On today’s Calmer You Podcast I speak with Marianne Power the Author of Help Me!
We chat about:
- Facing your fears (Marianne has done some incredible things!)
- How Marianne upgraded her identity to be a more confident person
- The things that Marianne has found most (and least) helpful on her self help journey
- How to overcome a fear of public speaking
- Powerful and Reassuring advice for those with anxiety and depression.
My confidence challenge is coming up at the end of Feb:
5 days to become more confident, connect with others of the same path and have fun. It’s one of my favourite offers and totally free. Join at www.calmeryou.com/confidence
A special offer from our sponsor
This podcast is sponsored by Blinkist. Get a 7-day free trial and 25% off when you head to www.blinkist.com/calmeryou
Chloe: Hello, and welcome to the Calmer You Podcast. This is the place to be to become your calmest, happiest, and most confident self. And this is your host, Chloe Brotheridge. I am a coach and a hypnotherapist. I’m the author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl. Today, I’m so lucky to get to speak the Marianne Power, who is the author of the brilliant book, Help Me, which is her experience of reading a different self-help book every day for a year, and putting things into practice, and seeing what the results were for her. And this book is firstly, very, very funny, and secondly, very helpful, comforting, inspiring, reassuring. There are practical assets in there as well. I really think you’re gonna love it. And so myself and Marianne talked about facing your fears, and Marianne really has faced a lot of fears and she shares some of the incredible things that she’s done through the course of writing this book, and I think it’s quite amazing. I’m very, very in awe of her.
We talked about the things that Marianne has found the most, and also the least helpful from all the things that she’s tried on her self-help journey. We also get into how to handle her fear of public speaking. So, many of us struggle with this, and Marianne shares really beautifully about her experience of that and what she’s doing is overcome it. And she just gives some really reassuring, lovely, comforting words of advice to people who are struggling with anxiety and depression. And this podcast, I hope is going to feel like a big hug and a reassuring message that you are actually okay. And you’re not as bad as you think you are basically. In fact, you’re wonderful. So, I really hope you’re going to enjoy this episode. If you’re looking to become a more confident version of yourself in 2020, then I want to invite you to come on over to see my website and join me in the upcoming confidence challenge where every day I’ll be sending you free resources and invites to connect with our community to grow your confidence in five days in very, very simple, simple and fun steps and with simple fun exercises. So, you can join us, we’re going to be starting soon over at CalmerYou.com/Confidence. So, let’s get into the interview with Marianne Power. Welcome, Marianne, thank you so much for joining me.
Marianne: Thank you for having me.
Chloe: I’m really excited to speak to you. Can you tell us what it is that you do and basically how you got to where you are today?
When rock bottom turns out something amazing
Marianne: So, I’m a writer, and my first book, Help Me came out, I think a year ago. Yes, September 2018. And I’ve spent the last year traveling the world talking about this book. And I got here by two things, I guess, being very unhappy and starting this project, which started life as a blog with me spending a year reading loads of self-help, and following all the advice it gave me to see if it could fix my life. So, it’s funny how sometimes like your rock bottoms can turn into something quite amazing. And before that I was a freelance journalist for years, writing for papers and magazines. So, the writing has always been there.
Chloe: Amazing. And I loved your book. It’s really really funny, really hilarious and relatable. And I relate to it a lot because I’ve read a lot of self-help books.
I think a lot of people relate, so it’s absolutely brilliant. When did you get into self-help? Was it quite a new thing or was it you’ve always been into it?
My first self-help book
Marianne: No. I was in my early 20s and I just finished university and I was in a job I hated. And I was in Oxford Circus drinking cheap white wine and complaining about my life. And a friend gave me, I was probably about 23, a copy of Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. And I was really snooty about it. I did English Lit at university and I like to think I wouldn’t read cheesy books like that. And she gave it to me and said, “It’ll just make you want to do things, read it.” And I went home and just gulped it. I loved it so much, it was so exhilarating and positive and that kind of candy voice which was the opposite to my own voice. And yeah, after that, then I was hooked. I was reading them secretly, constantly. I didn’t tell my friends about it, but I was. And I remember in the early stages, being very embarrassed, going into book shops and buying self-help books. And now that embarrassment has gone. It seems to have become much more mainstream and acceptable to kind of admit, I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m looking for some advice.
Chloe: I think self-help has become so much more popular, hasn’t it? And I’m detached from it to be honest because I’m so in that world, I have no idea whether there still are people that think it’s embarrassing to read self-help. But yeah, I think it’s definitely become trendy now to be into that.
