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Elizabeth Day is a world-renowned podcast host. She's a best-selling author. She's a successful journalist. I felt like a failure, but I probably wasn't. It was what I'd been told to feel. I've had countless failed relationships, and then it sucks. Like heartbreak, there is no pain like heartbreak. I now realise that I learned something very instructive from each one of those relationships and from the fact that they ended. It taught me something that I needed to know about myself. Infertility and miscarriage is not a mishap. Like for people who experience it, it's a tragedy over which they have no control. And the idea that I was exploiting it to make a full-time career out of it was so insulting because I know how fucking painful and traumatic it is to go through. Being vulnerable. Something I think we all find it incredibly hard to do. And after hearing my guest's story today, I had tears in my eyes maybe three or four times. And that's because she is willing to be vulnerable and honest and open about her truth, her trauma, and the things she's learned from her most testing times. Elizabeth Day is a world-renowned podcast host. She's a best-selling author. She's a successful journalist. Honestly, she's quite frankly one of the most wonderful, smart, lovely people I've ever had the privilege of doing this podcast with. In fact, today, one of the issues I had with this podcast was we agree on so much that it's hard to play a doubles advocate with her. It was hard to challenge her views because so many of them represented mine. It felt like she was reading out of my book. I think that's powerful because she helped me build on my ideas. And some of these ideas are controversial. For some people, maybe too controversial. It is remarkable how much societal expectations can cripple your chance of happiness. And I genuinely believe that if we had more people in the world like Elizabeth who were willing to say what she says today, then maybe that wouldn't be the case. Without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett.
Self-Perception In Social Relations And Online Presence
How have social expectations made you feel like a failure? (01:56)
And this is the Diaries CEO. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. One of the things that I wrote recently, which after doing a little bit of reading about your story and your journey, really, really resonated with me, was this idea that society's expectations of how your life is supposed to be going will fuck you up. And when I think about, you've written this amazing book about called "Phailosophy" about failure, I was thinking what is objectively, what is failure? And my conclusion was that failure is like a by-product of social expectations, and as is success. So could you talk to me a little bit about how social expectations have made you feel like a failure? Of course, yeah, I realized I had to define failure after I had launched a podcast called "Hards fail" and after I had written a book called "Hards fail." And then I kept getting asked this very reasonable question. And I realized I'd never come up with a satisfying definition for me. So the definition I came up with in "Phailosophy" is that failure is what happens when life doesn't go according to plan, which totally taps into what you've just asked me about. Because then you need to start to think, well, where does the plan come from? Is it genuinely my plan? Is it genuinely what will make me happy? Or is it what I've been told I should expect my life to be? Because when I looked at some of my metrics for how my life should be, and I put that in quotation marks, it kind of came from like 1980s rom-coms and patriarchal society and conditioning. And the idea that I'd been raised in the '80s to be a nice, pleasant, pliable girl, whereas boys were enabled to be mischievous and that was seen as kind of cute and charming. And that led to me being an in-veterate people, please, which I know is something that a lot of people have in this kind of industry. And it also led to me imagining that I wanted to be married and have children. And that's what I tried to do. And in my 30s, I did get married to the wrong person. I ended up getting divorced, and I tried but failed to have babies and went through various fertility treatments that were emotionally devastating in various ways. And it got to a point when I was 36, divorced, didn't have children, where I really did feel like a failure. And the reason I felt like a failure is because that's what society had conditioned me to believe of myself. Because actually, after I'd got over the pain and the grief caused by that seminal relationship ending and by all of the IVF and coming to terms with my first miscarriage and all of that, I actually felt strong for having withstood it. And I actually felt kind of liberated too because I had no plan for the future. And having no plan for the future can be terrifying. And it can also be this enormous opportunity to change your life and to redefine it according to who you really are once you've stripped back that pretense. So that's one way in which I felt like a failure, but I probably wasn't. It was what I've been told to feel. - So I wanna like pick around this a little bit because I can resonate with this tremendously. In fact, that's why my book has the name it does is because I was conditioned as a black kid who was broke to believe that the thing that would make me a success was becoming this happy sexy millionaire with a Range Rover. And I mean, it's when I wrote in the front page of my diary that, you know, that's a kid from Africa who in Africa had nothing but was, you know, my family were happy. Bring that kid into a context or a context where the context is telling me that unless you're this, you should feel like shit. That's why as a kid, I was like, well, I need to have a happy sexy minute. To be fair, if I'd wrote something else, it would have been white, straight hair. Right? I was relaxing my hair chemically from the age of about 12 till about 16. So my hair was straight. But I wanna go back to this point about society telling you what you should want. Did you ever figure out what you actually wanted? Such a good question. Also, thank you for sharing what you just did. Because I know that. Yeah, you believe like I do that vulnerability is the source of connection, true connection. And that was really beautiful. I think I have figured out who I am now, but I sit here as a 42 year old, having only just figured that out. And the reason I figured it out is because of all of those things that went wrong. Those relationships that ended, that imploded, the jobs that weren't right for me. Like that was what prompted me to do the soul searching. And I'm a big believer in things happening for a reason. The universe unfolding as is intended. Even if you can't make something meaningful as and when it's happening, because it's traumatic and it's devastating, I tend to believe that there will be some meaning in there in the fullness of time. There'll be something that I needed to learn. I wish sometimes I'd learned the lessons more quickly, because I believe I kept being sent the same lessons until I really, really learned the thing that I needed to learn. But I do think now that I'm aware of who I am, because I've redefined my notion of success. So in the past, my success was not necessarily being a happy sexy millionaire, although I wouldn't say no. In the past, I had a very different contextual upbringing from yours. And I'm immensely privileged in many ways. And one of the ways in which I am privileged is that there was a lot of kind of creativity and cultural discussion in my home. I was surrounded by books. I was never taught to feel that that was odd, that I read all the time, or that I wanted to be an author, even though there was no one in my family who did that. So I had those kind of conversations, and that's an enormously wealthy way to be brought up. Even though we didn't have that much money, that was very wealthy. And so for me then, success was about doing well at school. It was doing well academically. And I realized that when I did well at an exam, I got approval, and that for me became a substitute for self-worth. So for a long time, I was on this feedback loop, whereas if only I could just do better and do better at more things, eventually I'll feel I'm worthwhile. And I was on a hiding to nothing, because actually I was outsourcing my sense of self to everyone else's opinions of me, and to kind of external validation. And I've now realized, and it's taken me a long time to realize this, that my only validation that means anything can come from within, and from my cornerstone relationship. So like the four or five people I love most in the world, whose opinion actually means something to me, that's what it is. Now having worked that out, how can I bring my authentic self into every area of my life? And that's why the podcast has felt, and the books about failure have genuinely been such a gift to me, because they've enabled me to connect with a really big audience whilst being my true self, whilst taking the risk to be vulnerable. And that for me is success, being my authentic self in integrated self. So like professionally, personally, and when I'm asleep, like I'm in my friendship group, or when I'm stroking my cat, it's always the same me. - I talk in, so I hate fucking plugging my own book, but the reason I'm doing it is because we very much think the same, and one of the chapters in my book is about making your context smaller and healthier, in an age of social media where I can compare myself to a billion people who are all filtering themselves in fake, I implore people to make their context, which is what you've described, these four or five people, much smaller, like unfollowing me, all the toxic people in your comparison bubble or whatever, and make it tight and healthy. That's so hard these days.
