Elspeth Merry is Head of PR at Inside/Out and co-founder of Paradym’s latest partner, women’s career platform Her Hustle (the other half being Emma-Louise who we also caught up with a few weeks ago here!). On a mission to help women build the careers they want, on their own terms, Her Hustle is a content-led and membership platform that offers women a range of online resources from sharing the career stories of women at all different stages of their working life to running a creating a virtual workplace community for freelancers, founders, side-hustlers and entrepreneurs, Her Hustle is democratizing access to services and utilizing the power of peer-to-peer mentorship to help women thrive.
It goes without saying we at Paradym could not be more delighted to be working with HerHustle, running a series of emotional-identity coaching sessions over the next five months. We love Her-Hustle’s mission and as such wanted to share the brains (and emotions) behind it. As a lifelong stoic but recent therapy convert, Elspeth shares how her attitude to mental health has changed significantly in the last six months, explaining how a breakup, house and job move has shifted her perspective on how she approaches her emotions.
Mental health and emotional wellbeing is important because it’s how we process the everyday and how we see the world and our place in it.
The first time I ever wrote in my diary was a response to trying to process my parents divorce. I was 11-years-old and didn’t know how to express my deep sadness. It’s only now, as a 28-year-old woman that I realise writing has been my greatest therapy throughout my life. Writing is my outlet for understanding my emotions. It has always been a place to visit during difficult times. There’s something about filling up a blank piece of paper or a Google Doc with observations that removes the strain of the experience, or shows me the beauty in them.
I have always been stoic when thinking about my mental health. I’ve refused therapy as I’ve felt mentally stable and my perception of therapy seemed like a grand expenditure and something portrayed in Hollywood films as extravagant. This is probably my father’s influence, although said in jest; life’s a bitch, then you die. Just get on with it. It’s only in the past six months that I’ve realised mental health is a constant work in progress. Writing has helped me process, but I need more tools in my toolbox.
Going through the Paradym app made me become more aware of the patterns that serve me, and the patterns that don’t. Being more aware is about seeing yourself in an objective way. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of your head when you’re in the throws of an argument and see yourself through the other. When Her Hustle first worked with Paradym during lockdown, my biggest takeaway was the idea of seeing yourself with a Birds Eye view. Zoom out, what is happening around you? How are you reacting to this situation? I have become a more intentional, deliberate person during lockdown. I am asking myself why am I doing this? How do I want to spend my time? When the fluff and distraction of city life is removed, you are forced to look in the mirror, and be more aware of the person staring back.
I am a hopeless romantic. I crave adventure and seek romance in everything I do. I don’t think this is a negative trait, but it’s something which has led to unsuccessful romantic relationships, as the beginning can never feel the same as the middle, then it inevitably ends. The idea of settling has always terrified me. But the philosopher Alain De Botton has shown me through his work that I often project my fairytale of romance onto another, and they can ultimately never live up to the beloved I depict. He describes an oasis, where we hallucinate a lush palm tree, and an ocean. We do this to our partner, we hallucinate what we want to see in them. It’s not that they don’t exist, they are there, just not our idealised notion of them. This can only ever lead to disappointment, and it’s something I have been thinking so much about having gone through a breakup recently. The Paradym Process has made me more aware of how I love, how I want to love, how I accept love, and how I measure love. I am someone who dives headfirst into love, but as a consequence, headfirst into heartbreak. It will be a constant work in progress, but I have now noticed the pattern, which is the most powerful thing.
I have always been very career driven. Born in 1991, I am a goat in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The analogy of the goat is that you are constantly climbing up that mountain; people will come and go, they will walk with you, but you will keep climbing. I don’t know whether this analogy has a direction, or whether I will ever get to the top of the mountain, but I now realise that success isn’t just the top of the career mountain, it is balance. Success is being happy in my career and also having enduring loving relationships. Both need constant work. I started a career in the music industry 6 years ago, interning at a music PR company, then went to work for the biggest music corporation in the world and had some of the greatest career highs and met some incredible people. I am now Head of PR at Inside/ Out, the company I first interned at – you could say I have come full circle – and I do acknowledge this is career success.
But starting Her Hustle with Emma has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling ventures of my life. Everyday that we grow Her Hustle and overcome hurdles – because growing is overcoming – that is success to me. We are doing everything for the first time, and it’s a hard mountain to climb, but we are learning everyday. This is something the Paradym Process has taught me: the desire to constantly be thriving is the desire to constantly be learning. Don’t stay stagnant. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Constantly interrogate what you are doing.
Elspeth with her co-founder of Her Hustle, Emma-Louise.
As someone who has suffered from panic attacks, I know how stress can physically manifest in the body. Exercise is another form of therapy for me, and running is something that helped me overcome my anxiety. My brother is a personal trainer and an example of a human who is so headstrong and has shown me how important exercise is to mental wellbeing. Even if it’s 30 minutes a day, or a long walk, I have never not felt better after doing it.
During the Paradym process, I learnt just how powerful your gut is and how it affects our mental health. I have always believed in the saying trust your gut, but literally, trust it – it is our second brain, and contains 50-100 million nerve cells. Our gut and our emotions are inextricably tied.
Identity is so important to how we see our place in the world. People who are stripped of an identity are stripped of their very essence. Identity is something I think about often working in music. Artists with a strong sense of identity are often more confident and have so much to say about where they have come from, and how that has influenced their art. Identity is rooted in the term authenticity, which is something the Paradym app discusses. What does authenticity mean? It’s an awareness, an honesty, and a relationship realness with yourself. What do I value and who do I identify as?
I am a woman, I am a mentor, I am a manager, I am a lover, I am a friend, I am a music fan, I am a feminist, I am a business owner, I am a londoner, I am a redhead. These statements make up my identity.
I have learnt to reset and reframe my emotional wellbeing and how I see myself, the world, and my place in it. Perception is everything. I am unlearning the bad habits and patterns and thought processes I have built up over 28 years of being stoic, but also realising I am resilient and strong, and understanding what the right therapy is for me. Writing and exercise are two things I can do everyday, very easily, to keep my mental health in a good place.
Peeling back the layers of your brain is terrifying. Confronting yourself and your bad habits is terrifying. But in confronting them you are moving forward and rewriting a story that has burdened you. In the last six months there have been a few momentous shifts in my life; lockdown, new job, breakup, moving house. Having all of these things happen at once has felt like a shedding of skin ceremony, but it’s actually an ode to myself for taking back control of my life, shaking things up and writing the next chapter.