Robin Meade reveals intimate details in her new book Morning Sunshine! by sharing with you a secret never before exposed, because she wants other people to benefit from her experience. Despite the perky persona you see on display for hours every day as host of “Morning Express with Robin Meade” on HLN, Meade has battled a devastating condition that threatened her broadcasting career—and her marriage to her college sweetheart, Tim.
We sat down with Robin to chat about life, work and her new book Morning Sunshine!.
Seat42f : Welcome Home Robin
Robin: Thank you…it’s good to be home and I still consider this home
I’m wondering how much courage it took to write this book about such personal issues about yourself and expose yourself to the windows of the world. Bear your soul to the windows of the world. Is that part of your confidence that you are talking about now.
Robin: I didn’t want people to spend twenty bucks and then walk away and say you know, I didn’t learn anything about her or gosh, to feel that there was nothing there that applied to them. I went back to one of the hardest times in my life when I had self confidence issues and it manifested itself, on the air, in the form of panic attacks. But, you know, not everybody has to have a panic attach to have self-esteem issues. Who among us does not have some serious self doubt at one time or another. So, that will be an honest look of how one person was able to work through this and find her self esteem again. Hopefully it is a road map and provides some short cuts and if nothing else that it helps people with some nuggets of information about how to really find your self esteem again. I mean, that’s what I did.
Then this is not just a book for high profile people, but is for teenagers, soccer moms, business executives or anyone who suffers these anxiety issues.
Robin: I don’t want people to think this is all about anxiety matters…that is just how it manifested itself in me. It’s all under the umbrella of self esteem, self confidence because I think at one time or another we have to talk to ourselves about what we are worthy of…what we have the ability to deal with. I was really complimented by someone I went to school with who is now a seventh grade teacher and she called my parents and informed them that she was using this book in her class room. And she feels that this applies to children that age who have questions about themselves. But, we all have reasons to feel good about ourselves, but we don’t just all have the same abilities. But I think we have potential. I was really complimented that she was using this for young people.
So…you are finding out already that there is a large spectrum of people who are going to read this book, benefit from it as well as those who have the same issues you did.
Robin: Exactly. It is really amazing that so many people are embarrassed to talk about their panic attacks or that they don’t feel good about themselves and they will be the ones at the book signings who will say , thank you for writing this and then under their breath they will say “me too.” Me too, I have had panic attacks, have had some really debilitating thoughts. I have been amazed, but happy as well. It wasn’t easy to write this book..especially the first chapter. That was the most difficult chapter because I had to relive those moments when I had a panic attack on the air. It was mortifying and I didn’t know what it was. It was scary and then the more I feared the attacks the more they came. So that was probably the hardest part of the book…to really relive it..what the lights on the set looked like, how my heart was pounding, to remember that fear that the whole city just saw me lose it. So, after that it came easier.
Did you find that writing the book was part of the healing process for you?
Robin: This was about self confidence issues, and this was about 10 years before now. It’s been a while ago, but people are telling me that they had no idea, but that might just be evidence that that’s how you can hide it. But I don’t want for people to think it is a book about me some blabbing on but it is about them and hopefully their evolution into the world of self confidence.
Did you make the decision to do the first person narrative because you wanted to speak from your heart to people as opposed to having someone else..
Robin: Oh yeah. No one can tell your own story like you can because you are the one who experienced it. I couldn’t expect someone else to know what I was going through and I think that people are used to that first person narrative from me because I talk with them every day on the air and it would seem odd if someone else wrote the book in a third person narrative. This is straight from me.. because there are things that I would say like, never trust a woman whose hair is bigger than her butt…I always say that. But, it is not all drudgery. It is a funny book.
I loved your anecdotes in the book.
Robin: Oh thank you!
There was such a warm feeling about your husband. The support that he has given you. I’m wondering…he fell in love with this person and has loved you all along even though you did not have that confidence in yourself?
Robin: When I was dealing with these self esteem issues, it does impact your marriage. He married this woman who was great and confident and daring and suddenly about 10 years ago I became this person who was concerned about what everyone was going to think of me. Thankfully, my husband was very patient. He is the one who actually made me go ask for help. He did it for me. I didn’t actually go for help.