Like how, I'd almost say it's impossible if you're on social media platforms and following the Kardashians or whatever. - How does one do that and also stay on social media? - Well, I need to ask you this, so I'm gonna ask you this after I've tried to answer it, because you have to deal with it on such a massive scale, and I'm just like a micro tiny thing in comparisons. - No, I don't do massive. - But the way, to answer that truly honestly, I'm still a huge work in progress in that respect, because I have the capacity to be undone by criticism, and I take it really, really personally. - Tell me how personally, give me an example. - So personally. - Give me an example. - Okay, two recent examples. One is that I went, a few weeks ago, I went on a lockdown walk with a friend of mine who I hadn't seen for over a year. Socially distanced, it was my daily exercise that I was allowed to do with one person from another household. And I posted a picture of us, socially distanced in a park, on Instagram, being like, you know, this was really good for my mental health, such an enjoyable walk. And someone commented saying, I can't, this is so irresponsible of you to post this, because hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients, and you're encouraging people just to go out and about. And I was like, hang on a second. I was like, that's where I go with it. I was like, oh my God, I've done something wrong. I've done something wrong, and these poor NHS doctors who are working and I've just kicked them in the face metaphorically. And I had this process of like, I've done something wrong, I'm a terrible person, I feel really bad about it. What can I do? Should I reply? I go through that, that's the first place I go. And then I tell myself, no, leave it 24 hours. Leave it 24 hours before you say anything. And then I just feel I have this like, harness that settles around me for a day of feeling unsettled and a bit worried and anxious. And are other people thinking that? Is there a whole group of people out there that they're like meeting up behind closed doors to discuss how awful I am? - I'm not on your council campaign, like. - Oh yes, and it's ridiculous. - You make me a shoulder in your house. - It's awful. And I saw other people who liked that comment. I was like, oh my God, they hate me too. And basically I just have to sit with it for a bit. And it helps me to talk about it, even though I sound completely do lally. But I do, I'm lucky enough to have an office and I'm not enough to have an incredible resource in my husband who is just not on social media at all. And so it's a very kind of sane mind, bring to it. And my best friend who's a psychotherapist. - Okay, great. - And I spoke to her about it. She was like, okay, where I would go with it is what pain is that person in that they've lashed out in this way? And that's very helpful because it encourages you to feel compassion instead of gothat and anger. I mean, that's one tiny example. Another example was, philosophy got reviewed in a couple of places. And I am really proud of that book, but it's a physically small book. I mean, it's got a lot of good content in it. Don't get me wrong. And as you know, it's hard to make big ideas accessible, but I did not expect it to get reviewed in the national press, but it did. And it got reviewed by people who wanted to find fault with it, who did not like the fact that I seem to be exploiting failure for my own success, which is absolutely not the case. Like I want to share the stuff that I've learned. That's all I wanted to do. - It's exploiting failure for your own success. Fucking hell. - Anyway, so that was just like, I went down a rabbit hole of looking at the reviewers' Instagram and all of that sort of stuff, which is terrible. Anyway, I know I shouldn't go down these rabbit holes or self-loathing, and most of the time, I'm able not to. But just occasionally, if I'm feeling low or particularly sensitive that day, it will affect me. And my tactic for protecting myself is absolutely, as you said, to unfollow and mute, to curate my feed, to keep my phone on airplane mode in the morning. So my phone is not the first thing I look at. When I'm writing, I put my phone on airplane mode as well, and I find it a real relief. And also to try and practice the art of generosity and to believe in abundance. Because I think a lot of my mindset around competitiveness or envy is because I believe in a scarcity of resources, and I believe success is scarce, and I believe money is scarce, and love is scarce, and we all have to compete for it. - Yeah, because there are some game. - Exactly. And actually, just flipping the switch and being like, no, the world is abundant, and everyone's success can mirror your own. Like, and if you give and if you come at life from a generous place, then hopefully that will feed back to you. So those are my tactics. - Interesting. - How do you deal with it? - So I think it's important to be honest as well. I've read a lot about this topic. I've spoken to psychologists. I've sat here with guests and asked them about this, and this is probably maybe a liberating but also a terrifying answer. Even I have exactly what you described. - It feels so much better. - Do you know what's funny? When I was laughing, you said to me, you went, oh, I know it sounds kooky. I was laughing because you were telling me my life. You know what I mean? Like, I will get one comment on one thing, and I'll be like, let's look at this Jonathan Davis and find out. You know what I mean? If I can find out how his family are, it'll be just some like flipping comment. Surrounded by a thousand positive ones, but I'm like, I'm going to find this guy's birth records and we're going to find out. You know what I mean? Private investigator. And the way you describe that feeling of like, it bothers you. You're like, shall I respond? Sometimes I respond. I'm like, then I delete it super fast because I make your move rise above. And then I've also felt in the bigger moments where something more controversial has happened, I've also felt that like thing around me for about like 48 hours, that feeling of like anxiousness. Like you describe like, wait, does this, does everyone? You think, well, you're all my friends that are quiet. They all think that I'm finished. You know what I mean? They're not saying anything. Am I adopted? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So here's my, here's my productive inclusion though is one of the things we're not taught to do is to use social media in a conscious way. So we like sign up and then we just go with the algorithm and the algorithm will be like, be pretty or, and then they'll clap for you. Good, good, good. And then it'll be like, you do this and we cut and then it will tell us to follow lots of people who we compare ourselves to and create this really unhealthy context in which we, our self-worth is clearly our, you know, achievement, success and beauty is clearly less than all of these people. And because it's so unconscious, we become a victim to the algorithms and to this, this like awful, toxic experiment. So the, the, the answer for me is just to use social media in a much more conscious way. You've described it there, which is like, unfollow people that are bad for you. Turn off your notifications. Um, when I, on Twitter, when I do a tweet and it goes like semi viral, I know that for the next 48 hours, I'm going to get all kinds of Twitter eggs and all. So I just mute it straight away. I did it last night. I did a tweet, start getting all these responses hit mute and it's disappeared. Yeah. I don't see any responses. That's not what I do. And this is the like conscious, you know, effort that I have to make to keep my context healthy and to protect myself. Yeah. Do you know, I had a really interesting experience on Twitter recently and it's, it's, it's fascinating because I think I care less about Twitter because I don't feel as myself on Twitter. I suppose because I'm super conscious of how you can send out an ill tweet one day and like lose everything the next Instagram. Right. You're wrong. You just feel safer. It feels more like a warm bath, whereas Twitter is like a kind of shower of hail a lot of the time. And, but I, I recently on Twitter, someone messaged me saying, Oh, that thing that was in the time is magazine about you was so unfair. And I hadn't read it. And I then went and looked at the article and it was an interview with another author and the journalist had said, had compared this person to me and a couple of other people and said, you know, now there's this trend I'm paraphrasing for people to use their mishaps and exploit them and turn them into full time careers with nonstop webinars and Instagram lives. And she said, like Elizabeth Day with infertility. And I was like, that sits so badly with me because infertility and miscarriage is not a mishap. Like for people who experience it, it's a tragedy over which they have no control. And the idea that I was exploiting it to make a full time career out of it with nonstop webinars and I've done a webinar in my life, by the way, was so insulting to me because I had a career apart from that and before that. And it's that I choose to use my platform to talk about something that a great deal of people feel a great deal of misplaced shame over. And that was one example. In fact, the only one I can think of where I did respond because it was so deeply, deeply personal to who I was and I felt an attack on my integrity and a complete misreading of what I was trying to do. And I tweeted something that was really calm and that was like, you know, I refute this for these reasons. And it was an excellent lesson in how sometimes it is important to stand up for something. I had an outpouring of incredible support from other people who I'd never met, which meant a great deal to me. The journalist in question had the grace afterwards to apologise. But they changed the wording and the online piece. And if I hadn't sent out that tweet, there would be no record of it having happened. And these things are really important to call out sometimes. So I think when it's an attack on the integrity of who you are and what you do, then sometimes it is worth drawing breath and saying something calmly and just stating your position. And in that case as well, your courage, should I say, to speak about, to have that vulnerability creates a culture where more people will speak out. And that is so powerful and helpful for so many other people who are going through that and can't find a voice that they can relate to and create that sense of understanding by hearing your stories. Same with the mental health conversation over the last 10 years.