Marianne: Yeah, there’s so much more openness about anxiety and depression and things that for years, I’m 42 now, for years in my 20s, and even in my 30s, I felt it was a total personal failure that I wasn’t happy. And I was mortified to admit to being depressed. I just thought it was a personal failure. And now like, within the last few years, we seem to have come into a really different climate where people are talking about it. And we realized that it doesn’t matter what it looks like on Instagram, people are not leading these perfect lives. I used to really think other people had it sorted, and I was the only weirdo who wasn’t sleeping and was anxious. And, of course, so many of us are like that. Once you start being honest to yourself, then everyone can go “Oh, me too.” And it’s such a relief.
Chloe: Thank you so much for saying that because I definitely relate to that as well, this thing of, I remember experiencing a lot of social anxiety and that thing of like, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal,” and the shame that comes along with so many of these mental health issues that we’ve done something wrong, if we could try harder or why we’re like, this we’re broken, all these things. And actually we had such a relief that people are talking about it more and I think we need to talk about it even more than we are now and really get that message home. Because still for so many people they’re in that sense of shame and– [crosstalk]
Marianne: Yeah. And it’s horrible once you’re in it because at the moment I’m in quite a good patch. And so I can look at things with a sense of perspective. But when you’re actually in that black hole, either of depression or anxiety and/or if you’re in a job you hate and it’s so overwhelming, isn’t it? And all you all I could see was people around me functioning perfectly, and I wasn’t. And now, now that I’m in quite a good place, now. I can look more rationally and go, everyone’s struggling. But when you’re struggling yourself, it’s very hard to remember that. And part of the thing with the book that I’ve written about what I learned through all these self-help books, the huge learning I come to the end is that just nobody has it together, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, and that we’re all just trying our best and we’re all gonna have good days and bad days. And also to try and this is what’s hard sometimes, excuse me, to try and treat it all with a little bit of lightness. So, the humor in the book is really important because humans were a bit ridiculous, really, aren’t we? We make things so hard. And it’s– Yeah, so I try to remember to laugh at myself along the way.
Chloe: I think that’s one of the things that I’m really taking away from the book, the sense of if you can sort of step back from things and just connect to that sense of humor, you can see the funny side of even the dark thoughts that we have or the things that seems so sort of embarrassing at the time.
Marianne: Yeah, they’re funny if you can own those stories, they’re so brilliant that, yeah, the embarrassing stuff that you would just rather just never set foot in the world again. My friend talks about this that you know, when you– when she remembers the teenage school discos and trying to chat up a guy, she said that afterwards, the feeling of embarrassment and cringiness when you’ve been rejected meant that she went home, “I’m never leaving the house again, ever.” But that’s what makes you human. And if you can somehow face those feelings of embarrassment, and laugh about them and say them out loud, it’s actually such a bonding thing, isn’t it? Because we’ve all had those moments where you’ve done interviews and you said the worst thing or you’ve just been brutally rejected by someone and it’s horrible. But if you can say them out loud, to someone who deserves to hear it, as Brene Brown says. She says “You must confide in someone who deserves to hear it, not with everyone.” And then you can just laugh and laughter is quite healing, isn’t it? It makes it a little bit smaller rather than a massive thing.
Chloe: Totally. And I think in your book, it just gives us permission to laugh at our own rejections. And a few of the rejections I’ve had in my life I kind of was like, passing through my mind now and to remember to laugh at those. You have touched on this slightly but one question I like to ask people is how are you really?
Marianne: So, really right now, I’m so content, which is quite rare. The promotion for the book over the last year was big and it was exciting, but also quite overwhelming. I was traveling a lot and being interviewed on TV and radio, and just it’s very odd to be asked so many questions about yourself and in such a public way. But that publicity schedule sort of quietened down for the summer and I took most of the summer off. I just did nothing this summer and rested so much. So, right now I’m feeling quite serene and rested. I feel like I’ve got so much sleep in my system and yeah, it’s lovely. So, I’m appreciating it. Instead of trying to find things that I should be worrying about that I’m not worrying about, I’m actually just enjoying this period of just nothing– Nothing’s to worry about at the moment. So, yeah, it’s rare. So, that’s not a fake answer because I would normally find it much easier to go into the everything that’s wrong, but really right now my life is quite blessed. Yeah.
Chloe: That’s such a good feeling to know that there’s nothing to worry about. And so often we do give ourselves things to worry about. And I noticed it myself, my brain, I was thinking the other day, like everything’s like really good, like surely there’s something to be concerned about.
