Amy Kean - The NABS Podcast
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How to give no f***s to boost your self-esteem – with Amy Kean

Amy Kean is a creative sociologist, advertising strategist, poet and best selling author. Her book, The Little Girl who Gave Zero F***s, is a clarion call to females everywhere who are too used to caring about what other people think of them. As Amy explains in this podcast, it’s time to stop that right now in the name of your self-esteem. .

Amy is frank, down-to-earth and fond of a swear word or six. She is also one of our industry’s biggest names when it comes to speaking out for better diversity and fairer working practices.

Louise Scodie – NABS 00:00
Welcome to the NABS podcast. NABS is the support organisation for those working in advertising, marketing and media. I’m your host, Louise Scodie. Each week I’ll be chatting with someone from our industry to find out how they support themselves and those around them through challenging times as well as day to day, and it’s all to help you support your own mental wellness. I can’t wait to start chatting.

This week. Our guest is Amy Charlotte Keane. Amy is a creative sociologist, advertising strategist, poet and best-selling author who believes that life would be much better if we all gave ourselves permission to be stranger. She’s worked in communications all over the world for the last 17 years as head of strategy, creativity and innovation. She was named one of LinkedIn Top Global Voices in media and marketing and listed as one of campaigns 10 Trailblazers for her diversity work. As co-founder of dice which stands for Diversity and Inclusion at conferences and events. Amy is coaches editor for creative magazine shots, author of the number one best-selling feminist berries held the little girl who gave zero fucks and also author of House of weeds which came out in May 2020. Amy describes herself as a weirdo from a working class background, an advertising leader who campaigns for people who don’t fit in. Well, all widows are most certainly welcome here. I Amy is brilliant to have you on the next podcast. How are you today?

Amy Kean 01:24
I am. Well, as I was saying earlier, I was telling you earlier I went to Beyonce, the Beyonce concert on Monday. And I’ve been sick ever since. But apart from that, very good.

Louise Scodie – NABS 01:40
We arenot blaming Beyonce’s germs for this. You were with a lot of people in a compact space. It could have been anyone. But I saw on your Instagram because I do follow you on Instagram. It looks amazing.

Amy Kean 01:54
Yes, it was incredible. 45,000 people screaming their heads off. Loving life. It was amazing. I’m suffering as a result.

Louise Scodie – NABS 02:06
Talking about Beyonce saying positivity is actually a really good start for our chat about mental wellness. I mean, is that what mental wellness looks like to you, going out there and having a good time? Or does it also include other permutations of looking and feeling well?

Amy Kean 02:21
I don’t know if you’ve ever read A Happy Death by Albert Camus. I’m going quite intense for this podcast. During lockdown, the first lockdown when I was in the midst of my existential crisis, as well as many people also experienced. I read this book. And it’s a teeny tiny book. It’s really philosophical, that talks about mental health, and how we are supposed to exist in this life. And the main message of that book is that you have one job, we have one job in life, which is to enjoy it. All the other stuff about ambition, and stress and pressure, and fictional norms and all of these pressures that we put upon ourselves impose upon ourselves, are kind of extra curricular. All we really need to do is enjoy life. And ever since I read that, and it was probably two or three years ago, my outlook has completely changed. So why spend whether it’s work or live I spend most of my time optimising my own happiness. dialling things up and dialling things down. Based on how much joy they give me, ensuring and this is the important part that nothing I do hurts others. And if I can, if I can nail that I spend the entire time trying to work it out, then I think I’m doing a good job.

Louise Scodie – NABS 04:07
Alright, there is so much to unpack there. Firstly, I’m now tempted to pick up a piece of French literature for the first time since my French A-level, which was a very, very long time ago. Secondly, based on my memories of French literature, I’m amazed that Camus actually said yay, we should be happy with all the other books that I read for A-level were like, you should be depressed. Thanks, French authors. And thirdly, and most importantly, it sounds like you’ve got a process there for evaluating whether this activity whatever it is you’re engaged in is going to support your mental wellness and help you to thrive or whether it’s going to bring you down. Is it just something you think about all the time or do you journal to help you with Are you writing things down? There’s an exercise where you can write down everything during your day and you write d or a do next to the activity depending on whether it depletes or fills you up. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that one. And then you supposedly are supposed to be able to cancel out what depletes you? But of course, we all know there are things during the day, we have to do that don’t make you feel amazing. So what’s your process for evaluating that? And then with those activities that are those things that you kind of have to do, whether you like them or not, how do you then go and find joy in those to support your mental wellness?