People pleasing (20:53)
If people weren't speaking about it, the place would be and is quite terrifying to think of. And you wouldn't say those people have exploited it, right? It's just a, I mean, it's such a nonsense thing for someone to write that I actually don't want to spend too much time talking about it. Quick one, starting from the minute the lockdown is lifted, we're going to start bringing in all of our subscribers to watch how this podcast is produced behind the scenes. It means you get to meet the guests, meet myself and see how we put all of this together. If you want that to be you, all you've got to do is hit the subscribe button. So let's talk about people pleasing. Yeah. You said you're a people pleaser. Yes. Well, I'm a reformed people pleaser. I guess you used to. No, I don't give a fuck what you think. Oh, here we go. Oh, shit. Okay. I really do. Yes. I, like many women of my age was raised in the 80s and early 90s in a culture where it was still very, very gender stereotyped. I mean, we've come so far in the last decade, I think, in understanding that. But as a result, I always thought that my worth as a person was predicated on keeping other people happy. Yeah. I got into a series of long term and organist relationships from the age of 19 to 36. Like that, the biggest gap between those relationships is like a month. Okay. No, because I was like, who am I unless I'm making someone else happy, unless I'm being someone else's perfect partner, unless I'm trying to second guess what they might want for dinner. And when they ask me like, where do I want to go for lunch? I don't know. Where would you like to go? Like that was my life. It was ridiculous. It manifested itself at work as well. I was always the person who said yes to overtime, yes to the commissions that no one else wanted, because I thought eventually I'd be rewarded. And I got a star feature writer job at The Observer, a Sunday newspaper in the UK when I was 29 and I was the youngest feature writer there. And so I felt really intimidated. And so part of my constantly saying yes and showing willing was to try and fit in and be accepted and actually just become an easily exploitable asset. And I realized after eight years of that job that I was never going to be moved anywhere. I did ask, I asked for like different roles, different challenges. And the answer was always no. And it was because I was, I was doing too much where I was like, why would they want to move me? I was providing them with an excellent service where I was. I was making myself too indispensable and I was absolutely refusing to complain. That's what I was going to say. You weren't going to complain. Never. Never asked for a pay rise, Stephen. I mean, which is actually makes me feel slightly sick now looking back because I am a feminist and I do believe women should ask for the pay that they deserve. But I didn't. I was too intimidated. And ultimately, I think people pleasing can start from a desire to be nice and to think of others. And that's a really beautiful thing. But taken to its extreme, which is where I would put myself, it actually becomes very selfish because you never take the time to know who you truly are. And that leads you into situations and relationships that you shouldn't be in because you're not fully giving yourself. You're giving a version of perfection to someone that is never fully real. Yeah. And that able to show who I really was and that's the state of mind I got married in and little wonder that it ended. Is that why you think it ended? Part of the reason, I definitely found it very difficult to find my voice for a long time. What does that mean in a relationship? It meant that I was extremely conflict avoidant. So instead of saying how I felt about something, I would turn it inwards and be silent and then get mildly depressed. So that's a difficult person to be with. They don't seem difficult at all because they're like, look, I've cooked you dinner and I've got all your favorite things. And I've come up with this perfectly thoughtful gift for Christmas. But that's all like distraction. It's all like just don't look at the mess I actually am inside. So I had to do a lot of work on myself. It wasn't the whole reason. There was a whole part of other stuff that I can't go into because it involves someone else. But that was definitely like I do think that when a relationship ends, you have to look at yourself and be really honest about how you played into that dysfunctional dynamic to avoid making the same mistakes. I'm not in a relationship. I've actually really struggled with relationships and I was thinking about this last night when I was working out, I was thinking much of the reason why I've struggled is because I think I'm probably too selfish. I think that I'm uncompromising as well. And it's something that I've tried over the last couple of years to really look like defeat in myself, which is in work, I'm required to be a certain type of person to succeed, which is like quite certain about the right approach, focused, hardworking.
Business communication vs relationship communication (25:54)
A lot of things in the professional environment aren't actually democratic. They're like the big decisions, the buck stops with you. In relationships, communication and compromise and being more democratic in things and really trying to meet someone else's needs are the, I guess, the attributes for success. Yeah. Communication, let's talk about that. How important is it to, from your experiences in relationships that have gone well by your definition and ended by your definition to communicate how you're feeling and what your needs are? It's so important. It's everything. I'm very interested in what you just said there. So I'm going to come back to that question you asked me. The fact that you believe you might need different modes of communication in business and in personal relationships. It's slightly different. This is super controversial because people will think that, so communication is incredibly important in my professional life. It's actually the things, so in my professional life, if I don't want to do something or if I think it's a bad use of my time, I say, no, don't do it, cancel it. Whereas in my romantic life, if I don't want to do, I don't want to go down and walk in the park, but I've got to be like, fine. Do you know what I mean? And I'm super in my professional life. I'm a radical about how I spend my time because you get so many things calling for your time. You have to be like, nope, nope, cancel it, move it, nope, nope. In my professional life, it's like, what do you want to do? Do you want to cook for two hours? Fine. And my brain, is that inefficient use of time? So interesting because in your professional life as well, you're in a position where you need to know the answer, some will come to you for a decision, you need to know. You need to be like a benign dictator and just be like, right, this, that. And therefore, do you think that in your personal life, you don't think it's okay to say, I don't know. I don't know if I want to go to that. It's just like a compromise of like not doing things I don't want to do. Just don't do things you don't want to do, this is so interesting. So my now partner husband is amazing and he's a CEO. And he said to me in the early days of our relationship, I never do anything I don't want to do. And I was like selfish. I was like, I'm a people pleaser. So this is never going to work. But he's the knock on effect of that. Basically what he was saying is, I'm honest. And I will tell you if I don't want to do something. So if I say yes, that yes is really meaningful. And that's such a weight, like it's such a weight of my mind because I'm not having to second guess whether he really means it. When he says he'll come for lunch with my family or whatever, I know that he's invested in that. So actually. I'm your husband for a second. Okay. I go, you say to me, I'd love to go and walk in the park and I go, nah. I want to sit on my laptop and send these emails. And then five minutes and ten minutes later, you go, oh, I would love to cook with you. And he goes, nope, I want to watch YouTube videos about SpaceX. Okay. So I'm your wife. And I say, I completely understand that because you're having a really heavy week at work. I really like to go to the park because I really want to spend quality time with you. And it would make me feel sad if we didn't do that. Then what would you say? I'd say yes. There you go. And do you think you'd want to say yes? Of course I would. Yeah, of course. I don't know why I always fail on this thing. I just think the amount of time and attention my previous partners have asked of me, I've not been able to deliver. And I'm like, I will go, I will text maybe once a day when I'm in the tornado of the business. Yeah, you'll say like justice. Is that right? Yeah. And it doesn't mean I don't love you. It means that I'm in a mild crisis, which I can't tell you about because I haven't got time to divulge all of my bullshit. So. Sorry. How you're really young, aren't you? How old are you? Twenty eight now. And you're dating your age group by me seeming. It's typically a little bit younger. Yeah, you see that's very difficult. It's so difficult dating in your twenties anyway, full stop. But when you're you and you're basically living the life and you have the wisdom of a 45 year old, that's very difficult because the other person hasn't had that life experience yet to know. Oh, you're so right. You're so right. Honestly, you're so right. I'll set you up. I'll set you up. 85 years. Yeah. But communication is the be all and end all for me. And when I met Justin, who is now my husband, it was a really difficult learning process for me because he had a very different mode of communication because he is a founder and a CEO and he didn't have time to text me and I fucking love text. I'm a writer. That's what I don't I hate a phone call. I've had to get used to it now in the global pandemic, but I hate a phone call. I always think I've done something wrong. Whereas Justin was always like, why would I take time to text you when I can just call you and convey the necessary information. And necessary information. Honestly, and he said this thing and I kept bringing it up and I was like, if you if I don't hear from you for like three days, that's really upsetting to me. And it's not going to work if that continues. He's like, okay, I hear that. He's like, for me, text is a very cheap form of communication and it's something you do when you don't really care and I do it a lot for work. So for me, it's much more important to spend time together. Anyway, we've sorted it out and I think that's about having different love languages. I thought you were going to say that at some point. And I made him take the quiz and it was really helpful. He was absolute. Ah, no way. But he was awesome. So am I. Yeah, there you go. It's what you do. Oh, that's so. He was also he wasn't interested in words of affirmation at all, which is mine. I just compliment me all the time. Is he touch? Yes. I thought so. So am I. Oh my God, you're literally like the same person. Yeah. That's yeah. And I was when he took that, I was really surprised. It was quite early days of our relationship and he hadn't given me the impression of needing touch. And then once I once I knew that I was like, oh, that's lovely because I like that too. Are you quality time and there's quality times one of them? Yes. And words of affirmation. Yes, I'm totally so I was totally words of affirmation when we took the test. But I think that's because I'd come off a really bad patch of relationships where I didn't feel safe in those relationships. So I was constantly looking for something to paper over the cracks. And for me, that paper in came in the form of compliments. That was like the easiest thing to ask for. And so that's what I thought I needed, but now actually in my relationship, I feel really safe. So for me, it is quality time. It's still words of affirmation, but quality time is super important. And I now realize that Justin is very good at taking feedback. That's because that's the business brain, isn't it? So I don't need to sugarcoat something. I can say, listen, I need this or I feel this. And sometimes he'll need time. I hope he doesn't mind me talking about it. He's so private. But sometimes he'll need time to think it through and sort of strategize it and digest it. And I always know, it's never that he's forgotten. He'll come back and he'll be like, right, I agree. And this is the action that we're going to take. And it's amazing. And I love that. I really love that. I used to think it was unromantic. It's not at all. It's the most romantic thing because I'm being taken really seriously. And I'm guessing, and this is a guess, but I do say it to him without too much. Like emotion because he sounds like a pragmatic guy. So the way that I like to receive feedback like that from my ex was just very like without blame or like too much emotion and just like here are the facts. Yeah. That's the best way I like to receive feedback. Yes, completely. But do separate to you getting feedback if your partner is emotional and is crying at a film or is sad about something so moved to tears or feeling anxious. So they're fine. Yes. That's fine. Exactly the same. It's just the feed, you know, because you know what I mean? You do want it with judgment. Yeah. And in his business, I'm sure he'll deal with people all day who give him feedback in a very practical, pragmatic way. And that's the way you come used to it. And he'll have the same problems. Me, whereas sometimes in business, you'll get feedback in a very quite and a helpful emotional way. And now you're trying to deal with it. You're not sure which issue you're actually dealing with, right? Yeah. When you present it without the emotion, I understand what I'm aiming at here. This is him as me. Yeah. I feel like a bit of a scumbag for having acts of service as my... No, that's a really lovely thing. But doesn't it sound cheap? It's like I would like you to serve me with, you know what I mean? Yes. I was going through that love language thing. And I was thinking, why is it that someone getting me something that they knew would help me, doing something that they knew would help me, means so much to me? Because for me, because my life is tough and challenging, I see it as them showing an action, which is action speak louder than words, how much they cared about helping me.