Marianne: Yeah, just let it be. But I think that’s meant to be a kind of survival, a part of our evolution, isn’t it, that we’re always scanning for problems because that’s what kept us alive. So, that’s part of our system we’ll try and do that. Yeah.
Chloe: So, at least the anxious people would have survived.
Marianne: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, yeah.
Chloe: Yeah, definitely. Can we talk about facing fears? And you talk about quite a few things that you have done to face your fears. What has been your experience? Can you share a little bit about what you’ve done to face your fears?
Marianne: So, as part of my self-help project, I picked a different self-help book each month, and for a year did everything they told me to do. And the plan was that by the end of the year, I would be this perfect person who would have eradicated all my flaws. I wanted to be like one of those shiny magazine people that you read about that they get up at 5 am to meditate and do yoga before running their multi-million-pound business and have their hot husband, and that’s what I was aiming for. Which spoiler alert, doesn’t happen at all. But the first book I followed was Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, because it was the first self-help book I ever read. And also because its rule is very simple, that you have to do one scary thing a day. And when I started the project, I didn’t want it to be a kind of a navel-gazing exercise. I really wanted to kind of go out in the world in a different way. So, in that month, I basically did more scary things than I’ve done in my entire life. I did stand up comedy, naked modeling for an art class, I jumped out of a plane, did public speaking, and then terrifyingly opened my bank statements. So, I did small things that I normally put off like opening bank statements, parallel parking, answering the phone, I still am really nervous around the phone, especially if it’s a number I don’t know. I always think I’m about to be in trouble. So, I would answer the phone. And then the big things, which for me, the most frightening thing I could think of doing with stand up comedy. Like I find that even stressful watching the professionals do it.
Chloe: That’s gotta be up there for a lot of people.
Marianne: It was the most terrifying thing and I did it. I went to a kind of a course, a weekend course, where you get taught by a comedian, it was a group of us. And then we did a set on the open mic night in a pub on a Sunday night. And I can’t believe it, but it actually went well. People laughed, and I came offstage, just completely stunned. And in that minute, it was like I had to recalibrate who I was, because the fact that I had done something like that, and not only had I done it, it had gone quite well. It completely changed my perception of myself because at that point, I got nervous speaking and meetings. And as a journalist, I’ve been invited to sometimes go on the radio to talk about articles. I always said no, anything that involved speaking. Like something like this, I would have totally said no to. So, the fact that I then did an open mic night in a pub and it went well, yeah, it was fantastic. Very stressful, I sweated a lot and it was a real definitive moment in my life. And even now, I’m asked to do a lot of public speaking and I’m doing a TEDx this weekend, which I’m slowly getting nervous about. But compared to stand up comedy, very few things can now properly get me, because stand up comedy to me was, yeah. And I will say chatted up a man on the Northern line.
Chloe: I love that part of the book.
Marianne: It was my flatmate who gave me that suggestion because anything to do with men and dating was not my strong point. I was so under-confident. And she’s like, “You should chat up a man on the tube.” And was like “Ha, ha, as if.” And she said, “No, you should, and it needs to be the rush hour.” So, that’s what I did. And I learned that embarrassment doesn’t kill you. It’s kind of it’s icky at the time, and then quite quickly after, there’s this feeling of euphoria. Even if things don’t go that well, just to have the courage to have done something, it’s really, it’s own reward actually, no matter how the thing goes, just to be that brave for a few minutes. Yeah.
Chloe: That’s so inspiring. I often talk about how it’s so easy to think that other people don’t feel scared when they’re doing something.
Marianne: Not true. Yeah, they do, they do.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
Chloe: They do.
Marianne: You can’t necessarily tell from looking at them or you just don’t know what’s going on inside another person. And that’s what Susan Jeffers, who wrote Feel The Fear And Do At Anyway says. She says that when you see successful, amazing people who are out there like climbing mountains and starting businesses or going up and asking people out, we think they’re different to us. They’re just made differently to us. And she said, “That’s not true. The only difference is that they don’t let fear stop them.” Every single day they will, because we all will feel fear about doing something new. Even if that’s parallel parking. Anything you do new is going to give you that feeling in your tummy of like, “Oh, God I don’t wanna do it, I don’t wanna do it.” And that’s a survival technique too because your system is kind of always going are you sure you need to do these things because we don’t quite know how it’s going to work out. But then once you do it even if it bombs, there’s this energy that gets into your body of like God, life is different in this minute. I’m a different person. And I think for a lot of us and for me too, a lot of the depression came from this feeling of being stuck. I’d put myself in a prison really of my own insecurities and anxieties. And when you do new things, it wakes you up. Yeah, I recommend it. And also then you can laugh when it goes really badly, you know, in this day chatting up the guy in the Northern line did not go well. That I was going to dinner you know dinner with friends afterwards, I just blurted it all out. And we had the best night because everyone found it so funny and they thought I was amazing. And that night wasn’t that whole how’s work, fine. It was a proper in like engaged conversation of like, oh my God. Yes, it makes life interesting.