Amy Kean 05:26
I don’t journal. I’m always surprised by people that have the patience to journal. So I don’t do that. But I thoroughly respect people who do and have the discipline to do that every single day. Because from what I’ve heard, it works wonders. I, and this is gonna sound really weird, I set aside half an hour a day for thinking. Right, which, you know, sounds weird, but actually, because you don’t, you know, when you work for a really busy company, how much time do you actually get to think when you look at people’s diaries, and it’s back to back like a barcode days, back to back meetings, running from one session to another, you never get time to prep, you never get time to think. And I realised that I have to think, and I need this space. So literally, I swear, what I do is I lie on the sofa. And I think, for half an hour a day. And I’ll think about how I’m feeling and I’ll think about maybe things that have made me a bit angry, and things that I’m excited about. And I’ll think about my achievements. And I’ll try and think of some creative things I can do. Because I love doing creative things. And just setting aside time to think and be a little bit mindful, is it’s been a game changer for me. But also I make decisions in that thinking time that are potentially quite difficult. So I do walk away increasingly since I have my own company, which out, I walk away from situations that don’t make me feel happy. And I walk away from people sometimes, and sometimes working relationships, I will walk away from people guilt-free, if they’re not adding value to my life. I don’t feel guilty, I don’t feel used, I don’t feel exploited. And it’s a very, you know, throwing gender in here. It’s a very female thing to want to please everyone and be everything to everyone all of the time and be liked and be popular. And making decisions to walk away from situations even though it means that a few people are going to dislike me is taken a while to get used to but it works.

Louise Scodie – NABS 08:01
But then I would say having followed you on LinkedIn for longer than those two years that you actually have quite a strong and long track record in not being a people pleaser. But actually speaking out against any injustice is specifically around gender imbalance in the industry, like you’re really well known as someone who speaks out. Campaign magazine called you a trailblazer. So what have you done to support yourself through that long history of speaking out because that can be a really uncomfortable place to be not just in terms of maybe losing people and business, which may have been offshoots of you speaking out, but also getting trolls commenting on you and any of the other effects that might happen when you start speaking truth to power.

Amy Kean 08:57
Yeah, so this year has been a really, it’s been quite a tricky year. I’ve learned a lot this year about speaking out. Because I got cyber stalked by a very scary man who wouldn’t stop. And, and it was he was sending me lots of emails, and I was blocking his email. And this was based on something that I this was based on something that I posted on LinkedIn about International Women’s Day, for Christ’s sake, right, like it’s hardly abortion rights or, you know, really low level social activities. And I just I posted that. Well, I’ll give you the context, actually, because it’s quite interesting and specifics and details are good. So the alleged theme for International Women’s Day this year was embracing equity. Yep. And you were supposed to women were supposed to upload selfies of themselves, the hugging themselves. OVS in it in a self embrace, and that to me felt pathetic. And I wasn’t entirely sure what that would achieve when it comes to the rampant inequality that exists in our world, you know, particularly outside of the Western world but increasingly the Western world and so I posted saying this is gross and few men for some reason didn’t like that. And they commented on my post saying, if you want equality, die for your country, empty your bins.

Louise Scodie – NABS 10:42
If you weren’t emptying your bins, it would be an absolute tip.