You mention in the book that you actually thought about the possibility that you might have to get out of the “biz” and he encouraged you to not think about that.
Robin: Oh he did. But when I had panic attacks on the air, I started having them all the time because that is where I feared them the most. And my gosh, I wanted to be the perfect new anchor so I will just do whatever the bosses think I should to make it. If it was cut my hair, I would do it, if it was wear bright lipstick, I would do it, it was whatever their prescription of the perfect news anchor was. I wanted to please them and by extension, I wanted the audience to like me. That’s the little like-me, love-me disease. That is what it stems from in me. I had to be a people pleaser. Many of our viewers identify with us, so we are people pleasers… I was rattling on…I lost the question
It was about your husband.
Robin: Oh yes, you asked if I wanted to quit my job. It came down to the elephant in the room so instead of worrying about my job, I was worrying about my panic attacks coming and then people may not like me, they may not trust me, if they knew I was having such doubts on the air. How can you be the voice of information when you can’t breath. So that is what it came down to. I wanted to quit and my husband was like, I don’t think you really do. I think you would regret it and you have worked so many years and we have moved to so many different cities. By the way, Columbus was one of the cities..you know, I worked here. But he was, like, I really think you are selling yourself short. I think you really want to do this job. He felt that was why I was having panic attacks. The same fear that I had about them was holding me hostage because of my worries about them not liking me…they may not like me. So my husband went to his chiropractor whom he knew who helped people with transformations and breakthroughs. So, she came to our house. Unbeknowst to me, he made this appointment and he said you are going to see her. And I said, no I’m not and I dug my heels in and I said no!, I’m not going there. And he said, oh no she is coming here. And it was like…and she really helped me. I have really changed. I thought my power was to have people like me and I let people’s opinion of me rule me and that is kind of where the weakness came in. If you didn’t like me, I thought something was wrong with me. Now I can see that…It’s ok if you don’t like me. And at the time it was a nice thought, but it is not what I built my abilities on.
Do you think this has anything to do with this good old Midwestern philosophy. Go out there and do things and say things that please people and everything will be alright. Could that be part of it?
Robin: I wonder. I do have plenty of friends from the Midwest who just put it straight out. Someone I went to high school with..I love her to death..she is in the book..her name is Julie. And she is one of those people who is so honest. You’d better not ask her how you look because she will tell you. So, I don’t know that it is rooted in the Midwest, but it is how I conducted myself. People pleaser, negotiator, entertainer..so it was my power and my weakness at the same time.
I love this part of the book where you talk about living outside the present. We all are talking about tomorrow, and the next day and thinking ahead and we don’t seem to appreciate today. What were you thinking when you wrote this?
Robin: Oh yes. First of all, I am not saying that planning is not a good thing. It is. And we want to make plans for the future so we are fantizing about the future and making little movies up in our heads about what is going to go right and what is going to go wrong. This can lead you to anxiety and it can also make you be unappreciative of the things that you have in the present and you may not even experience where you are at that moment. And all of the lessons we can learn are lost because you are thinking so far about the future or feeling guilty about the past. But for me, one of the great vehicles of self confidence is to stay in the present. Right now. Right now I am in the lobby of a hotel. What a great hotel. I should be grateful for that. That’s why I think it is important to stay in the present. It is unnatural to stay in the present. You can’t do it for very long. You may stay in the present for a couple of minutes and then your mind drifts to, wonder what we are going to have for lunch. It is hard to stay in the present, but the more you do it the more I think you will grateful.
So you were struggling with relearning some of your own actions?
Robin: A little bit. I guess I have always planned ahead and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t, but I do think that…well, my dad used to say that. He would come into my bedroom and he would say you are always busy in your mind. He said your body may not be moving, but your mind is always busy. Yeah…I think I did have to relearn that. I describe it in the book as getting your pendulum to stay still you are on the road to self confidence and you are thinking about what you are right now. So then I’m ok. But if you get the pendulum swinging this way (she formed her arms into a pendulum and swung it back and forth). And think too far into the future, you are fearing about what may happen. You are making up little movies in your mind and your potential goes back to the past where you might feel guilty about something or you are kind of remembering memories instead of living in the here and now. Does that make sense?
