Emily Atack: “I spent my twenties trying to change myself to fit in. Not anymore”

The Inbetweeners and I'm A Celebrity star is approaching 30 and finally, nearly, accepting herself

Emily Atack

by Emily Atack |
Updated on

Have you ever thought that moving your bedroom furniture around your room might fix your life? As if putting your bed on the far wall might just… change everything. Or read books like The Secret, determined that you might unlock the knowledge of ‘obtaining anything you desire’ in its pages, or absolutely believed that donning a facemask and declining a Wednesday invitation to the pub will fix everything?


I have also set myself stupid, unattainable goals like losing two stone in three days (I went to the gym once). I’ve been guilty of having Bridget Jones style meltdowns – of sitting on the sofa feeling sorry for myself and sipping a glass of wine, before chucking all the chocolate in the house in the bin. I’ve spent the last decade expecting a transformation to happen, or constantly wanting to change myself.

Now, I’m almost 30. And very little has changed.

I am still the woman with a very messy bedroom. I still cannot work a fuse box. I ordered a bed so big for my new home that I cannot open my cupboards, let alone do anything else apart from sleep in there. I still consistently smash a wine glass every time I go out. Is it so bad? To some, perhaps. But I’m learning that, while we all want to feel that we’re doing “adulting” the right way, there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do it.

Because it isn’t always easy to like your body or find love or know if you want to have kids or if you’re too selfish. In my world, that I share with best friends I went to school with in a sleepy town in Bedfordshire, who are absolutely not in showbusiness and never have been, it’s very normal to be settled down in a marriage, with kids even, by the time you’re 30. It’s not like that in the entertainment industry – it’s all about your career. But it’s easy to lose sight of the real world, too. If you’re successful, the world starts to revolve around you a little bit – that’s not a good thing. Someone else books your flights, orders your food and brings it to you, someone is always running around after you. I’ve never demanded that – I’m not a diva in anyone’s books – but it’s just what happens.

And then it’s easy to become innately selfish. I’ve tried to do everything I can to make sure that my head doesn’t disappear up my arse. I’ve tried hard not to become too self-absorbed.

In fact, I live a very ordinary life – I’m not like other people off the telly. But still, for me, the last ten years have flown by. And suddenly I have a feeling that I’m not keeping up. All these questions in my mind, that have arguably been in my life forever, are now in focus, and all linked by this feeling of insecurity and unknown…. That lack of confidence or a sense that you’re doing it all wrong.

Perhaps some of it is due to social media – it does allow you to create a fantasy version of your life. I’ve certainly been guilty of putting up a photo looking like I’m having a great night when actually I’ve just been dumped and I’m depressed.

It’s the same with finding love, which is hard. It’s difficult to find someone to trust now since there are so many options. I listen to how it used to be dating and I find it so much more romantic: meeting up with person (because you had to in order to find out about them), writing love letters… Now it’s easy to find a date but maintaining that person is so much more difficult because there are so many alternatives.

We have all these self-help books and dating apps rammed down our throats – and there’s more of a pressure now to get on dates. But they don’t work for everyone. People can create any sort of persona behind a screen. And, in my experience, men feel they have so many options that their head is always looking over their shoulder, seeing what else is out there.

I think you have to find something that works for you. I’m in a relationship now [with Rob Jowes, a film producer] and he’s amazing – he’s a 6’6” Middlesbrough boy and I’m very happy with him. We’ve been together since February. We have silly little chats about living together, or getting engaged. But it’s early days.

It showed me that if someone wants to be with you – really – they just will. And, overall, that we all have good and bad times. I’m accepting myself more than I ever have now, and also accepting that sometimes we just feel shit, quite frankly. Just because you’re not running around with a unicorn up your arse doesn’t mean you’re doing life wrong.

Things might feel bad from time to time – the future will always be uncertain and can’t change everything; some things we have to accept, including ourselves. That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway.

Emily Atack: Adulting, coming soon to W

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