Amy Kean 10:50
If you want equality working in waste management, I did my research, some 30% of the waste management industry is women. So, right? In the military, the military is like 40% women. Anyway, I blocked these people, I can’t be arsed to engage with them anymore. I’m not going to convert them. So what’s the point? Some of them in particular, one man, but I do get random nasty emails to my personal address sometimes by via people who’ve done their research. There’s one particular man sent me emails saying horrible stuff about how deluded I am. I’m an attention seeker he wants me he wanted to give me a hard he wants to protect me because I’m I’m wrong in their heads like really kind of weird, nasty, dark stuff. When I started blocking these emails, he would create new ones. You had it one one in particular was, you’ve got it coming, really sinister stuff. So that was quite I don’t know that it was a wake up call. But it was quite a shock to me, because I suddenly for the first time ever, and you’re right, I do talk about causes with honesty a lot. For the first time ever, I felt incredibly threatened and intimidated and unsafe. Particularly when this one particular guy had found like every single email I’d ever had, every single email address I’d ever had, and emailed them all. And it was terrifying. And I had to speak to the police I spoke to the Met Police and obviously they you know, didn’t feel particularly safe talking to them either. But they actually they sorted it out very quickly. And I’ve never heard from this man, again, good. But a situation like that. All of a sudden, you realise that some people are incredibly angry and want to do harm. Just because you’re speaking out about an important subject. So to conclude, the only thing that it’s possible to do in those situations is disassociate yourself from the stress and the vitriol so the one good thing about that situation is I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if people are mean it says more about them than it does about me.

Louise Scodie – NABS 13:26
It does absolutely but I am really sorry to hear that you went through all of that.

Amy Kean 13:32
It was scary because I was getting emails, 11 o’clock at night, midnight. You don’t know who this I don’t really know who this are you actually know who he is. But you don’t know if he’s drinking, you don’t know if he found my address.

Louise Scodie – NABS 13:58
It takes it takes so much strength to go through that and then be able to disassociate yourself to anyone who’s also thinking of you know, speaking out activism, whether that’s complaining about something within their company or in the wider industry. Can you suggest any other support mechanisms they might employ to protect themselves and make sure they still feel okay.

Amy Kean 14:27
Hmm. A lot of people so in so the company that I run good shout, helps people find their voice and use their voice in their industry or within their organisation. And lots of people say to me, Oh, I don’t want to talk to put myself out there because I’m worried about saying the wrong thing and worried about being cancelled. And I always say to those people, I always say exactly the same thing. What do you actually really believe in what you’re saying? Because if your views are watertight, and they have substance and you will absolutely defend those views to the end. And you’ve thought about all the different ways that people might challenge you, then you’re kind of okay. Problem is, way too many people, particularly in social media these days have are too flippant with their views. So they think they have a view, because they’ve seen a piece of content that made them angry. They think they have a view, actually, they don’t have enough substance to back it up.

Louise Scodie – NABS 15:31
So is that what the core is? Is that what the core is of bravery. Because in your excellently titled book, The Little Girl who gave Zero Fucks, we read the story of a little girl who decides to change the world by keeping her fucks in her basket instead of giving them away. So too, for anyone who hasn’t read the book, and you really should. Instead of giving someone a fuck, if they say to you, I don’t like your dress, or you spoke out too much. You just keep the fuck in your basket. You don’t care. People can say what they want. But is that a consequence of just being solid in your belief, rather than having to acquire any other characteristics?

Amy Kean 16:08
Yeah, I feel like I’m being really intense in this podcast. But I feel like I shared this about mental health and wellness as well.

Louise Scodie – NABS 16:15
We’re about intensity, if you can’t be intense here, where else can you be intense?