I wonder if you can talk more about how you said that the symptom was the anxiety and that is where you had problems with self confidence. You also mention personal confidence and self esteem. Do you distinguish them as different, or were you just interchanging words?
Robin: I think I interchanged them. Self confidence, self esteem, personal confidence, because it is the theme of the book and I needed other ways to state this. Now, on the back of the book, something that was very enlightening…on the back of the book, Dr. Deepak Chopra did a blurb on the book. He wrote something that is so true and I had not thought of it this way. He said self confidence built on what people think of you can be taken away from you without the good opinions of the world. That’s where I was. It was what you thought of me. But, true self esteem goes beyond your knowing the core of your being which needs no one…so in other words, self esteem is confidence that will never change no matter what your outside influence is. Whether or not you have a job, or you don’t, whether or not so and so likes you, that day whether or not you have gained weight or you just got your hair colored…that’s something that tell us that self-esteem is from within. I thought that was so astute of him…that he thought of it that way.
Especially valuable when someone like Deepak Chopra comments on this. I notice that you have many other people on the back of the book who have endorsed it. Jackie Joyner Hersee….she is referencing the benefits of the book for younger people. Have you experienced that?
Robin: None of the signings of the book too much, but sometimes mothers will bring up their daughters and..for example..a mom brought up her daughter and I don’t think she was a teen-ager…maybe 20 or so..and she was buying the book for her daughter whom she said had self esteem issues. I’m at the stage where I hope that it helps people. Whether or it does or not has yet to be seen since the books is just out.
It is really edifying to me that maybe mothers see in their daughters something like me and maybe this may help. Jackie-Joyner Kersee..the world’s greatest female athlete said that she thinks this will help young women. And that means so much to me.
How do you know Jackie-Joyner?
Robin: Well..we judged the Miss American pageant together one year. It was a couple of years ago. She was just a bright light and I asked if she would write a blurb for the book and she did.
So, based on things like this that people like Jackie Joyner Kersee has said you might feel that you are mentoring young people now so that they hopefully will not face what you had to when they are adults?
Robin: Yeah…some of this would apply to young girls. Like “frenemies” the outside world thinks they are friends, but if you watch their actions they are really enemies at work. Their intention may not be to do that, but it comes off that way..so you might feel a stab in the back because os some word or comment they have made to you and you have known them your whole life and may not even have known they were doing it, but it really effects you. So..when I was younger I really let other people’s opinions impact me. I wanted so to be liked by everybody and it would bothered me if I was not accepted by a certain group of girls in high school. Now, in my adult life I can look back and see that maybe they were not as strong as individuals to stand in their own shoes and say, “Well we like you instead of going with the group. So, I can see each one of us not dealing with this right, but the book has little tips on how to deal with “frenenemies” in the professional world also. So it can apply to younger people or adults. For example…and this is kind of heady thinking, but a mom might want to help her daughter understand this, but usually when someone belittles you I can see where they recognize something in you that they like or don’t like and they may be recognizing something about themselves that they like or don’t like and therefore they see it in you or don’t see it in you. Let’s say you are someone who refuses to gossip. Well someone might really admire that at heart, but they recognize that they want to put you down because they can say something like you are a goody two shoes because they are recognizing something about themselves they don’t like and you are a mirror for their own disownment. So..if you can rise above it and think of it in terms of it that way it is not about you at all. It is about themselves. Whenever someone criticizes you it is really about themselves and it is about the movie they play in their own head. Which is heady thinking when you are in high school because you are trying to think about the situation in an emotional level.
We have all met this person and I am certain you have also in your life who is not that attractive, short, dumpy and not particularly friendly, but they exude this self confidence? Where does that come from?