I was scared of being lonely (35:16)
Yeah. And for me, that's like, I'm not an arkard, you know? And also probably because you've had to be incredibly self-sufficient. Yeah. Yeah. You were like the definition of a self-starter. You've had to rely on yourself so much that for someone else to step in and be like, I've got this for you. It means a lot, yeah. It's so meaningful. And you're carrying so much. So if someone comes in and says, oh, yeah, I'll carry one of these bags for you, it's like, I thank you. Yeah. You know what I mean? I totally get it. Interesting. One of the things you said was that you were, I guess, scared of being lonely at the end of your life. Oh my gosh, yes. That's my existential fear, that and pigeons. Still. Do you know what? Maybe after this, you know what? Interestingly, the global pandemic has been so tough and so much tougher for so many people than it has been for me in myriad ways. One of the unexpected side benefits is that I've really got comfortable with my fear of loneliness because overnight, my diary was totally empty. So I had no social engagements. I couldn't see friends. And it made me realize that I didn't really want to see the majority of people that I was going to see. Like I'd said yes to social situations that I didn't really want to go to, but I felt like I should and I didn't want to offend someone by not letting them down. That's still the people, please, are in me. And having the freedom to choose who I wanted to invest time in was hugely beneficial for me because I realized actually that my core, my nucleus of people is very, very small. And actually, if I've got Justin and my best friend, I'm good. I'm good. And beyond that, my closest friends, I actively want to see them. But I realized that I was just spending a lot of time not nurturing those friendships because I knew that I would be able to step back into them and I knew that I'd be accepted because that's the level of great friendship, isn't it? Like you're just always welcome back. And I was spending a lot of time trying to nurture these other ones that were less meaningful to me that required more of it because they weren't as generous in their acceptance of me. So actually, my fear of loneliness has slightly lessened now. It's goodness. Yes, isn't it? And although you probably can't tell, I am actually an introvert, but I've successfully learned how to be extrovert and how to pretend I'm confident when I don't feel it and all of that sort of stuff. And I've realized that I'm also pretty resilient when my world shrinks.
Confidence & self-worth (37:53)
So I think I'm going to be okay. So for lining. Yeah. On that point of confidence, it's something that people ask me about all the time is confidence seems to be one of the great barriers of people pursuing themselves, as you described, pursuing their dreams, pursuing who they are. Some people will know who they think they are, but they don't have the confidence to take the leap per se. Are you confident? Yes, in certain things. So I'm confident that I can write. I'm now confident that I can podcast. I can do a good podcast. You're a great talker. I was thinking this as you're speaking. I was thinking, yeah, I was thinking, yeah, I understand why she has a really good podcast. Oh, thank you. You're a very articulate self-aware, but you're really good at talking. Thanks to me. It's like a strange thing to say to someone that you know you are. Well, I think I'm good at connecting with people. And that's something that I really cherish because that's where all the good stuff lies for me. Like, I love having a conversation like this on such a real level with someone and connecting. That's heaven to me. This is introversion heaven. It's like, I don't want to be at a big party, like trying to have this conversation with you. That would be stressful. So I'm confident there. And you'll notice that those are all things that I do. I'm not hugely confident about myself in the sense that I still struggle with self-worth. And I realize that that probably sounds really nauseating for me to sit here in this lovely place being interviewed for this fabulous podcast, drinking my cup of middle-class green tea. It's absurd for me to say that and also self-indulgent. But that's me being really honest. I've just got that that's something that I really struggle with. Just feeling that I'm enough. Interesting. So the conclusive chapter in my book, chapter 20, is all about this topic. And I, because I think, and I spoke to some psychologists and stuff and I batted around with this idea of this contradiction of how I could possibly be enough but ambitious. Yeah. Do you know what I mean? I know exactly what you mean. Yeah. And that's that thing that I always fear. If I tackle my self-worth and I kill myself, will I just have no drive? Okay. So this is chapter 20. Okay. And it's crazy because you would have, you'll resonate with this. I actually started the chapters, set out to answer the question. And I answered as I was typing. And so usually, as you'll discover like in the book is, a lot of the time, it's just a shitty use of words that holding us back. So one of the things like, is he your soulmate? There's so many presumptions within that. That a soulmate exists. You have one of them, you'll be able to find them. And in fact, if you ask yourself, maybe the concept of a soulmate doesn't actually exist. Same thing with are you enough, right? So the term, enough, this is one of my conclusions. The first assumes that we can become less and more. Yeah. How can we become less and more? That's a good point. In, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in intrinsically, how can we ever, how can Elizabeth ever be intrinsically innate, like inside less or more? You're always going to be you. Same hair, same arm, same legs, same talent, same skills, you inherently like intrinsically, never change. Yeah. You never become less more enough. You just are. The, the reason why we have these metrics again is because it's an external extrinsic comparison. So I am not enough, you know, my Nokia is not enough alongside an iPhone. Yeah. So I thought in fact, and then when you have that feeling of like being less and more of enough, what you then pursue is the pursuit of becoming more, but because it was driven by external factors, your ambition becomes externally driven. So for me, I didn't think I was enough. So I was trying to get a Lamborghini. And in fact, it's the, it's the knowing that you never become less more enough, that intrinsic feeling that makes you pursue ambitious, the right things for the right reasons. So once I knew I was enough, I then went after things I actually gave a shit about intrinsically. I stopped going off the Lamborghinis and I started going after like, I would love to do a book. I would love to learn piano. And so my conclusive point is that in fact, it's the, it's the knowing that you're enough. And that in fact, you never become less or more regardless of what you achieve or accomplish. That is the foundation of real ambition. Yeah. Real ambition is for you. It's chasing what you want for your reasons. That was my conclusion. So the enough thing is actually bullshit, which is just social, which then causes bullshit ambitions like Lamborghinis. Yeah. And realizing that you never, you know, you never become less more or enough intrinsically allows you to have intrinsic ambitions. And that is real ambition. That's my conclusive point, which is so, so mind blowing me good. And also connects to that whole thing, that bullshit about soul mates, because there's that belief that a soulmate will complete you. Now what you're saying there, you're saying that you're incomplete in and of yourself. Yeah. And that there's only one true way to, like all of that. I hate that. So the question comes in a very innocent way. It's like, is he your soul mate? And it's the moment you accept it, that you also accept seven other pieces of unintended bullshit, which is like, you're incomplete now, that you've done, you've done, you've a failure at not finding this person. And all of these other pieces of bullshit. It's the same with like, for me, it's the same as like, are you in love or have you found your passion? Have you found your passion? Is it like, I posted about this the day, it's like another just really difficult piece of bullshit to comprehend, because found, I've got to search for it, my passion, there's one of them and it's out there somewhere. And once I find it, it's going to feel great. Passion, what's that? How does that feel? You've said the word, are we thinking of the same thing? The same, so many pieces of bullshit, which I now have to accept. So if there was one thing that I've learned in the last couple of years, it's just like, question the question. Yeah. As much as you possibly can, because the question will fuck you when you accept it. Oh my gosh, I could not agree more. Like also, passion is such an unhelpful word. It's that thing of like, did you feel, did you feel passion, did you feel the sexual, insane sexual chemistry, did you fall in love at first sight? And I'm like, hang on a second, what you're saying there is, did you feel deeply unsettled and chaotic? Yeah.