Amy Kean 16:20
Okay, let’s just if we can end light, we’ll see what we can do. I wrote the book because I was going through… I was in a bit of a pickle. And I wrote the book when I was living in Singapore. And I was head of strategy across APAC for Mindshare, the media agency. And I was the first time that I’d ever had a truly hardcore amount of pressure, I was responsible for so many people, all across Asia Pacific, there was a lot of firefighting to do in every single country. The organisation that I was working in that the regional team that I was working in was incredibly sexist. I was one of the only women in the leadership team, it was a hard time. And so I spend a great deal of my time stressing and worrying, and also developed a little bit of a fondness for Xanax, which is incredibly dangerous, but it’s readily available in Singapore. And it literally just, I mean, I don’t recommend anyone ever takes it, but it calms you down instantly. Right. But don’t take it don’t ever, ever, ever take it’s probably one of the most addictive forms of low level drug there is. Anyway, so the only thing I could think to do to actually rectify that situation was to write something for myself, to convince myself that actually, it doesn’t matter how much you worry, that will not improve this situation. giving other people the power to stress you out and upset you because of their words, or their behaviour is only hurting you. Yeah, so yeah, so I wrote that, honestly. And I know it sounds really convenient. But I wrote the book as a form of Self Help for myself. And then realised that actually probably would help a bunch of other people as well.

Louise Scodie – NABS 18:31
Yeah, I think it will have, did it help you?

Amy Kean 18:34
Oh, my God. Yes. Because the thing is, when you put yourself out there, and you say, zero fucks, you kind of have to live by it.

Louise Scodie – NABS 18:43
To put it out there.

Amy Kean 18:45
Yeah, so I have no choice.

Louise Scodie – NABS 18:47
So what happens if we flip it around, maybe you’re a manager listening to this, and you’ve got somebody in your team who’s decided to give no fucks and you, as a manager are used to, let’s say, more subordinate behaviour, you certainly are not used to people speaking out, was a really good way to react to and support what we would say is that bravery?

Amy Kean 19:07
That’s such a good question. Because I feel like this is something that a lot of managers are grappling with at the moment, particularly with women in their team, who were suddenly finding their voice, which is, you know, it’s a trend and it’s bloody brilliant. We have to get over at work, our obsession with tone. Yeah. Because sometimes a woman is allowed to be blunt, and not say sorry, 100 times in every sentence, and not say just oh, I’m just checking in. I’m just doing this. I’m just doing this thing apologetic for asking people to do their jobs. This is what managers really have to get to grips with. Just because you don’t like the way that a woman is saying something, it doesn’t mean that she’s saying it wrong. And I feel like I’ve the amount of I don’t think I’m mean or unkind or any of those things, I try really hard to not be any of those things. But I get called abrasive all the time, all the time, because I don’t apologise every other word. I asked people to do this shit they’ve said they were going to do, and I don’t have time. I don’t have time to write an essay. Every time I’m asking someone to do something, I get called abrasive. And it’s untrue. And I know obviously, I’m not the only one. There was a really fascinating study on HR appraisals. And it was like an audit of 1000s of appraisers all over the world organisations all over the world. And what it found was that 75% of women’s appraisals have personal feedback. 15% of men’s have personal feedback. And in the women’s appraisals, the most commonly used words were abrasive and bossy.

Louise Scodie – NABS 21:05
And you would never call a man bossy

Amy Kean 21:06
Why are we still doing this? Anyway, so everyone has to get over the fact that women are starting to talk differently. For God’s sake.

Louise Scodie – NABS 21:17
Completely agree with that? What’s one thing that we could all do to support our mental wellness this week?

Amy Kean 21:27
Give yourself a limit of three meetings a day. Yeah,

Louise Scodie – NABS 21:35
That just sounds peaceful.

Amy Kean 21:37
Yeah, of course. Yeah, I do. I’ll do like max three, maybe four? Do you need time to think I see, you know, I trained so many people. And they just, they’re running from meeting to meeting and they’re not prepared for any of those meetings, because they’re back-to-back. It’s a shitty way to live. And if you if you are a leader, in an organisation, that’s insisting on your staff having back-to-back to back meetings, you’re doing it wrong, you’re really doing it wrong.

Louise Scodie – NABS 22:09
This shouldn’t be a revelation, because we’re in a creative industry. And in order to be creative, you need to have time to think and not necessarily your desk.

Amy Kean 22:18
There is going to be a walking meeting revolution.