Chloe: I love that, I love that. It’s really inspiring. I would love to do stand up comedy. I think I might make that as something to do next year. If you go on a course first, at least you’re a little bit equipped and you’re not just like, come on. I love that.
Marianne: Yeah, no, totally. And I think it’s good training for everything; for public speaking, for communication because with like making jokes, you have to really whittle down your word. So, it’s just a good discipline for loads of things. And I’ve met a professor, she’s a scientist, who did a year long stand up comedy course because she wants to make her lectures better. Not because she wants to be a comic, or she even thought she was that funny. But there’s something about the people that can use humor and know how to deliver a line, that’s a skill that you can apply to everything.
Upgrading your identity
Chloe: And what you said about upgrading your identity, I think that’s such an important point for people that actually, it can take one decision in the moment to actually go for something, to strike up a conversation or sign up for the course. And actually, you do that and then things within you start to change, come into alignment with that new identity of someone that does so stand up comedy.
Marianne: Yeah, I know and I still can’t believe it. But it’s yes, I’m now somebody who does public speaking, which would have been incomprehensible to me not so long ago. But yeah, once you do things a few times, then it becomes like, yes, this is part of what I do now.
Chloe: Yeah, brilliant, brilliant.
This podcast is sponsored by Blinkist. In today’s age, it can be hard to find even a brief moment to disconnect and learn something new. It’s not easy with everyone and everything competing for your time and attention. And so you might think that you don’t even have time to read a book. And I know that I’ve been there as well. If this sounds familiar, there’s an app that I really want to recommend to you. It’s called Blinkist. Blinkist is an app that condenses best selling non-fiction books down to their key takeaways for you to read or listen to in 15 minutes. Blinkist is made for busy people like you. You want to understand the main points of the book quickly without having to read the whole thing cover to cover, you can easily fit in several titles a day. And if you’re on the go, you can just switch the audio version. 12 million people are already using Blinkist to deepen their knowledge in 27 categories and non-fiction, everything from self-improvement, personal growth, leadership, mindfulness, and happiness. I like Blinkist because I love learning and improving my mindset while I’m on the move. I love to read it while I’m on the bus or listen to it at the gym or when I’m cooking dinner. I just listened to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and it was brilliant. Right now, Blinkist has a special offer just for Calmer You’s audience. So, if you head to Blinkist.com/CalmerYou, you can start your free seven day trial and you get 25% of a Blinkist premium membership. That’s Blinkist spelled, B-L-I-N-K-I-S-T.com/CalmerYou to get 25% off and a seven day free trial, Blinkist.com/CalmerYou.
Chloe: How’s your relationship to self-help change?
Marianne: Yes. So, I used to read self-help from this place of desperation, I hoped that every book would be the answer to fix me. And invariably they weren’t, they didn’t fix me, but that was for two reasons because I never did anything they told me to do. I would read them and fantasize about how great life would be if I got up at 5 am, and if I meditated, and if I repeated positive affirmations, but I never did any of that stuff. So, they never worked. And it became like almost like eating chocolate cake, reading self-help was my comfort, where I would fantasize about changing and never actually do it. And with this project, then that flipped on the head, and I actually did do everything. And things did change, and I’m really proud of lots of the changes. But I also realized that what I was looking for was just fundamentally flawed. Nobody is perfect. I was really trying hard to be a perfect person. Then I thought then I would be okay if I could just fix my flaws and try harder and be better. And I just know it doesn’t work that way. So, I did all these extraordinary things. And about 10 months in had to break down because I felt like the biggest failure of my life because I wasn’t perfect yet. And I wanted to wake up every day feeling like [??? 21:8] and Beyonce and I wasn’t. I was a mess.
