"Your story began on a Sunday with a brutal hangover," said Ryan Tubridy to freelance journalist-turned-author, Marianne Power. "It was really bad," said Marianne. "I just remember waking up with one of those hangovers that makes you hate every bit of your life and yourself and that feeling that something has to change!"
With a wardrobe of nice clothes, a busy London social life and a career that exceeded all her expectations, Marianne certainly looked like the full package, but deep down, something wasn’t quite right.
Marianne felt that in some respects, life was passing her by and that the sense of confidence she exuded was in many ways an act, albeit a good one. A vague sense of existential malaise and the creeping, uneasy realisation that she could be happier sent her running to the self-help shelf and she devoured book after book, on a quest for that elusive secret formula for health, wealth, love and perfect happiness. It had to be between the covers of some 10-step-guide with a catchy title, and Marianne was determined to find it.
There was a hitch in her plan though – while no one could accuse her of not making the effort to read the book, she wasn’t quite so diligent on the follow-through. It was time for Marianne to walk her talk.
To that effect, she took the bold step of committing fully to one self-help book every month for a full year. She joined Ryan Tubridy to talk about the experiment that turned her into an author herself when she chronicled her adventures in her own book, ‘Help Me!’
First up on Marianne’s reading list was the cult classic, Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. "She says, when you see people are out there doing loads of great things in life, you think, oh they’re just braver and more confident," explained Marianne. "She says they’re not, they just feel the fear and do it anyway."
An exercise at the core of this text is to do something that scares you a little bit every day and Marianne didn’t shy away from the challenge.
"That month I really went for it… I jumped out of a plane, I did stand up comedy, I modeled naked for an art class and most terrifyingly of all, I chatted up men on the London Underground which is just a no-no… I started small with parallel parking which still terrifies me!"
Month one proved a resounding success (even if chatting up men on the Underground is unsurprisingly never, ever going to lead to a date) and after that, it was onto the law of attraction bible that had people the world over pinning pictures of Brad Pitt look-alikes and supercars to their fridge door – The Secret. The gist of the book is that ‘thoughts become things and ‘what you think about, you bring about’.
Marianne wrote herself a nice fat cheque from the universe to the tune of £100,000 no less and dreamed up the ultimate car to invite miraculously into her life. In line with the rule of her year of self-help, she had to fully commit to manifesting the vision.
"I went to a Mercedes showroom and I sat behind this beautiful old Mercedes sports car and put my hands on the wheel and it felt great, and then I got the bus home!"
So the car is still in the showroom, but what about the £100,000? She admits that while The Secret wasn’t the guide for her, her bank balance is actually better than ever, so maybe it’s time to get busy writing those cheques.
Another month, another life hack and Marianne made the brave decision to try the art of ‘Rejection Therapy’. "Oh god that’s brutal!" she said of the game that aims to help you transcend your fears by facing the greatest fear of all for many: rejection.
"You must get rejected by another human being once every single day and the idea behind that is that we all live in fear of rejection. It stops us from going after lots of things we want and this game is meant to desensitise you so you get used to rejection."
Marianne started small by smiling at strangers on the streets of London ("they would lock your up for that!") and by asking for a free cup of coffee. She then decided she could benefit from a bit of Dutch courage and took to her local pub, asking to join in with the band and hop behind the bar to pull her own pint, both of which she was invited to do. She said, "It was horrible but on the other side of it I realised people say yes way more than you ever expect them to do. They’re really kind."
"I realised that by avoiding so many situations where I could be rejected, actually, I’d been the one who had been rejecting myself the most all my life," Marianne told Ryan. She then started thinking bigger and emailed a newspaper asking for her own column, fully anticipating an outright ‘no’. It never came. This brazen move resulted in her request being granted, an unfathomable coup for Marianne prior to this game.
"In a way, I didn’t get rejected which was the aim but that was also the beautiful outcome, that you realise you don’t get rejected half as much as you think."
At the end of a busy year, Marianne has realised many things, including but not limited to the following: no one is happy all the time, humanity has always sought guidance and learning from others is a positive step, and ultimately "you’re basically fine the way you are!"
Listen back to Marianne Power on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 above.