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The Great British Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain and the Power of Overcoming Your Fears

The Great British Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussain and the Power of Overcoming Your Fears

I was browsing the magazine section at Barnes & Noble the other day when the August issue of Good Housekeeping caught my eye.  Of course it was the British edition, with a very happy, very glamorous Nadiya Hussain on the cover.  Nadiya became a household name in Great Britain after winning Season 6 of The Great British Bake Off last October.  American audiences met her earlier this summer, when Season 6 (called Season 3 in the U.S.) began airing on PBS.

Television shows about food have never really been my thing.  However I happened to catch an episode of The Great British Bake Off when I arrived in London last fall.  I was immediately taken with Nadiya.  There was something compelling about watching her expressive face as she struggled to complete the week’s challenges.  In less than an hour I was hooked.

In the weeks that followed I learned that Nadiya was a full-time wife and mother of three young children.  It was a job she loved, but over the years she’d lost her self-confidence, becoming almost paralyzed with fear whenever she stepped outside her comfort zone.  It was heartening to watch this talented woman tackle her insecurities each week.  I was one of the 15 million viewers who cheered when a far more confident Nadiya was crowned The Great British Bake Off champion.  It was the most-watched moment on British television in 2015.

The icing on the cake (so to speak) was what Nadiya said after learning that she had won.  “I’m never, ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again.  I’m never going to say “I can’t do it.”  I’m never going to say “maybe.”  I’m never going to say “I don’t think I can.”  I can and I will.”  If you haven’t seen it, you can check out a YouTube clip of this truly inspirational moment.

I think Nadiya’s journey and speech resonated with me because her decision to try out for The Great British Bake Off was both an adventure and a quest for confidence.  In many ways, my three-month solo stay in London was also adventure and quest.  In my case, I was on a quest to restore my confidence in my ability to write.  I’ve loved to write since I was six years old, and I’ve written professionally for 25 years.  However, I’d become so burned out at work that putting words on paper had become an agonizing struggle.  I hoped I would reconnect with the joy of writing during my time in London.  I also wanted to make some decisions about the next stage in my career.

I’d read several books prior to my trip in order to put myself in the right frame of mind.  My favorites were Refire Don’t Retire by Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz, which I recommend to anyone who’s worked for many years and is thinking of making some major life changes, and Gap Years for Grown Ups by Susan Griffith.  However it wasn’t until I watched Nadiya’s journey that I understood just how much courage and perseverance it takes to face your insecurities and turn your life upside down.  It certainly helped that Nadiya managed to maintain a firm grasp on the things that were most meaningful to her throughout her journey.  The unwavering support and encouragement of her husband and family was also invaluable.  That’s something I’m also fortunate to have.

I enjoyed learning what Nadiya’s been up to since last October.  It’s certainly an impressive list.  She’s made numerous television appearances; written a cookbook called Nadiya’s Kitchen and a children’s book called Bake Me a Story; travelled to Bangladesh to explore her culinary heritage for a BBC program called The Chronicles of Nadiya; started writing a column for The Times Magazine; and baked the official cake for Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday party.  That’s a lot to pack into ten months!

But in the end, it’s not this list of accomplishments that I find so impressive.  It’s the fact that Nadiya still struggles with fear and insecurity despite these accomplishments, but she’s learned to tackle it head-on.  It’s clear that this new approach to life has brought her great joy.  In an August 2016 Daily Mail interview with Katherine Hassell, she said “Before I’d never have said yes to anything; now, I think it’s good to feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Like Nadiya, I’m learning to face my fears as I tackle the challenge of a new career as an independent writer.  I’ve discovered that if you wake up every morning and find joy in what you’re going to do that day – no matter what it is and even if it scares you – then you are truly blessed.

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