Robin: Oh yeah…and I think the misconception comes from the philosophy that self confidence has something to do with this outer stuff or that it is built on some title that we have, but for a really enlightened person, a person who has true self esteem, it is built from within. Maybe they are recognizing their own talents and it is not something you get on stage and go “Ta DA!”. It is something else. That person really has a gift. And that gift is that they recognize their worth is something that other people cannot take away. It’s like what Depak Chopra said,if only I had known that all of those years, I would not have had these problems.
And Depak Chopra needed to read your book to express it that way.
Robin: Yeah, and I appreciate that.
I am looking at the cover of this book and trying to imagine that this woman had a problem with self esteem and confidence….this can’t be. Don’t a lot of people say that? You must be writing about someone else.
Robin: That is a misconception that self confidence must be built on the outside shell…not saying that my outside shell is that great or anything..but when you are in the visual medium you already deal with self esteem issues. But you already know that my self esteem and self confidence was built on what other people felt about me. That’s where the weakness came in..that’s how the panic attacks started and manifested themselves and that’s how I sincerely hope that this book shares my lesson with other people.
You said that “no” is a sentence and a statement that does not need to be qualified. Do people let you get away with a simple no? Do they say no…but why?
Robin: Yeah..a lot of people have asked me about this. I think this point sticks out in this book. One confidence booster is that no is a complete sentence. Have enough confidence that when you really need to say no to someone say no. We can say yes so easily. Will you stay up three days in a row, make the costumes for the children’s play and you say yes. But you don’t need to qualify yes. Will you be at the church early and then make a casserole and be a door greeter as well? Yes. But you don’t need to qualify it. But when we say no we feel this need to qualify it. I had this associate who taught me once that no is a complete sentence and you don’t need to say no….because……Aunt Gertrude had by-pass surgery and it is time for me to watch her lose weight. You try to think of all of these excuses for qualifiers but in reality, if we can stand confident in the reality that no is a complete sentence. It does not need a qualifier. In other words, be confident enough to set boundaries for your sanity, for your own health when you know you are being stretched. Now..I’m not saying we should not help people…we should. And we should particularly pick up some slack in this economy, and do extra things at our jobs. We should. But, when you are doing so many things that you are doing a poor job at everything then you are not of service to yourself or to anybody else.
So..then..we see in here preventive medicine for younger people and readers of all ages?
Robin: Well I put a disclaimer in here that this is one method that works for me and that one method worked for me. I feared panic attacks on the air, therefore they came and I had to come and do a mind sweep and say, ok, that is the cause of these panic attacks and you know…I had to face my own fears to find the benefits in what was happening, so this is one method that worked for me. I know it won’t work for everybody, but I hope that this is a good book to give us some little confidence nuggets to help others. And if my way of thinking does not agree with you, that is fine, but maybe it will start you on the road to doing some self assessment on your own abilities and learn the reasons why you do have to be self confident.
So..you must be hearing this a lot. To be so vulnerable and open to people, and whether or not you take the exact advice you give them, and maybe deal with their issues. It is ok to say I have this problem and I’m not a mental case or whatever..
Robin: Yeah..and I’m not perfect and I’m not just this structure who is reading news on the air. I am real…and we are all in this together. Some people have been surprised. Some people say, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you revealed that. Like I told everyone what is on my nightstand…but that’s fine..that’s ok if people look at me like, oh she is even more of what I thought she was. And in reality, it is about you and me..it is a two-way street and I just hope that people are able to take something away from the book about themselves that will help them.
You mention your husband being an integral part of this
Robin: Oh yes, he definitely is.
But do you also have another network that you lean on besides your husband?
Robin: I want to say mostly him, because there are not many people who can understand me..going to bed at 6:30 p.m. and getting up at 2:00 a.m. and your husband gets home at 8:00. Right? There are other people in similar jobs with similar job constraints and I think they understand that. But in my world, he is my only contact that understands oh well, she is tired today because she did this yesterday, so I do lean on him. But I am not going to delete my mother and dad. They live here in Ohio and they are the second ones I told about my panic attacks and my great fear that I could not do my job anymore. And of course my mom said, it could be an issue with your heart, let’s go get it checked out, everything with her is that you check it out physically first
She was being motherly…?
Robin: And I appreciate that and I would say that I lean on them as well.