Louise Scodie – NABS 22:22
We do a bit of that at NABS. And I have to say, it works really well. Yeah, we’re really quite good about flexibility and allowing people to say like work at home. And while they’re working at home, work in a way that works for them. The amount of times I’ve had a meeting with someone and they’ve been on a lovely walk, and they’re so much more relaxed while they’re doing it. We still managed to talk about what we need to talk about. It doesn’t make a difference to me whether you’re walking in a forest or sitting home and vice versa.

Amy Kean 22:47
And it really works.

Louise Scodie – NABS 22:50
We talk a lot about preventative behaviour that NABS but we also help people who get to a crisis point as well. What would be a really big tip you can give to anyone listening before they get to a crisis point?

Amy Kean 23:02
This is the problem, isn’t it? That most people wait until they completely burn out. Exactly. See, the thing is, we always tell people to talk. But I think that’s quite bad advice. Because most people aren’t trained to listen. Yep. And that’s a massive problem. The amount of times I’ve tried to talk to people about stress, me being stressed or me feeling burnt out, and they just haven’t know, they haven’t known what to say. And you end up feeling worse, you feel ashamed, you feel embarrassed. I think God, this is really live issue. Breathing, bring it on. Breathing is really important. I did like a Wim Hof mini course on how to breathe properly, and how to breathe from your diaphragm and get more oxygen to your brain. And I set aside time most days just to breathe. And it’s quite remarkable the difference that it makes. I also another thing that I’ve that I’ve done is I don’t go to therapy. But I go to hypnotherapy, which is very task-based. So if I’m ever feeling like I can feel stress coming, or there’s a particular situation that I’m finding quite daunting, I’ll go to hypnotherapy and I’ll there’s various tools you can use to really mindfully deal with it. And my hypnotherapist said don’t ever wait until you’re desperate. Like look after yourself and make sure that therapy or hypnotherapy or anything using is almost preventative. So that’s my two things.

Louise Scodie – NABS 25:00
Such good advice. I’ve been to a number of NABS sessions where the facilitators talked about the importance of breathing. And the hypnotherapy point, it’s about identifying what might work for you. So you know that you’re going to respond to a more practical, task-based modality, then that’s what you go towards.

Amy Kean 25:15

Louise Scodie – NABS 25:16
Which leads me on to our last question. I can’t believe it. It’s been such a good discussion. What’s a lesson you’ve learned about how to support yourself?

Amy Kean 25:27
I have learned and this is fuck… am I allowed to swear?

Louise Scodie – NABS 25:33
I mean, you’ve asked me at the end of the podcast.

Amy Kean 25:43
I have learnt and this is hard. And it’s an ongoing job. I’ve learned to not pay attention to the way that other people know rate me. Because you will destroy your mental health and your self-esteem if you’re always listening to how other people rate you because you don’t know where other people are coming from, you don’t know their motivations, their insecurities, their agenda. For so many years, I listened to other people telling me I was a diva. I was too much I was too cocky. I was too ambitious, like all of this stuff. But they’re all saying it. So maybe it’s true. I feel like a lot of women, well, a lot of people do get this. They allow that narration to infuse into their sense of self. I’ve learned to disregard that for the most part. And I think that is a really nice way to support yourself. And it also fuels self belief. And now I’m running my own company, which I never realised how hard that would be, is so bloody important to believe in yourself.

Louise Scodie – NABS 26:57
I feel like that message should be laminated and given to every teenager. Because if you knew that the onset of your adolescence and your teenage years could be markedly different, and form a really healthy foundation for the rest of your life. If you didn’t receive that message to see as a teenager. I certainly didn’t, then I hope you can take it on board now that it’s just a really brilliant, pertinent note on which to end Amy it has been really fun and really insightful chatting with you today. What’s the website of the good shout company?

Amy Kean 27:27
Good shout

Louise Scodie – NABS 27:29
Amy, you’ve been marvellous and if you need any support on an ongoing basis before you get to crisis point that’s absolutely what we’re here for as well as helping you if you are at that crisis point. Just head to our website and find out about all of our support services, many of which have free because we are a charity. Until then, thank you again, Amy, you have been absolutely splendid and thank you to you for listening.


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