Monday, 6 August 2018

Her Wisdom - Sophie Sabbage


I feel so thrilled to be featuring Sophie Sabbage in my latest HER WISDOM interview, author of the new book Lifeshocks - And How To Love Them. Sophie is a mother and bestselling author living with terminal cancer and after the huge success of her last book, The Cancer Whisperer, she has released another beautiful book published by Hodder, which is all about what she has learnt from her ‘Lifeshocks’ and how you can spot ‘lifeshocks’ that happen to you.


‘Lifeshocks’ are what Sophie calls unexpected or unwanted moments in our lives. Sophie tells readers her inspiring story, discussing some of the ‘lifeshocks’ she has dealt with during her life. She says that there are three kinds of ‘lifeshocks’ which each shape the way we see the world: 


  • Limiting lifeshocks - challenge our arrogance and appetite for control
  • Exposing lifeshocks - challenge our affectations and pretences
  • Evoking lifeshocks - challenge our closed-heartedness


Sophie's view on wisdom, identity and managing the realities of life is truly fascinating and inspirational, I can't wait for you to read this interview and get to know her a bit more.

How do you begin your day? What are the first 3 things you need to do to get your day started?
Kiss my daughter; drink bullet proof coffee; prioritise what I need to do.

Share your favourite piece of wisdom and why it means something to you.
“Sea water begs the pearl to break its shell.” Rumi.

This is my favourite line in all literature ever. To me, the sea water is life itself (a.k.a reality), sometimes lapping against, sometimes pounding on the layers of self-protection we build around ourselves - hiding our imperfections, pretending to be something we’re not, defending against criticism, trying to live up to our relentless self-imposed expectations. But reality is constantly confronting our self-deception, inviting us to see our true value and emerge into the world as the unique, authentic pearls of great price that we really are. This is what my book, “Lifeshocks”, is all about. 

What is your go to thing for comfort when it all gets too much?
My husband’s arms, a good novel, a walk to the nearby field of horses or a Shonda Rhimes show.

Who are the women that inspire you?
The poet, Mary Oliver, who I want to be as a writer when I grow up. And because she said this: 
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

Harper Lee, because she wrote the book that changed my life when I was ten and showed me that books can change the world.

Maya Angelou, for being the embodiment of female beauty, intelligence, compassion and power.
Emeline Pankhurst, for getting us the vote.

Amal Clooney, for standing up for those who need it most and challenging regimes that perpetrate cruelty. 

Annie Wegelius, the pioneering Swedish TV producer and my dear friend, for her fierce spirit and ultimate surrender to breast cancer. She railed against dying, but chose it in the end. 

Suzy Lucas, a friend I met at university, who speaks the truth, cracks me up and has little clue how special she is.

The “silence breakers” in the #metoo movement.

Hard to stop this list!

How do you see yourself and what makes up your sense of identity?  
Ha! I could write a book about this epic question, but let me keep it as simple as I can. It has taken me many years to really see myself, to accept my awfulness and awesomeness, to forgive my shadows and stop dimming my light, which I now know shines bright. Identity is not who we think we have to be or what we think we need to prove. Nor is is what we fear we are and judge ourselves to be. It is a soft embrace of the flawed, fallible, loveable, vulnerable, fierce, forgivable, unapologetic, majestic, worthy, wondrous and utterly unique self. 

Do you have a favourite dish or recipe that makes you feel good or gives you a much needed boost?
Truthfully, no. Food is rarely where I go to get a boost, It has often been where I go when I want to shut down and numb out. The kitchen is a stressful place for me. But I love an occasional G&T when the sun is setting in my garden,

What does confidence mean to you, what builds yours? 
Con fide means “with faith”. To me, confidence means faith in myself to bring my best to whatever life throws my way and faith in life to throw the things that will help me deepen my confidence. 

I used to need external validation to feel confident. Now I need internal validation. My self-regard dives when I am judging myself and believing things that are not actually true: “I’m not enough; I’m too much; I’m damaged; I’m faulty; I’m mediocre; I’m difficult”. To name a few! These beliefs can drive me to prove something I don’t need to prove, please people I don’t need to please and apologise where I don’t need to apologise.” 

I address these by noticing and challenging what I think on a regular basis. All beliefs are true, false or ‘don’t know’ and most - such as the ones I have listed here - are profoundly false. Do I have faults? Of course. But I am not fundamentally ‘faulty’. Am I mediocre? Yes, in many areas of life, but not in all. In some areas, I excel. Am I difficult? I have been told that I am for most of my life, but that doesn’t make it so. I am emotional, assertive and I tell the truth. Some people don’t like this, but that is ok with me. When I was diagnosed with cancer I was quickly branded a ‘difficult patient’ because I didn’t comply with my doctors. Now I teach other cancer patients how to be ‘difficult’ too - which really means taking their power back and directing their own treatment. 

No one is ‘not enough’ or ‘too much’, by the way. Who decides the measure of our enough-ness or much-ness? We are who we are. Just as we are. Worthy. Human. Enough.

To be clear, I have no interest in replacing false negatives with false positives. I don’t need to be better than others or over-inflate myself to be at home in my own skin.

What's challenging you right now?
I continue to live with stage four incurable cancer and am nearing my four year cancerversary after being given four months to live. I have turned it into the most creative experience of my life, but it looms over my life even on the days of joy and wellness. My daughter is eight now, but the likelihood that I will not raise her into adulthood is a grief that walks with me through my days.

I am also struggling to source my family financially. I can’t get a mortgage because of my diagnosis, but want to leave my family with a home when I die. We rent at the moment. While I am being very productive these days, the majority of my work is unpaid (such as my work with cancer patients). It’s an old issue of mine. My therapist says I “hoemorrhage generosity”. I am determined to turn this around in the coming year.

Tell us more about your latest or next project.
I have several projects on the go actually. Mostly, I am daring to build a new business again after closing the one I built over twenty years following my diagnosis. It was heartbreaking. I have been believing I can’t do it again, partly due to my illness but also because I lost my confidence as a business-woman and don’t want to go back to what I was doing before. I have also attracted many colleagues who want more from me than they want for me. No more of that. I will have my own back this time and work with people who have my back too.

Oh. I am also working hard to stay alive!



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