Interrogating our thoughts (44:35)
Because that's what passion, it's like a disruptive force. I'm like, I don't want to feel, I don't want to feel unstable and chaotic. I want to feel safe and known. That for me is like true romance. Yeah. And a relationship or a business is not a failure because it ends again. Like you could have learned so much, you could have learned what you needed to know and therefore you can evolve and grow. Yeah. And as you say, the act of finding something, what if it's like inside you don't need to be, something you love to do, should be something you love to do that and kind of go on this quick. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But that's what you were saying earlier about ambition being an external driver really feeds into one of the most profound things I've ever learned from doing all this stuff about failure. I met this man called Mo Gouda, he used to be the chief business officer of Google X, but he wasn't happy. And he has a lot to say about expectation versus reality. So if we can manage our expectations of life, so if they're equal to or less than our perception of events and how they turn out, then we can be happy or contented. And he was the one who really brought it home to me that we are not our worst thoughts, that our thoughts are produced by our brain as organic matter in the same way that blood is pumped around our body, by our heart. Like we wouldn't think we would define by our blood. So why would we think that we are our thoughts? Actually, as you know, the premise of all meditation is that you can observe your thoughts. Who's doing the observing? That's you. Why would you need thoughts? You don't need to communicate to yourself. So your thoughts are just being produced by your brain constantly. And I found that really helpful, the idea that once you realize that, you can train your brain to think differently and to replace negative thoughts with positive ones as much as you're able. So he gave this incredibly moving example, his son Ali died at the age of 21 during a routine operation. And then the aftermath of Ali's death, Mo would wake up every morning with tears streaming down his cheeks. And his first thought would be Ali died. And it was an unbelievably oppressive, grief-stricken thought. And after a few more weeks of it, he was like, I just can't live like this. I can't live like this. And so he challenged his brain to come up with a different thought. And each morning he would wake up and he would still think Ali died, Ali died, and he'd still be crying. But he added something to that sentence. And he added, yes, but he also lived. And in that differently expressed sentiment was 21 years of memories of a father and son who were best friends. And that was what enabled him to carry on living. And if he can do that in that situation, I sure as hell can do it when someone criticizes me on Instagram. It was a really helpful lesson. We never really thought sort of taught to challenge our thinking. As you say, do you think it's just, we think it's reality, we think it's true? And we're taught to think we need to use it to be good at exams, to get ahead, to get a good job. Like, that's all thought, isn't it? That's like the exercise of your brain. And don't get me wrong, I love my brain and I'm happy that I have thoughts. But it's that thing of understanding when they're running away with themselves, when they're in control of you. Hard. It is the exercise of a life. Yeah. It like it really is. Trying to rise above your own thoughts is like, yeah. Or at least analyze them, hold them out in front of you and examine them for validity. I mean, you mentioned working out earlier, I definitely find exercise as a helpful way of doing that. Yes. And that's something again, I never thought I was good at sport. And I translated that wrongly as being like, somebody doesn't like exercise until my 30s, really, until I went through all this stuff, divorced, all that sort of stuff. And I needed to feel strong in myself, but that started with feeling strong in my body. And I realized that it was just an incredibly helpful way of being in my body and being out of my head. And it was just such a relief to find that. Isn't it nuts that the way that your brain thinks while you're exercising versus when you're in your normal life? It's just, it's bizarre. It's like a different person shows up and can suddenly see clearly. Totally. So for me, it feels like I'm not really thinking when I mess up, but I am. I will have like processed something that has been bothering me for days. So fascinating. I wonder why that is. I bet somebody knows. Just the like monotony of doing a task or the, you know, whether it's a running machine or just lifting weights for some reason. I don't know, the brain just seems to go to a different place. Most of my good ideas, if I have any, come from, come from the gym or the walking or the shower sometimes. Yeah. Well, that's why people sometimes are kind enough to ask me for writing tips and like how to write. And one of the things that I say is like don't feel guilty for not actually doing the writing sometimes. Like sometimes you literally need to take a walk and be around people or be on the top deck of a double deck of bus and look out the window because your brain needs rest, but it also needs like a creative fallow period where the field is left fallow and then it becomes more fertile in the future. And all of that feeds into your inspiration. It's so true. I, you know, people don't appreciate that. It's one of the real upsides of, of exercise. They think it's to make themselves look pretty, but I think the benefit I've had to my mind through exercises, hard to put into words, maybe the only thing that I love more in the world than heel is salted caramel. And I've got some great news. People have just released their salted caramel, pure flavor, and I am over the moon because I actually got to try this before it came out. And genuinely no word of a lie. There's my favorite flavor of everything. I've got two favorite flavors, toffee and salted caramel. And to hear that he'll now do salted caramel has made my dreams come true. I've been a heel fanatic for the last four years as a lot of you know.
It's the reason that I'm in the ship, best shape of my life. It's the reason why I have the energy I have to do this podcast and to manage the schedule that I have. And as we come into the summer months and my training schedule in the gym has started to change, it's become more important than ever that I don't miss some of the sort of basic nutritional components of my diet, like proteins and like amino acids. And that is where heel fits. So yeah, thank you so much. And fuck me, salted caramel, dream come true. I want to talk about failure now. Which seems like a good thing to talk about. And in your book, "Philosopher", you list seven failure principles. So I'm sure you've done this a million times, but I think it's a good place to start. So the seven failure principles. Yes. Number one, failure just is. Yes. So that actually just feeds in with what we were talking about, which is the idea that failure is a fact, it's inevitable. It's going to happen to all of us. No matter how much we try to avoid it, I guarantee that it will happen. And that can feel scary, but it can also feel liberating because once you've accepted it as a fact, there's no point in trying to avoid it. So you might as well take the risk. So acceptance of failure starts with the observation of it. Failure is a fact, but how you respond to it is within your control. Whether you decide to feel like a failure for many years after the thing that's happened, or whether you think to yourself, "Okay, well, that's taught me something and I'll do it differently next time." I guess the risk there is one bad failure and people stop trying. Exactly. And then I was thinking, this is very similar to confidence in the way that like, if you have one bad failure, your performance next time you get an opportunity, if you actually don't manage to just avoid it completely, will probably be worse because of nerves and that, you know, the memory of "I'm terrible" and then that's going to increase your chances of failing again, and then the kind of like self-negative reinforcing cycle kind of continues and your confidence and your sort of, yeah, your guts kind of cascade downwards and for some people work in the other direction where you have a success, your confidence builds, you walk on stage to do that, you know, public speech next time around with a bit more confidence. You do a better job, which increases your chance of success and it cascades upwards. How failure works from your experience? It can work like that. I mean, to take the example you've just given, one of the ways of looking at that, if you're then stuck in a damn recycle and you're failing and you're trying the thing, is that you're therefore in the wrong situation. So you're in the wrong workplace, for instance, that isn't generous enough to like make you feel okay after your failures or doesn't make you feel like you can be your true self, in which case I would argue you need to remove yourself from that situation and find the place that does suit you or it can be a question of mindset and a question of applying that mindset that we've just talked about, which is okay, I failed, I'm feeling in a downward spiral, how much of that is fact? That's a very difficult thing to do on your own when you're a very low ebb and that's why I'm a huge advocate of therapy. And again, I know that I come from a privileged place where I can afford therapy, but even if it starts with reaching out to your friend and talking about it or reaching out to your work helpline and talking about it or texting, shout the mental health charity or calling the Samaritans, that's a really valuable step. And the other thing that I would say there is that I'm very aware that my definition of failure, which is what happens when life doesn't go according to plan, has a fatal flaw, which is that sometimes there are failures that are totally cataclysmic that we couldn't possibly have predicted that go against any plan whatsoever, like a global pandemic, like a terrible illness that you contract, like the death of a loved one, it would be monstrous for me to sit here and say those failures are as easily assimilated or learned from or dealt with as failing or driving test. Because I'm not saying that at all, those kind of failures will require a process of mourning and coming to terms with the thing that you've lost. And that's absolutely right and as it should be. My only thing is the way that I choose to live my life is I mourn, but I don't have to constantly relive the pain. I can still feel sadness about something, but I don't need to live in that place of reliving it constantly. Becoming a victim. Yeah. And becoming defined by that, I can choose to be defined by something else. I can choose to be defined by my response to it. I can choose to find some kind of meaning in something that was meaningless at the time. And that's how I choose to live my life, because that makes it less sad. And I think that that choice is available for most of us. I think of a conversation that I liked having on this podcast, whereas you're alluding to there is about personal responsibility. And we all have different starts in life and different "advantages" and "disadvantages." How important do you think personal responsibility is even in times where something happened and it's really not your "fault". Yeah. I think it's tremendously important. I want to caveat what I'm about to say by saying, I'm very aware that so are some people who are given more opportunities to fail because of the elitist society in which we live, because of the racist society in which we live, because of a society which marginalizes entire groups of people who know for their own, I'm aware that I, as a white middle-class woman, have been given shit loads of opportunities to fail. So I'm totally aware of that, that there's a sliding scale.
