owen O’Kane did a great job of standing up for books. And singer Sheila Ferguson, of the Three Degrees (When will I see you again?) was fabulous with her old school attitude of ‘Just get on with it.’
Afterwards my accountant emailed to ask me if I’d seen it and say that they should have asked me. I told them they did ask me and I passed. He asked why and the answer is simple. I didn’t want to do it. And so I didn’t.
I don’t know if this attitude is stupid or actually some sneaky form of self-sabotage. I also don’t know if it’s financially viable to say no to all the things that make me sweat. Also, maybe in a few months I’ll be desperate for attention and emailing Oprah again. But for a while I’m going to try this low key approach and see what happens. Who knows, it might be fun.
*About Untamed by Glennon Doyle – have you read it? I’ll do a post on it next week, it’s powerful.
** Don’t know why but I’m into these star things at the moment.
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