And so now I’m aware that that is the danger with self-help that we can be coming at it from almost like an addictive place of this is the answer. This is the answer. This is the answer. And I love self-help, I think there’s such wisdom in the books, and they can be a really great way to help you understand yourself and understand life. But I would love for all of us to realize a lot more that we’re already okay the way we are. You know, if most of us wake up in the morning and try our best to be decent human beings, and be good to our friends and family. You know, we’re already okay. So, yeah, I used to think I was broken and that I needed fixing, and I now realized I was never broken and I didn’t need fixing. And neither do any of us. We’re all humans doing our best. And if self-help helps, that’s lovely. But if it becomes an extra thing to beat yourself up over, I’m not journaling every day. Or it can be an extra pressure that we put on ourselves, as you know, the bar gets higher and higher and higher about what we should be doing. And I think most of the time, what we need more than anything is to relax and give ourselves a break, not to give us 10 extra things we need to do in the morning. You know, those sort of books that tell you the 20 things you should be doing before breakfast? I’m less into those books these days.
Chloe: Yeah, I totally resonate with that idea that it can be a pressure and this idea of perfect. I’m sure so many people listening to this have perfectionist tendencies as well and especially if you really try with something and then you don’t become perfect, which is impossible.
I was already a good person at the start
Marianne: It’s impossible, this is the thing.
We’re striving for this thing that’s impossible and that’s just such a shame. Let’s not do that. It’s lovely to learn and grow, and I’m so grateful for all the things I did, but I was already a good person at the start. Whereas I didn’t think that. I thought like, all I could see was everything that was wrong with me. And my best friend at the 10 months point when I was really falling apart said, “I just want you to get to the end of this and realize that people love you the way you are. You don’t need to jump off planes or run on burning coals, which is another thing I did, to be good enough, you are.” And I thought she was crazy because all I could see was my perceived failings. And then by the end, thank God, I got to the place where I realized, yeah, I’m not perfect. I’m really shit with money, and I sleep a lot. But I am good too. I’m a good friend and I can laugh at things and you know, just yeah, I’m much more accepting of myself. So, ultimately, it came to a place where I didn’t have to change myself. I had to actually myself. And then funnily enough, once you start to accept yourself changes happen in a much more gentle way anyway because you just say yes to certain things and you have lovely moments of flow. Which seemed to happen to me a lot more now that things are just sort of flowing as they’re meant to without me trying so hard to make things happen.
Chloe: The idea of when you accept yourself things change is–
Marianne: They do, don’t they though?
Chloe: Such an interesting one, and we never think that that’s not going to be the way is. We need to strive and push and pressure ourselves, and that we need to hate ourselves enough and it doesn’t work. [crosstalk]
Marianne: Hate ourselves better into loving us.
Chloe: Yeah, you can’t. And actually, yeah, self-acceptance comes first, and things change more easily. Thank you for that reminder. Such a good one. What have been some of the most helpful self-help things that you’ve come across in your experiences?
Marianne: So, the do one scary thing a day I think is a really good rule and it can just be tiny. It can be smiling at someone in a coffee shop that you wouldn’t normally have the courage to smile to or asking to leave work a bit earlier than normal like the small things there. I do think that’s a good discipline and it’s one that I’ve lost and I need to get more into it, just that little tiny things every day. And the two other books that I really loved and that are in my head almost every day, The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle and he talks about when you see people walking down the street talking to themselves, we think they’re mad. But actually, we’re all talking to ourselves all the time. We all have this voice in our head that’s really often criticizing and it’s criticizing why did I do that yesterday or last year, and it’s worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. And he says that this voice, it drives us crazy and it stops us from enjoying the only thing which is ever real, which is what’s happening right now this second. And he has this question that I asked myself a lot. He says that we should always ask ourselves, “Do I have a problem right now this minute?” And the answer is almost always no. So, right now we’re having this lovely conversation. We’re in a safe room. Right now there is no problem. But my head could be worrying about the TED talk and worrying about whatever else is coming up. And so I try to do that every day. Do I have a problem right now this second? No, breathe, breathe. I also noticed I stopped breathing when I got stressed.
And then the other one is Brene Brown, who wrote Daring Greatly and did a big TED Talk, I’m sure that most of your listeners will know. And she talks very much about this fact that none of us, none of us is perfect. And she says she doesn’t like the term self-help because she doesn’t think we’re meant to do it on our own, we’re meant to help each other. And she said the biggest healing is connection and talking honestly to someone about what you’re feeling. And that’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m quite an independent person who’s pretty proud. And also I don’t want to bother people, they’re too busy. But that’s something I’m working on, and that I’m trying more when I’m feeling insecure about something or worrying about something instead of isolating myself and getting lost in my head, which is my natural tendency to pick up the phone or say, “Can we meet for a cup of tea?” Just contact. And I think that in this world of Facebook and phones and Netflix and remote working, it seems like that basic human contact, we have to put a lot more conscious effort into making it happen. It used to be that it was just a natural part of life. I don’t feel like it is so much especially for us freelancers who work at home. So, that’s something you can’t do it on your own. We need each other. So, that’s something also that I’m trying to build into my life and acknowledge. And again, I would have thought that was a failure before I thought it was up to me to fix everything. But actually it doesn’t work. We help each other.
