What happens when a successful career isn’t enough? For Stylist’s Nobody Told Me podcast, we asked one of TV’s famous faces what can be learnt from solitude, and other simple things.
From a young age, Vick Hope had the world at her feet. Sporting an unequivocal drive for success, she achieved an acceptance from the University of Cambridge – after paying for her own evening language lessons and shocking even her own parents with her tenacity – and went on to become a TV and radio presenter, even competing on Strictly Come Dancing.
But it took a nasty brush with burnout to learn a larger lesson than any career goal could teach her. On Stylist’s Nobody Told Me podcast – sponsored by Clinique – she outlines the lessons she’s learnt about people pleasing, a work-life balance and above all, the gift that being alone can truly be.
While her career was most certainly taking off in her early twenties, looking back on that time in her life now Vick can see that she had created “a conveyor belt of just working myself really hard without ever taking stock of how that might be having an effect on my health.” She realised that the nature of the industry that she worked in, while she loved it, was built around being “liked”.
“You’re trying your very best to be liked all the time, by saying yes all the time, by doing what you think people want you to do for being who you think you want to be,” she says. “I was definitely such a yes person.”
Hope was offered the chance to compete on Strictly Come Dancing in 2018, calling it a dream come true. Unlike most other contestants, though, she continued with her other work commitments alongside, including presenting the Capital Breakfast radio show every morning. “I worked pretty much 18-hour days and slept three to five hours each night, which, frankly, is just not enough,” she says.
“I was like: ‘It’s cool. I’m young, I’ve got this, I can do this’”. But the truth was she was headed for a tough wake-up call. The morning after the Strictly wrap party, Hope remembers not being able to get out of bed. “I was so exhausted, and my body was so limp,” she recalls, all she could do was seek answers from her mother – who was visiting from Newcastle – by climbing into her lap.
“She told me, ‘I think you’ve burnt yourself out, you’re so exhausted. You’ve also never been alone’. I remember her saying to me, ‘You’ve never stopped and just been, you’ve never been silent’.”
Hope went on to realise how little time she’d spent in her own flat, due to her hectic schedule of working and going on dates with unsuitable men. She views this decision now as an attempt to find a partner to settle down with before actually getting to know her true self – “at the end of the day, I’ve only got myself, and I didn’t even know who that person was,” she says.
The first step was to quite literally take a page out of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love book and head on a yoga retreat to Malaysia. The disconnect from electricity and the internet helped Hope to realign herself from within. She went on to travel to both Morocco and Mexico alone, savouring the serenity that comes with observing life on her own terms, not someone else’s.
“Travel taught me to date differently,” she tells Stylist. “I was more respectful of myself. It made me date differently. I realised that rather than looking for someone else to be an ‘other half’ to make me whole, that I need to be whole myself. That’s what solitude taught me – that I am enough.” And how does she view the search for someone to share her life with now?
“What I look for now is someone else who’s also got their own light. You can bask in each other’s lives, but you don’t need to ignite one another,” she says.
The connection Hope forged with both the natural world and her flat are two things that she went on to cherish during her experiences of the Covid-19 lockdowns, as well as the charity work she committed to as the pandemic unfolded.
A world away from her academic and career-based accolades, her work volunteering at refugee projects in Hackney serves as “a constant reminder of what’s important”, as well as a source of peace that helps to keep her feelings of burnout at bay.
Aside from everything she has achieved in her 31 years, Hope is adamant that her relationship with herself is one that she will be nurturing for years to come – and is one of the top things to truly be proud of. “Nobody told me that you needed to learn to be alone to enjoy to love your own company – to find peace and to be yourself,” she says.
Images: Getty, Vick Hope/Instagram