Having to be careful about what you say online (56:04)
You have to say that, right? Yeah. Of course I have to say that. Because I don't want people to think that I haven't thought about it. And I also think that it's important to have the discussion. Oh, that's crazy how many caveats we've got to do before we say anything these days. Like, I don't care that much. We're going to get me into trouble. I find it, when I sit here and I speak to guests and I watch them have to caveat something they're going to say, I just want it so funny because I'm like, I personally do that to some degree, but I also have, I'm like, what are you going to, I don't know, it's interesting. It's interesting because this is a growing thing because you're right, if you hadn't done that, someone would have, yeah. And someone would think, oh, well, it's all very well for her to say that. And like, it's just, it's just a kind of acknowledgement that it's been easier for me in certain respects. Which is fair. And it's been hard in other ways. Like everyone has their own lived experience. You know, like I'm talking from a place of, you know, I wrote a book called How to Fail, which was part memoir, part manifesto. Like a memoir by its nature cannot be intersectional. Like I'm speaking from my own life and I'm bringing in voices of other people who can speak to those experiences because it would be delusional and offensive for me to try. Has anyone ever taken that shot at you been like, well, it's easy for you to say. Oh, yeah. Lowes. Be honest. How does it feel? Well, okay. It did feel before I'd done the thinking like an attack. It did feel like, well, hang on a second, I have worked hard to be where I am. And actually, if you only knew, like there are things that I never talk about or write about that will never be in the public domain because they involve other people. Okay. So I just can't, I choose not to go there. And then, and then I read more about it and talk more about it. And it's absolutely true that I have had massive advantages in my life. And that's a fact as is the fact that I've worked hard as well, but I did have those advantages. So for me to deny that feels really wrong and actually irresponsible. Because now I feel like there's a certain dialogue that is had around women where I feel women are more often challenged for talking about their personal experiences than men are. And maybe you can tell me that. No, I think you're telling the truth. I think I would agree. I agree. And I don't like that. That's crazy. That's so true. Yeah. It's so true. Despite the fact that I feel as though I constantly have to say, I constantly have to show my battle scars and my wounds and my sadness in order to earn the right to a platform from which I can speak and write as a woman. Now there are certain white middle class privately educated men out there who never have to do that apologizing. So true. They never have to do that caveat to people just like, oh, they're quirky. They will say it with their, they will like the quotes like say it with your chest. They will say it with their chest. They'll talk about their success. They'll give advice. They don't caveat anything. It's like, this is how you do it. And it's funny because I sat here with, maybe shouldn't say their name, but I sat here with a young lady who's very successful and she was educated at maybe the best university in the last year. Great, definitely. Yes. I heard it. I listened to it. Yeah. And I thought she dealt with it very elegantly. And why has she got to deal with it elegantly? No, no. Like the point I was trying to make to her is like, why is it that you and Grace have to have to like do this like a salt course of words and caveats because you will. Someone will say in the comment section, oh, it's very easy for, but with my male guests, no, they don't do that. And they don't have to. And they don't get attacked. Can I ask you an off topic personal question about race on the record? On the record. Totally on the record. So I felt really conflicted on social media around Black Lives Matter and the horrendous tragic, to my mind, illegal death of George Floyd. And I was like, but I don't, I felt like I don't need to post on Instagram that I think killing Black people is bad. Like surely that's a given. No, no Elizabeth's silences violence. I'm taking the first one. I know, but I do. So I would love to hear from you like, what's my responsibility? Because I did post a black square because I was like, if I don't post a black square, then that I don't, that feels wrong to me as well. I don't like this is just like, this is a huge issue with society because we're thinking in such binary bullshit ways about these really complex, sensitive systemic issues. It's in that moment. And the reason I did this post on Instagram, it went viral and like everyone's seen it and I've talked about this podcast multiple times mainly because I just had Ant and Lauton. So I've talked about it there. But obviously when we watch a black man get killed for nine minutes asking for his mum, any sound, sort of morally sound human being on planet earth will feel a bunch of emotions. I watched it and I didn't say anything for three days because I just, I just didn't want to see that fucking clip again. No, I didn't want to talk about it. I watched that clip and just thought, Oh, I felt sick to my stomach and I was angry and I was sad and I just didn't want to. And then my DMS in my DMS, I've got all these DMS from people, black people going, you've not stood with us. You fucking butt, I'm just thinking, Oh, fuck off. Like, yeah, I mean, this isn't. And in those moments, what social media in the world will try and do is it will try and make you fit exactly into a camp that, that think in one way, that act in one way, that use one hashtag, that post one thing. And I will not. I know will not. And in that moment, what I posted was defending white people, I guess, or everyone and said, listen, people process things in their own ways. And that's normal. Obviously. Do you agree with that statement? People process, especially traumatic things in their own. Everyone agrees with that sentence. And some people might be thinking they might be reading, they might just be listening. And that's okay. And also my last point here is I'm going to be black forever for my entire life. My kids will also be have a little bit of black in them too. Maybe a quarter black, depending on who I marry. And so if you actually give a shit about changing things, your response isn't a black tile. Your response would be something much more systemic. Your response might be educating yourself and your friends, virtue signaling on social media. For me, that's a sign that you probably don't really care if anything. And like, you can't say that unless you're black. I'm the only person that can say that. Like not that only one, there's more of us. But I mean, like, I'm in my friendship group. I'm the only one that can say them. Because you'd be all of you, be finished off. Every single one of you would get finished if you said anything like that. So and it's a sad all world, because I know everyone in this room agrees. Not one of you can say it. And that's a sad place to be where this isn't a war of ideas. This is a war of like virtue signaling at like, we're not, it's not competition of the best ideas. It's a competition of like, who is correct and who is incorrect. Cancel, accept, cancel, accept. And man, what a sad place. Can't even have a conversation with that someone fucking going to lose your job. Unfortunately unemployed. So no one can find me. I don't really need the money either. So like, you know what I mean? Like the podcast wants us if they thought I was immoral or whatever they could pull out. But no, I think thank you. Because that's, I think you're right. And I think compassion and nuance can't be fitted into the binary world of social media a lot of the time. Never. I'm really sorry because I've completely like. No, really. I'm so annoyed at this. And the thing that annoys me more is I don't think it can be fixed. I don't know. I don't know how it can be fixed. I know the way that algorithms work and I know that they create echo chambers where everyone thinks like you. So the minute anyone in your echo chamber is not thinking like you, the way that they reinforce and reward your thought using these algorithms, you're not going to get rewarded. You're going to get attacked. So it's fighting against, it's fighting a losing battle. At some point, I'll probably be canceled or something. I'm like pretty aware of this because I refuse to, I like to think in nuance. I like to think, I don't think left or right. I think usually the truth is somewhere in the middle often. Yeah. More so than it is on the far left or the far right. And that is a dangerous way to think it's a crime. And for me, that's a form of imprisonment, which is the inability to think and speak for yourself. That's a form of imprisonment in the same way, putting someone in a cage. And for me also not allowing people to express themselves. We've seen the harm that does. We've seen when people can't express their sexuality, they kill themselves more. So I will, I was thinking, I was like, I will not allow myself to be imprisoned, my thought to be imprisoned and my expression to be pretty imprisoned because I actually think the net impact of that is much worse than just someone, there's some writing some shit in the comments section about me. I'd like to be a free thinker. What do you think appears Morgan? Sometimes he hits, sometimes he misses. He's got, he's a bit of a narcissist in some ways. He's like, right, sometimes he's wrong. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. It shouldn't be deplatformed. We can all scream at him, but he's not, he's not like, he's not a racist. He's not doing it. He's not like encouraging people to like hit her at each other. He's not encouraging harm or violence. He has an opinion in which some people disagree with sometimes. Talking about Sharon Osborn, she's been chucked off her show for defending Pierce Morgan. I watched the clip last night of what she said and all she goes is, what is he said that's racist? The host responds to him. It's not what he said. He hasn't said anything racist. It's just his, basically his attitude towards the situation. Oh, come on, fucking hell. But do you think that because we've had millennia of things one way, the transitional phase is always going to have to be extreme as the pendulum swings to one end so that it can then stabilize in the center. We're just living through an age of transition. I like to think that sometimes, but then I know how algorithms work. I think that the algorithms are reinforcing our echo chambers. Every single day, my algorithm is telling me if I'm right or if I'm wrong. It's based on groupthink. It's like these pockets of groupthink. The other thing is, I think about it logically, I think I read this quote one day and it was like, if your opinions and beliefs almost identically resemble the people around you, then they're not your opinions and beliefs. I thought about that a lot and I was like, no, this is true. If we want to get really deep about this, most of our beliefs and opinions come from the society we live in. You've only got to go back 5,000, 10,000 years and see the barbaric things we did that we thought were morally sound and okay to realize that in fact, our opinions and beliefs are mainly given to us by society. In fact, good and bad, if you look at what we did 100 years ago, if you look at what happened and didn't certain parts of the world and history, those people thought they were good and that was the right thing to do.