Chloe: I love that. I think that’s so important, the community aspect of things. And so much of our culture makes it hard like we should just sort ourselves out and–
Marianne: No, and we can’t.
Chloe: –and that sort of thing. But actually, yeah, we need our people, our community and our families and yeah, it’s so easy. Well, I again, I relate to what you are said about keeping things to myself, and how it’s easy just to be like, well, I’ll just get my head down, I’ll get through this stressful period [??? 28:30] other people are busy with their own lives, but actually just having that conversation and reaching out and don’t just, yeah, keep it to yourself.
Marianne: Yeah. Because that might, that in my experience has made me sick and depressed and burnt out. Because that keeping it to yourself and soldiering on and soldiering on, it doesn’t tend to help. Whereas just even very early on says acknowledging something’s a struggle to someone.
Chloe: Sometimes it just kind of lightens it all having said it out loud to somebody and have it listened to and maybe some suggestions or just being heard most of the time. It’s like “Oh, I feel better now. All right. Bye.” Yeah, often doesn’t take much.
Chloe: Yes. What about things that you found least helpful? Was anything that you decide this is a waste of time?
What’s good for one person may not be good for another
Marianne: For me personally because I’m really careful to say that what works for you might not work for me, and the things that didn’t work for me at all, that’s it’s not to say that they’re not really good for somebody else. So, for me, the two things that really just I couldn’t get on board with, I did a book about how to talk to your guardian angels. And there’s a woman called Doreen Virtue who’s got a huge following and has written I think 40 plus books on talking to your guardian angels. For me, I just couldn’t get on board with it. I couldn’t get my head around it. It didn’t feel real. But I’ve been in rooms with thousands of people have been hanging on her every word and it means a lot to them. And quite often, these things are just different roads into a similar place in a way because with angels, it is about, I think learning to trust in something bigger than just us. And so for some people, angels are a way of feeling that there’s someone looking after us or. And I have those moments, but I get at them in a different way, I probably prefer to think of the universe or so it’s just different approaches. So, for me, angels didn’t work. And there was another exercise, where you had to plan your own funeral, which is an exercise in a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which is a self-help classic, and world leaders have read it. And I think it’s still a book that if you go on lots of management training schemes, they will give you this book. And I’m sure it’s a fabulous book, but at this point, I think it was my 10th book, and it was when the wheels were coming off the project. And I was asked to plan my own funeral and I just couldn’t. The idea about that is that if you imagine what you would like all your friends and family to say about you. And then you should spend your life trying to live up to that ideal. It gives you a life, it helps to make you clear on your life purpose. But I don’t know what my life purpose is really at that point. And yeah, I didn’t know what I wanted for lunch most days. Suddenly, I imagined what I wanted everyone to say about me, it was too much. But again, for some people, they find that exercise really helpful. And so it’s just different things for different people, but those two for me didn’t work.
Chloe: I’d be in bits doing that.
Marianne: It’s an emotional one.
Chloe: You have to be in a very good place I think to go into that.
Write your personal mission statement
Marianne: But then there’s an alternative exercise that for me was better where he says to write your own mission statement. So, you know, what you want to live by now and that for me is actually strange. I just sat down in a coffee shop. I remember I was in Dublin, and it just pulled out of me. And I read it now and it still kind of gives me goosebumps and I kind of like, yes. That’s sort of my true north of how to behave, and it just came very, very easily. So, that might be another way around it for people, the mission statement of what matters to you everyday. How do you want to live your life?
Chloe: That sounds amazing. Yeah, definitely recommend people doing that. What about the hot coals? How was that? Was that worth it?
Marianne: Yes. Have you done a Tony Robbins event?
Chloe: I haven’t. I’ve seen it on Netflix. He’s got a Netflix documentary.
Marianne: Yes. Right. Yeah.
