It’s ten years since the former model and TV presenter was attacked with sulphuric acid in a busy London street, just days after being raped and beaten by a man she had only met a handful of times. The life changing injuries which she has sustained has resulted in over 100 surgeries to help rebuild her, inside and out.
But Katie, 34, is reflective about the unexpected path her life was forced to take. She set up a charity – the Katie Piper Foundation – to help other people who have suffered from burns in 2009. She also cherishes the time she spends with husband Richard Sutton and the children she thought at one stage she would never be able to have, Belle, four and Penelope, ten months.
When it comes to thinking positive, dealing with trauma and learning to love yourself, there is so much Katie can teach us…
“I would define confidence as something that we all have. It’s almost like a muscle – some are stronger than others, and how hard we work on it and how much effort we put into it is the amount that we’re going to have. For me, it’s a question that I’m always asked – how am I confident? There’s not one particular answer. Some people think that confidence can come from one thing – looking good, being thin, being pretty – but it doesn’t. Those things can all be factors, but confidence can come from multiple places that makes us a well-balanced, rounded person.”
“We can choose the attitude we take to every day, and everything that happens in that day. While we can’t change the past or other people, we can change what we do. We can turn a difficult situation into an easier one, we can be generous and we can help others.”
“Sometimes we can have unrealistic aspirations, but as soon as we can accept our limitations we can move forward and show people the best version of who we can be, rather than aspiring to be like somebody else.”
“You can feel angry, but you don’t need to act out, you can control it. You can feel unhappy, but you don’t need to let it take you over. Why? Because the secret about feelings is this – feelings follow behaviour. This means that if you behave as if you are happy, you will start to feel happy, but if you behave as if you are sad, you will start to feel sad. So the important thing to watch is the way you behave.”
“It was hard not to let the acid attack affect me for a long time. For about three years afterwards, I held on to the trauma and put much of my energy into remembering the past. But it meant I lacked the resources to make the most of my future — I was going over old ground rather than creating new. Putting the past to bed didn’t happen naturally, I had to work at it. I have to remind myself not to slip back, but it’s worth it as I lead a calmer, happier life. I still find myself hanging on to some things for too long, such as if I’ve done a job and not prepared properly as I’ve been busy. It knocks my confidence weeks later. I have to tell myself to prepare better in future and move on.Letting go of the past is something many of us could benefit from. We carry around stuff from our childhood, old relationships or nasty things that have been said to us, and let it ruin our future. You learn a lot from making peace with it.”
“Look after yourself not because you are selfish but because it’s vital if you are to function well and do all of the other things you need and want to do. Most of us have responsibilities towards others – partners, children, elderly relatives, but if we wear ourselves out we’re no good to them. So get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, have some time alone, pace yourself and don’t forget to breathe deeply. To build self-trust, keep the promises you make to yourself, speak kindly and positively to yourself, have faith in yourself and don’t spend too much time with people who undermine you. With self-trust you build self-confidence, because they are two sides of the same coin.”
“Words like “inspirational” and “brave” are bandied around so easily, but there’s no such thing as a superhero – and celebrity is a cult. This inspirational spirit is in everyone. Sadly most of us don’t draw on it until we’re pushed to the limit.”
“Writing out lists and writing out goals [was a way for me to take the control back]. Some of those goals were small steps, realistic things like wanting to have a job again, wanting to make new friends. Even as small as ‘Smile at 5 people today’, because in the beginning that was really hard. Others were massive life goals and ambitions. Once I wrote them down it helped me stay focused and made me realise that with one step at a time I could achieve anything.”
“Saying yes to everything is exhausting and overwhelming. It makes it impossible to look after yourself properly. So start being more selective and saying no more often. Far from making you feel bad, once you get the hang of it, no can be the most powerful word in your confidence toolkit.”
“I’ve been given quite a lot of advice from a big range of people, but one affirmation that stuck was: “Worry is the biggest waste of time – all it does is ruin your joy and never, ever helps the situation; it’s such a waste of emotion.” It’s something that has really helped me so much in my recovery.”