Almost everyone feels they've failed in their 20s (01:07:27)
What are my opinions today? The majority, what social media and the world has told me is the correct thing to do. How moral are we? If we felt completely moral when we used to like the head people and kill black people and chase it, we thought that was a good thing. Go on, Chris A. So, yeah, it's a lot. Maybe a topic from anywhere. What was I in this book? I'm so sorry. Point number two of the art philosophy. I like the loss of my awareness. It's quickly got the list here as well. So, point number two in your book is you are not your anxious brain. I think you've talked about that. Yes, that's the most important move on. Almost everything feels, almost everyone feels they have failed in their 20s. I mean, not you. So, it's a steam bar line. Still. Do you think you failed in your 20s? Probably personally. Sorry. No, no, no, it's a good question actually. Multiple times. Yeah. Start at my first business at 18, it was a killer failure. I left that when I was 20 years old. Felt in those relationships. Felt every day in business. Not the big, like momentous failures other than my business. Like one would assert. But probably more than anybody's be fair. I think that's so great to hear. And also, I think that a lot of people struggle in their 20s, particularly in this day and age because of the curse of comparison and because we live in a culture of curated perfection, where you're constantly comparing yourself to your peers' filtered appearance on Instagram and the life that they seem to be living. So, we're comparing our insights with everyone else's projection of their outsides. Exactly, yeah. And for many people, although I know not you, but for many people, it's the first time that they've come out of full-time education and come out of a system of exam and reward, exam and reward. And there is no exam that you can sit to show that you're being a good grown up. So you feel quite lost. Plus piling on top of that, the pressure to find your passion, to like make a career for yourself, but also to earn enough to pay your rent, living in house shares, like just trying to make your way and trying to forge your identity in this day and age. It's just so hard to do all that at once. And then you're like, "Oh, and I should be having like a thriving personal life and I should either be in a long-term relationship or having white night sounds and making foot loose and fancy free and drinking roads." And then at the weekend, making vegan brownies because I got to watch what I eat and all of that sort of stuff. And it's exhausting. And so really what I wanted to say in that failure principle was that so many people come up in podcasts and say that they feel they failed at their twenties. And I think a lot of us fall into the trap and I did too of believing that we had to have our life sorted out by then.
And actually your twenties are a decade of transition of discovering who you are, of grinding up the spices of life in your pestle and mortar. And the older you get, my experience has been the more you know yourself and the more you know what you want to do. And that's where success lies. I've had so many more opportunities after leaving my twenties behind in the rearview mirror. Wow. Everything else I had, you really thought about that. You've got a book on it. Number four, breakups are not a tragedy. Your ex-partner has taught you something. Yeah. One of the things you said which I was really really powerful is that a relationship ending doesn't mean that it failed. That's it in a nutshell. I've had countless failed relationships and it sucks. Like heartbreak, there is no pain like heartbreak. I hate it. It's the worst, isn't it? It's the worst. It really, yeah, I totally relate. And I now realise that I learned something very instructive from each one of those relationships and from the fact that they ended. It taught me something that I needed to know about myself. Because I realised that love that was ready for me, I didn't need to fight to convince it. It would meet me where I was and it might not come in the package that I expected and it didn't. I met Justin on a hinge date that I almost didn't go on. And it doesn't immediately feel like the thing that you thought you wanted because actually that hasn't worked out for you. So it's always better to make a different choice I think. So yeah, it's just about how although relationships feel that they might be life ending at the time, they never, when they end, they never, never are. And often someone has been sent to you, whether it be a friendship, a work colleague or a lover, to teach you a lesson that you needed to know. And when a relationship ends, it's because you've been taught that lesson. God, it's a shitty lesson to learn and also like when you go through a breakup as you've described there, not letting it end is part, in my experience, of the relationship with the reason why something new doesn't start. Yes. Oh, that's so yes. That's what Oakford would call a teachable moment. Is it? Yeah. You need to create the space for the new thing to come in, which means leaving something behind. But I talk about a little bit before about quitting being just as much of a skill in an art form as starting. We glamourised starting, but there's a real talent, not yet there's a real skill to knowing how to quit, how to move forward. Because starting is great, but the thing you do before you start something is to quit something else. Yeah. And that is, I mean, just from reading your books and stuff and listening to the interviews you've done, not appreciated enough. Because it involves uncertainty, you're throwing yourself off a cliff sometimes and building the paraglider as you fly. Yes. And we're also taught to avoid feelings of sadness, like good vibes only. And you're like, no, actually, sometimes you need to be in that sadness. You need to feel that discomfort to understand what life really is. Life is texture. It's all sorts of emotions. And when we feel grief because a relationship has ended or because we've lost someone, that, as that famous quote says, is the price you pay for love. And in a way, it's a beautiful thing to feel because it's a signifier of how much you love. It sucks though. I know. It just doesn't. It just sucks. Like, I just giving people advice and heartbreak, I feel like it's such a, for me, when I'm like in my DMs and someone sent me something about, I've just broken up with this person and whatever. Yeah. Like, an intoxicating force, like heartbreak, that I'm like, my words aren't going to help you. You just basically have to tough it out and to try as much as you can in believing that your future will be better. Yeah. You'll get past this. And believing that rejection is protection. If you're rejected, that person is not for you, either because they've been stupid enough to fucking reject you, or because action is character. And if they've dumped you, it's like, well, do you really want to trust that person for the rest of your life? No. I'm going to. Is that true? And I'm playing devil's advocate here intentionally because I actually didn't know the answer. If you get rejected, is that person not right for you? I mean, yes, I think, but I suppose it depends on the nature of the rejection. Like, it has to be a serious one. It can't just be an unread WhatsApp message, like that you're interpreting as a rejection. And they like full on rejected. Yeah. I think that's, listen, I don't know if it's true or not, but it's what I choose to believe because it makes me feel better about life to believe. I think by the definition you gave of like, well, they didn't appreciate you. Yeah. What about like, how, if we think about taking responsibility in those situations and we say, okay, my relationship with this guy that I loved ended, because I have problems, when I say problems, like I have jealousy or I have things that I haven't dealt with, is that also, you know, that's sort of, it's hard for people to do that. Yeah. The blame is super easy and heartbreak. You're so right. And that's where personal responsibility comes in. And so in the immediate aftermath of a breakup, you're going to probably feel heartbroken and really sad. Once you've processed that, then it's, then your responsibility is to understand what part you played in the dynamic. But for those first few weeks, do whatever you need to do to get through. And if you need to blame someone and just keep saying rejection is protection and like, what a loser, do it because you just need to get through that initial phase of awfulness. I actually, my last serious breakup, I was in such a dark place, I googled how long does it take to get over heartbreak? It's like, actually, that was a really good six weeks I did feel better.