Chloe: I’m not sure how I feel about him totally. But–
Marianne: So, Tony Robbins is this kind of like self-improvement god who’s like six foot seven, and he looks like something out of Mills and Boon. And he does these big events around the world. And the one I went to was in the ExCeL Center in East London. And there’s 7,000 people and he whips you up into what he calls a peak state where you feel like you can do anything. And one of the things he asks you to do is run across a lane of burning coals. And so that’s what seven of us did in this car park of the ExCeL Center with like the Travelodge light glinting in the distance. It was surreal. It was surreal, surreal, and people were banging drums and it will felt quite tribal. And I was nervous for a second. But he– I guess this was almost like programming. We’ve been programmed to do it all day, all day, all day, and then I did it. And we all did it, and it was almost underwhelming how easy it was. It was just like, boom, you’re at the other end before you even knew it. And yeah, that’s it. So, the idea is that it represents overcoming your fears. You know, if you can walk on fire, then you can do anything.
The psychological leap
But I think scientists will argue that actually coal is quite a slow conductor of heat, which is why by the time you move your foot, it’s you know, as long as you keep moving, you’re not going to get burnt. But even if that’s the case, it’s more of a psychological leap it takes to even try it shows, to me anyway, showed that really again, I’m capable of doing more than I would normally let myself do. Yeah, Tony Robbins is a– he’s a high energy, high performance kind of you can do it, take massive action guy. And when I was at the event, I fell for him hook line and sinker. Like he was my guru, I could totally see why people run away and joined cults because I would have done anything Tony asked me to do. And so then with a bit of distance, I look back on that now and go, I don’t know how realistic that is. On the final day, you’re given all these lectures about cutting out sugar and caffeine and various things. And then the people next to me while listening to this lecture, were eating Mars bars. So, it kind of human nature, I couldn’t live up to Tony’s ideals of how to live life every day. And I’m not sure how many people can. Maybe lots, maybe people can, but for me, it wasn’t a realistic, sustainable approach.
Chloe: It’s interesting that thing about getting into a high, what did you call it a high?
Marianne: A peak state he calls it.
Chloe: A peak state. A peak state about how perhaps, I wonder if we can take that as inspiration to get ourselves into a different state. I know that Tony does. He gets into an ice bath– [crosstalk
Marianne: He does.
Chloe: –at home and he does like jumping jacks first thing in the morning, and like different breathing exercises and different ways to get yourself into this heightened state so that you have that sense of like, “Oh, I can do anything.”
Marianne: And no, and lots of those tips are really practical. So, he was talking about, most of us don’t breathe properly. You know, right now I’m wearing jeans that are digging into my waistband. And he said oxygen is our energy. If you’re not breathing properly during the day, of course, you’re tired. So, he suggests these, I think oxygenation breaks, which are basically breathing breaks. And yeah, these breathing exercises. And he also talks about the posture again, I’m sitting here slumped. And when we have that slumped posture, we’re sending messages to ourselves that the world is a bit too much for us. Whereas if you sit straight and up then again, you’re telling your brain I’m ready for it. So, there’s lots of very practical tips that I do think are useful. But for me the ice baths, that’s not going to be something I do every day but maybe for some people it is. I tried a cold shower and it lasted two and a half seconds, I think.
Chloe: I did go through a phase of cold showers and then part of me was like, “Why am I torturing myself?”
Marianne: Did you feel good and tingly afterwards though?
Chloe: I mean, maybe there was a slight difference. It wasn’t a big enough difference to go through and wasn’t enough reward for the effort.
Marianne: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Chloe: Because the Wim Hof thing is really popular now as you heard of him, he’s also cold showers and ice baths and I have a friend who’s very into it. You can get yourself cuz I have done a Wim Hof where you do breathwork, so you get quite almost like light headed from breathing a lot. And then you go and get into this ice bath for like two minutes or something. And I felt quite good there because with a group, it was this kind of like, “Yes, we did it.” But and yeah, breathwork is quite amazing for getting you into different states and unlocking things and giving you insights. So, it’s a good– an interesting combination I think the two of those, together. Can you share– Is there anything that you’re struggling with at the moment, and how are you overcoming it?
Marianne: At the moment, the thing that sort of, like, at the edge of my brain is the TED Talk at the weekend. And I was asked to do this weeks and weeks ago, and because there’s been other things going on, I’ve sort of parked it. And now a couple of nights ago, I started having a dream that I’ve had the last two nights where I’m on stage and all my words are gone. You know, that kind of dream.
Chloe: I know that dream.
