How Sarah Wilson’s ‘First, We Make The Beast Beautiful’ challenges long-held thoughts about anxiety 

By Sarah Cannata

Sunday morning. Another hot Melbourne day. I’d braved through the heat to make it to my local shopping centre where I’d already visited a few stores to find the book I was after: Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make The Beast Beautiful.

There were no copies everywhere I looked and there I was in Target, my last ditch effort to find the book when a very loud siren rang out before a message over the loudspeaker that bellowed out something along the lines of: “This is not an emergency, please evacuate the store. Repeat. This is not an emergency, please evacuate the store.”

And that was that. Rather poetic, I thought, given the subject matter of the book I was after. Thankfully, I eventually found and bought Wilson’s book online before gobbling it up over two nights. It’s easily one of the most captivating reads I’ve experienced in a long-time and it works around this central question:

What if anxiety is actually useful and doesn’t need to be medicated? 

There is just so much goodness within the pages that I felt like I was on a sugar high after reading it (ironic, since one of the key messages of the book is to be mindful of your sugar intake if you’re prone to anxiety).

So what were my key takeaways from the book?


Health issues may be challenging but they don’t have to impede on your career


Sarah Wilson is an epic businesswoman and honestly, when I read through her struggle with chronic anxiety, Hashimoto’s disease (an auto-immune condition) and so on, it felt inspiring. Sure, Wilson knew when it was time to disappear for a while to recover and prioritise her health and wellbeing but despite all of the health challenges on her plate in the past, she’s incredibly successful and continues to kick goals career-wise. Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself for whatever reason, I remind myself of this.


We’re not alone in our experiences


Wilson is quite graphic in detailing her experiences throughout the book and every now and again, I’d think: yes! I thought I was the only one. I’m talking about things like really needing my alone time and not being at all fussed to do things alone (when I told people I was going to Malta solo, it wasn’t met with much enthusiasm). And then there’s my love of walking for extended periods (Wilson prefers hiking) – people don’t really get it but for me, that time can transform a challenging day into one where I’m ready to take on the world.


By controlling our environment, we can control what inevitably happens within our body


Wilson has copped some criticism over the years for her thoughts on the benefits of giving up sugar. As it turns out, she was years ahead of a heap of others in the health space. While many people I know think Wilson doesn’t eat sugar at all, that’s not the case. She simply advises people to quit sugar for eight weeks to better understand how much their body can handle. Sugar is in everything we eat – if you don’t believe me, start reading food labels and do your homework on what other names brands typically use, which mean sugar is in their products. Additionally, something as simple as meditating daily (it’s not my favourite thing to do but I appreciate it), really helps to quell those worries in the long-term.


We are the writers of our own life


Life really is what we make of it and what makes people happy differs. I navigate my own life and world and I have a choice not to do what is expected of me but to live the life that best serves me, my health and wellbeing, while also being mindful and respectful of those around me. And you’re in exactly the same boat – isn’t that rather inspiring?

In a nutshell, I highly recommend reading First, We Make The Beast Beautiful – especially if you have an anxious mind or have a loved one who always seems a little on edge.

Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can.

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