It was a good, it was like a manageable length of time. And I was like, okay, I'm going to feel miserable for six weeks. And once you commit to the acceptance of that, it becomes a lot easier to deal with because you're not struggling against feeling it. You're like, well, I'm on track because I'm now week four. So yeah, I'm still feeling miserable. That's okay. And it somehow makes you feel better. No, I get that. Yeah. Are you post breakup right now? Not post breakup. No, I'm post something ending. Okay. I'm sorry. No, no, it wasn't. It was, it was, I consider it to be a choice that I made. Okay. Yeah. So that's not necessarily the best example. The real significant heartbreak moments I had were all when I was, when I was younger, really. And yeah, and it just always sucked. But obviously I've got a lot of friends that are going through breakups and stuff. And it's always difficult to give them advice because you're, they're so, their head is gone. Like the other way I can describe it. There's no sense that when it matters of love, it's just all. So yeah, just asking them to tough it out, I think is, is all I've ever got in terms of advice. Well, now you can give them a copy of Fence. Well, there you go. Point number seven. When we choose to share our vulnerabilities is when we feel most satisfaction. Most connection, I think is what I said. Why is it so satisfaction on my list? I don't know. I like that too, because you probably do feel personal satisfaction. It's like, but when we choose to be open about our vulnerabilities, that's paradoxically when we find the most strength and the source of the most real connections with other people. Amen. Yeah. And that's something that I have genuinely learned through the podcast. The first season of the podcast I did, I was very much, I came from a very traditional newspaper journalist background. So for me, it was like, I'm interviewing my guest. I will ask the questions and I will listen and then I will ask another question. And it was only as time went on that I felt more comfortable sharing my own experiences. And whenever I did that, I had such an incredible feedback loop of like just amazing people sharing their stories and their vulnerabilities and also saying that they felt less alone because I shared mine. And really, that's what my entire life was about ultimately is connection. And so I really want to encourage people not to be scared of opening up about the things that they perceive as their weaknesses, because so often what you think of as your most personal shame turns out to have most universal resonance. And that was certainly my experience talking about fertility and miscarriage and divorce. Like actually, that's where I've had the greatest impact, I think. And I'm so grateful for that. Why do you think that is? Why do you think in terms of like why it has such wide resonance? Why do you think that is? Because I think that when we're vulnerable, we're being real and we're letting our masks slip and you'll see a glimpse of who the authentic person is. And there's something just absolutely quintessentially human about that. So it's a human recognizing another human. It's a human recognizing another human beneath the pretense. And I think it also reassures people because as we've been talking about in this culture that we live in, which is so defined by social media and how you appear and the currency of perfection. And again, it's such a relief. It makes you feel like you can breathe. Someone's like, Oh God, I'll tell you back today. I sat in bed in my bajamas eating homeless direct from the tub because I felt really down. That's an act of singular generosity to someone else who can then have the space to talk about how they're feeling. Is there any such thing as too vulnerable or oversharing? There's, I don't think there's any such thing as too vulnerable. I do think there is such a thing as oversharing. And I only say, I say, I make that distinction because oversharing is about telling your story to others. And obviously there are right and appropriate times and places to do that. I'm not advocating that someone goes into work and just starts sobbing at their desk. There's definitely a time and place for that. But I wouldn't suggest doing that every single day. Like to protect yourself, you need to find a safe space that you can share those vulnerabilities with and then build up your strengths and your confidence and realize what it is that you do want to speak more publicly about because I don't think that you can share with everyone immediately after you've experienced pain. Like that's too soon. And also you can't trust everyone to honor what you're sharing. So I don't think you can be too vulnerable, but it's a question of choosing the things that you then take your vulnerability and share from and who you share them with. That was such an inadequate way to say that. No, it's a really... It's basically that bad. No, yeah, no. I completely... I was thinking when you were saying it because I remember having a conversation with one of my team members in New York one day where I was trying to... The issue you have when you're a CEO is someone might have some struggles, some mental health issues or they might have some problems going on at home. How do you tell them without being a dick to not broadcast that every day to their team below them, but also knowing the importance of speaking and expression is part of the cure. So I remember having a conversation with one particular person and just saying to them the key thing is knowing the right outlet for that. Yes. And you wouldn't describe that as the safe space. Exactly. And that can be a different safe space for different people. It can be your therapist, it can be your sibling. It can be the in-house therapy that your workplace hopefully provides. But I also think that it goes back to what we were saying earlier. If a team leader is in that position, I think it's about being able to bring your authentic whole self to work, but being able to show that you're not defined by the things that have gone wrong. Or if you are defined by it or defined in a good way in that you're choosing to lean into this particular feeling because it's going to teach you something that you need to know, that's the sort of responsibility of a leader, I think. It's not to pretend that everything's fine and to wear this mask of the perfect boss. It's to be someone who acknowledges that life can be tough and who shares what they're going to do about that. I think we need to have confidence in our leaders that they have an idea about what to do with it when they're sharing it in the workplace. And this is the problem with Matt Hancock being such a robot, isn't it? Oh my gosh, don't you think he started on that? I don't know if he experiences emotion. I probably shouldn't say that because that's unfair. But I just look at this guy and I think, do you understand what people are feeling? I don't think you do. It's the problem with so many politicians. I was so inspired by Angela Merkel recently because she apologized for having overturned a lockdown ruling over Easter. She's like, "I'm really sorry I got that wrong." I was like, "Oh my gosh, thank you. Thank you." Just quickly to go back to oversharing. And Jacinda. Oh my gosh, Jacinda. Jacinda, I mean, we both need to get her on our private podcast. We really do.
Infertility and miscarriage (01:23:32)
Oversharing, as it pertains to women just very quickly, I think women are often shamed into silence and I've definitely experienced that. So I'm being like, "Why do you talk about all this stuff? Why don't you keep it private?" And I'm like, precisely so that I attack that kind of narrative because I feel that so many people feel shame and stigma over things they don't need to feel it for and it's because people stay silent. So I think it's also a bit of a stick with which to beat women. I completely agree. Is there anything you wouldn't share that doesn't involve someone else? Oh, that's a great question. Because every time you hit a wall in terms of what you're willing to share, it's because you say, "Well, that involves someone else, so I won't share." But is there anything about yourself that you wouldn't share that doesn't involve anybody else? I am still determined to be a mother. When I get pregnant, I will have, I don't think I would share that publicly because I would feel fearful and anxious and also because I have such respect for women who are going through fertility issues that I would just never do that. But that involves another person, the one that I'm carrying. So I'm not sure whether the parameters of your question really fit around. But that is one thing that I've thought about. Yeah. So that's quite a heavy answer. That's a really interesting point there about that you wouldn't want to share it because you've probably resonated, well, of course you are, I can probably, and you've resonated with a lot of women who are going through that same experience and you've probably got a lot of those people in your audience. So for some of those people, it might, I mean, humans are humans. The news that when you have your own child might feel like shit to them. Definitely. And I respect that because I've been there and I felt it and I feel it still. And I totally understand that. I feel it. It's like a jealousy of it's like an envy or like a yes of women that have a child or that. Yeah. I mean, it's never personally directed. It's just a sort of envy or yearning would be a better word for an experience that thus far has been denied me. And I think lockdown and the pandemic has been so hard for all women. And it's been incredibly hard for people homeschooling their children. But for people who don't have children and desperately yet long for that, for people who are going through fertility treatment that's been delayed by the pandemic, for people who've experienced miscarriages during lockdown, as I have, it's incredibly painful to see parents complaining about homeschooling and how difficult that is to have these children that they have to homeschool. That's a very difficult thing. Now, no one is to blame for that. I take personal responsibility for my reaction. And that's where I need to curate my social media feed. That is absolutely not the thought of the parent question. They should totally do that and lean into it. And that is completely right and appropriate. That's up to me to take that responsibility on. It's just that I know I wouldn't feel comfortable shouting it from the rooftops because I know how fucking painful and traumatic it is to go through. I really do. Listen, so your vulnerability and your honesty is really moving and it's very, very rare. And I can't even begin to imagine how many people, women, you've helped because of your vulnerability. You probably don't even get to see it. So I want to thank you on behalf of all those people. As I was reading about your story and your journey, I was really taken aback by how open and honest you're willing to be because you don't need to be, right? I'm sure that you've described in some of the things you've written. You've discovered that it's actually really almost paradoxically quite a selfish thing to be so selfless in that way. But I think you're just remarkable. And I think what you've written and the work you've produced is phenomenal. And I just wanted to thank you so much for coming here today and being as vulnerable with me as you have been across all of your other work. It's truly a, you know, it's a fortunate, we're fortunate as a society to have people like you in it. Oh, so nice. Thank you. Thank you for giving me a safe space and for making me feel like I can be vulnerable with you. I have loved this conversation so much. I really truly have. And I love that I've been able to swear. But also, what you do and what you stand for. And honestly, your Instagram page, I don't know how you have so much wisdom at such a young age, but we will find your perfect match. Please, please do. Your book, "Philosophy," it's everywhere. I actually went down to St. Prane Chris yesterday just to get it. Got it off the shelf. I think, yeah. Where else can people find you and what else are you working on that they should check out the podcast as well? How to Fail? Yes. That's a smash hit book, Sunday times bestseller. Yes. I wrote another book before that called "How to Fail." Originally, everything I've ever learned from things going wrong, which is my memoir, "Part Memoir, Part Manifesto." The podcast available on all podcast platforms. I'm on social media @illysabeday. And I've got a novel out. My new novel is out in September and it's called Magpie. And it's about... It is... Okay. I have to be a bit vague because there's a massive twist in it. And it's a sort of psychological, twisty novel. But it's about a lot of what we've been talking about today. It's about dysfunctional motherhood and what happens when you think you know what you want and then your dreams come true and then it just turns out to be a total illusion. Oh, wow. Have I sold it? Is it a thriller? Yeah, it is. It's basically a thriller driven by kind of warped characters. Okay, interesting. And I'm obsessed with Magpies. That's why it's called Magpie. I don't want to have to be a guest. I don't want to have to be a guest. Sorry? Do you sleep Magpies? I don't know. I don't think I don't know. No one ever told me that tale. But thank you so much again. And it means a while to me that you came and made the time for this today. And I'm sure that you've imparted a ton of important inspiration on our listeners. So thank you. Thank you for having me.