As careers in television go, there's one word that probably best sums up Angela Scanlon’s: busy. The Meath woman has been working in TV for more than a decade and has presented or appeared on a dizzying array of programmes on RTÉ and BBC, from light entertainment to documentary. Now, she has a new feather in her extremely feathery cap – she's published her first book. Angela joined Brendan O’Connor to talk about the book, Joyrider: How Gratitude Can Help You Get the Life You Really Want. Although the title might suggest that it’s purely a self-help book, it’s also, Brendan tells us, a searingly honest memoir, revealing details that people might be surprised at, coming from someone who’s perceived as bright and upbeat.
"I am quite positive and upbeat and certainly that was maybe, maybe heightened, you know, there was a slightly heightened version of that that I felt was expected when I started doing telly and all of that kind of stuff."
Angela told Brendan how she felt that there was a disconnect between how she portrayed herself on her increasingly-successful TV career and how she felt when she was at home. She initially didn’t say anything about it because she felt that people weren’t interested in another television personality talking about their problems:
"Many people may feel it’s a first world problem thing and we don’t need to hear more people talking about their struggles, but I think it’s really important, actually, to kind of acknowledge all of those aspects of ourselves, I suppose. And what I don’t want to do or what I certainly didn’t want to do was do a book that’s kind of built around the idea of toxic positivity – which I think there’s a lot of – and just papering over the cracks."
There was a sense, Angela says, that even while her TV career was gathering pace, she wasn’t getting the validation she needed from it and as soon as one job was secured, she was already looking at how the next one would happen:
"There was no enjoyment really in the doing of the thing. It was like, getting the gig and then on to the next. And I think a lot of people will probably relate, you know, regardless of what area you work in or whether work is that focused, but that idea of looking on to the next thing and never quite appreciating where you are in the moment."
This is where gratitude comes in. Angela says it has massive benefits in shifting your perspective and preventing the "dreaded comparison" of looking at what others are doing – something that’s exacerbated by social media – instead of focusing on what you’re doing.
"The work for me was like, looking at what I have and appreciating what I have, you know, before it’s gone, while I’m still doing it, instead of looking around at other people and feeling like I’m consistently falling short."
One of the things Angela talks honestly about in the book that really struck Brendan is her 15-year struggle with an eating disorder. And including it was something that she says she grappled with, given the deeply personal nature of it and the fact that it’s generally something that isn’t talked about much and people tend to want to keep it hidden.
"My experience when I was a kid was, you know, Karen Carpenter, who had a pretty tragic ending. And then Geri Halliwell, you know, if you were a 90s girl, you know, was kind of the poster girl for that. And there was a certain amount of ridicule and eye rolling around that which probably made me very keen to keep it under wraps."
Having an eating disorder, Angela says, is a lonely place to be: nobody wants to talk about it, it makes people feel uncomfortable, so people suffering from it mostly try to keep quiet about it. So, instead of talking about her eating disorder, Angela threw herself into her work:
"Which was arguably more socially acceptable, it was more lucrative and, yeah, had a lot more upside, let’s say. But still, something that had to be dealt with in the long term and that I still have to deal with."
You can hear Brendan’s full conversation with Angela by going here.
Joyrider: How Gratitude Can Help You Get the Life You Really Want by Angela Scanlon is published by Vermillion.