Show up with a good heart
Marianne: So, this week, the challenge will be to just not let fear take over because the last time I did a really big event talking to hundreds of people, I basically didn’t eat for a week. I was so nervous, and it went really well. But I would like to be able to do these things without paying such a price in the run up. And I know that you need a bit of nerves. And so this week will be about trying to breathe, doing as much practice as I can. And then also I really hope on Saturday that my friend said this to me once that if you just show up with a good heart, and let whatever comes out of your mouth come out of your mouth and hope that it will help somebody, it’s almost like about taking your ego out of it, because my ego wants it to be really good. And my ego is quite scared of what if I do forget my words, and it’s being recorded? And what if I make a mess of it? And if all that happens, then fine. I’ll get a lesson in humility. It’s all right. So, yeah, this week, the challenge will be to practice as much as I can without becoming a total stress head, and remembering that none of it matters that much. It’s a lovely opportunity but no one’s going to die either way. Let’s try, yeah, this is the thing to try and enjoy the opportunities that come your way because this is what happens with success or with doing these things, these new taking things up a level. You get these invitations, which is so exciting, but they’re also quite scary. And what I don’t want to do is, is have this mindset of, “Oh, I’ll be all right, once the talk is done, or I’ll be all right, once the next book is done,” to try and enjoy the process, including the nerves just to sit with it. Because I think also when I wrote the book, I found the writing of the book very hard. And that’s a year of my life I won’t get back again, that I was really putting myself under such huge pressure for this book to be a certain way. And so the challenge now is just to try and enjoy the process of it all, even when I’m doing things that I might fail at, to just enjoy it.
Chloe: That’s such a good lesson for all of us. It’s so easy just to put off our happiness, to put off our enjoyment. I’d rather just get through there. Once I’ve got this, once I’ve done this, once this is over, then I can relax.
Marianne: And then we find the next thing that’s looming on the horizon. And yeah, and also just to enjoy because I think when I look back when I’m 60, I’ll go “Wow, look at that.”
Chloe: And it’s a shame not to just enjoy the experiences as much as you humanly can.
Marianne: Totally, totally.
Chloe: Do you have any other bits of advice for people listening who might be struggling with anxiety or with confidence or feeling low? Is there anything else you would share with them?
Marianne: Yeah. Just, you’re not the only one. It doesn’t matter how together everyone looks. That’s been the biggest response from my book is that it’s all these years, I thought that everyone else had it together and I was a mess. But of course, my friends were looking at me thinking I had it together because I was really successful in loads of ways as a journalist, but I always was just absolutely anxious and every day was going to be the day that the biggest mess was going to happen. But having articulated all these sort of thoughts, I have and what’s going through my head on a daily basis, most people who read it, they don’t go, “Oh, you weirdo?.” All they say is “Me too. Me too. Me too.” And the biggest comment I get about the book from men and women, is it’s like reading someone reporting from the inside of my brain, which just goes to show we are so much more similar than we think, to each other.
And yeah, when you’re in the grips of anxiety, or depression, or it’s horrible, and nothing I say is going to make much of a difference, I don’t think. But if there’s some little dilemma that can remember you’re not the only one, you really aren’t. Most, many of us, not most of us, many of us are walking around really in quite a bad state in our minds, even if we’re looking pretty even if we’re doing a good job, even if we’ve got the husband and the house. And people can have it really very well together in lots of ways but inside that’s not how it feels. And also with the book, I was a journalist for years and I got emails from really very successful, high up newspaper editors and magazine editors who would be the kind of people whose profiles I would read about, talking about how much they related to it. And I was like, “Really?” So, yeah, just that you’re not alone. And that I hope it gets better some way.
Chloe: Thank you for that. Thank you so much for everything that you said.
Marianne: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Chloe: Where can people find out more about you and buy your book?
Marianne: Well, the book is called Help Me, and my name is Marianne Power. And yes, you can get the book, I think in all book shops and languages, it’s in lots of languages on Amazon and–
Chloe: How many languages?
Marianne: I think we’re up to 29 languages now, which is crazy. Yeah, it’s crazy. And each language has a different cover. So, I’ve now got quite a big bookshelf at home with the Korean cover and the Taiwanese cover and the Spanish cover and yeah, it’s mad. It’s really mad. And yeah, just you can hit me up on Instagram and Facebook and all the usual, Marianne Power.
Chloe: Amazing. Thanks so much.
Marianne: Thank you. Thanks a lot.
Chloe: Thank you so much for listening. I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode. Come on over to Instagram and let me know what are you taking from this episode? Find me at Chloe Brotheridge. And I would love it if you would leave me a review in the podcast app or on iTunes, subscribe to the podcast, leave me a rating. And if there is someone in your life that would really benefit from this podcast, you can let them know by sharing this podcast. I’d be so so grateful. So, I’m just wishing you a wonderful week ahead, sending you loads of love. Hopefully, you’ll tune in again and I’ll see you soon.