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“Never underestimate the human spirit”

Katie Piper shares her best confidence-boosting tips with Liz Parry

TV presenter, author and charity campaigner Katie Piper is undoubtedly an inspirational figure for women everywhere. Having survived a horrific rape and acid attack in 2008 which left her burned and facially disfigured, she has gone on to form her own charity, The Katie Piper Foundation, which helps people living with burns and scars. The 33-year-old mum-of-one has received numerous awards and accolades for her charity work and has written five books. In her latest book, Confidence: The Secret, Katie shares what she has learned from her most difficult moments and offers readers the tools they need to feel happy, confident and better about themselves.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

Katie: The idea was born behind the perception in society that the way to be confident is to be thin, beautiful and to look good – and really that’s only a fleeting moment. It’s momentary and not consistent confidence. My belief for what makes us confident is lots of different characteristics and strengths that make us a well-rounded person. One chapter is on characteristics and in each chapter I talk about a personal story where I achieved that characteristic or failed or had success.

I also interview people within the chapters who have had different things happen to them, then dealt with them and moved forward. It’s a bit of a manual but also features stories and personal bits. The book is split into over 30 chapters of all the different things I think it takes. For example, one chapter is all about the power of saying ‘no’, being assertive enough to say no, being able to look after yourself and not being a ‘yes’ person, giving all of yourself to everybody. When you can say ‘no’ people actually respect you more and it leaves you with energy and time for yourself, which is a really important thing that only a confident person can do.

Do you think a lot of women these days suffer with confidence problems?

Katie: Yes, and the book is for men and women because I think everyone in this internet and social media day and age is under pressure to be absolutely perfect in all areas of life. But we all know this isn’t realistic or even possible for anybody. I think there is more pressure than ever on everybody.

What are your best confidence-boosting tips?

Katie: The biggest overall tip and motto is that confidence isn’t an exclusive thing that just some people have. It’s so easy to look at people and say, ‘I wish I had what she has’ or ‘I wish I was like her’, or ‘if I had half the confidence that she has, my life would be much better’.

Actually, it’s not an exclusive thing that only some people get. It’s a choice. It’s something that is in each and every one of us; we just need to learn how to tap into it and use it. I often compare confidence to a muscle. Everyone has muscles. Some people’s muscles are more prominent and visible and on show all of the time, and that’s because those people go to the gym and they train that muscle and they work that muscle. We’ve all got that confidence, but we must learn how to tap into it, how to exercise it and then apply it to every area of our life.

One thing I use all the time is physical exercise. It’s a massive part of my confidence toolkit. I recognise that mentally it helps me fight off depression, anxiety and stress. Physically, being fit keeps me feeling in control and empowered. And there is a vanity side – I keep fit, I keep slim, I fit into my clothes and that does make me feel better than if I’m on the couch eating chocolate.

Do you think exercise helps you keep positive and happy?

Katie: Yes. It keeps you focused and achieving. It’s scientifically proven that you’re releasing those endorphins and I’m a person who likes to feel in control. There are parts of my health that I can’t control, so if I can control my health and my body to that extent then that’s a really good, secure feeling. I know it’s an annoying thing to say, but you end up at a stage where you really enjoy it. I love working out and running. I love the freedom of being able to just get up and go and it’s a real privilege that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Do you think the things we eat have an effect as well?

Katie: Hugely. I think that diet is 80 per cent of our make-up. Put rubbish in your body, ultimately you’ll feel rubbish. For me, I’m working full-time with a child; I have a really busy diary, so I have to eat really well. I can’t run on empty or on sugar. It’s one of our hobbies – me and my husband – we love cooking, so it’s part of our lives. We enjoy making food together and we do a lot of juicing and smoothies. I love food so I wouldn’t want to be on a restrictive diet; I want to enjoy a good balance of food.

How do you ensure you get a good work life balance when you're juggling your career and family life?

Katie: It’s about being really organised and not wasting any time. If I want to exercise, it’s got to be 6am or 7am before my daughter wakes up. If I want to eat well, I’ve got to prep Nutri Bullet drinks, lunches, packed lunches, cook family meals, freeze them and be strict. It’s being a bit military with the diary and the calendars.

Do you have any tips on how to relax and beat stress?

Katie: I probably need to learn more of that. I’m not very good at relaxing. I don’t enjoy just sitting and doing nothing. I don’t watch loads of TV. We live quite near the forest so my way of relaxing would be going for a walk or a bike ride there with my husband and daughter. Being outdoors with fresh air, I find stress-free. That’s a nice place to be.

What advice would you give to others battling major life obstacles?

Katie: Never underestimate the human spirit. It’s going back to confidence. It isn’t just something some people are blessed with. It’s part of our make-up and the human body’s ability to recover mentally and physically never stops amazing me. Also, with the mind, it’s amazing what we adapt to and can take on. The book isn’t just about me – a burns survivor that went through something. It’s about a catalogue of people I’ve met in the last nine years that have overcome what some may call major life-changing situations and smaller everyday things. They are all different people from different backgrounds, so it can be done.

Confidence: The Secret by Katie Piper is out now, £12.99, Quercus.

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