Need a nudge to make the most of your life?
Author and actress Stephanie Szostak, along with the organization, Give an Hour, have created SELF!SH, a workbook that asks readers personal questions, allowing them to reflect on who they are and to consider how to more confidently live a life of joy and meaning.
The definition of Self!sh: A play on words combining “self” and “ish” to create a positive spin on the word “selfish”. It’s about taking time for yourself everyday, owning it as a good thing, and bringing more of what you cherish and value to the world and those around you. That’s Self!sh.
What are your greatest achievements? Who do you admire? How do you find and spread joy? The workbook questions you answer to create your individual playbook can be transformative; they have the potential to guide you and enhance your personal growth and development. We all can benefit from a little clarity in our lives and when asked the right questions, we may be surprised at our untapped potential. I highly recommend SELF!SH and am busy working on my personal playbook right now!
Q & A with Stephanie Szostak
Q: I am so excited for people to dive in to SELF!SH, take a good hard look at themselves, do the work and get clarity on how to live with more intention. What is the early response to your book and have you suggested it to therapists and professors as a tool to utilize with clients and students?
A: The early response has been really positive. One particularly affirming endorsement came from psychologist and author Dale V. Atkins, who said she would incorporate SELF!SH into her work with clients. I’ve been fortunate to hear from a wide range of individuals, including mental health professionals, coaches, athletes, actors, authors, business professionals, a behavioral scientist, and a yoga teacher, all expressing their enthusiasm for the book. This feedback has been incredibly validating, highlighting the versatility of the book and its ability to resonate with different people, regardless of their unique goals or personal journey. Now, I look forward to hearing from the readers!
Q: The book really forces you to think deeply about yourself and causes you to live with more intention and appreciation. In the book you provided a link for the VIA Institute quiz to identify character strengths and I took it along with a friend and we had a great time discussing our individual results. Even though readers take their individual journeys to self discovery, is there opportunity for conversations with others to help generate ideas?
A: Absolutely! And hopefully, the book doesn’t “force” you to do anything, but offers gentle nudges to explore and reflect. I love that you took the VIA character strength test with a friend and that it sparked meaningful discussions. I’ve done the exact same thing! Give and Hour and I also developed a Book Club Guide for people going through the workbook. You can find it and download it at selfishplaybook.com. Only thing I would encourage you to do is keep your answers private or consider who you might want to share them with. So often, when we know others will see our answers, we end up editing ourselves. This book is for you, to fully and unapologetically be truthful and connect with yourself.
Q: So many of us have insecurities and are looking to improve our lives. Can you tell us how Give An Hour inspired you to write something to help others and the steps you took to create this book?
A: Give an Hour loved the concept of the Playbook – a tool I created for my own well-being, to remember crucial insight and guidance and incorporate it in my daily life. We partnered on a series of webinars during COVID to encourage the Give an Hour community to create their own Playbook for their mindset. The response was great, but one question kept coming up: “What goes in my playbook?” This led us to creating this workbook to not only help people create their Playbook but also encourage them to reflect on who they are, what they’re capable of, what it means for them to live a meaningful life, and how to get there. That’s how SELF!SH came about.
Q: I am hoping to give this book as a gift for the holidays this year. Who do you see as the audience for SELF!SH?
A: I love that idea! Doing the workbook over the holidays is a great way to set the stage for the new year. SELF!SH is for anyone on a path of growth, change, or preparing for the next chapter of their lives. Post college, post divorce, new job, new decade, new year, new “me.” Anyone dealing with professional burnout, performers, business people, and athletes. Go-getters and over-achievers who are extremely passionate about what they do but want more ___ fill in the blank: purpose, confidence, resilience, or joy. It’s also a great tool for adults and teenagers who are in therapy and/or recovery, and could use a ‘playbook’ to help them remember, and integrate new found tools, beliefs and principles into their lives. Ultimately, SELF!SH is for anyone seeking personal growth. It will provide you with a tool that will live on and evolve well beyond this book — YOUR Playbook to empower you on your unique journey of self-discovery and learning.
Q: Therapy is mentioned throughout the book – can you tell us a bit about your struggles that led you to get outside help and how did that therapy play a part in your journey?
A: I’ve always been a people pleaser, which has its upsides but can also be a double-edged sword. As my career started to take off and I found myself on a bigger stage, my people-pleasing tendencies stifled my creativity, and ability to “let go”. Fear took over. Fear of not being good enough, fear of not fitting in, fear of other people’s opinions, fear of being found out, and getting fired! I felt like I didn’t belong and that impacted not only my performance, but also my relationships, and overall wellbeing. The upside is it pushed me to seek outside help, which included therapy, as well as books, podcasts, and courses. I discovered tools, practices, and skills that helped me better manage my thoughts and emotions, separate my self-worth from career success, and other people’s opinions, and I gained clarity on my values and guiding principles. I got a whole makeover – a mindset makeover. However, I was left with the question, “Now what? How do I actually take what I’m learning and integrate it into my life?” That’s the why behind my Playbook. It gave me a place to put all these transformative elements and keep them at my fingertips for whenever I need them. Therapy has played an important role in my journey but it’s not for everyone and it’s not accessible to everyone. Fortunately, there are many resources out there that can help improve our daily experience of life, and within ourselves, we also hold many answers if we know what questions to ask. My hope is that the exercises in the workbook can serve as a starting point for readers to find their some of their own healing and transformative answers.
Q: How did you come up with each chapter – the 8 steps?
A: The eight steps are all based on exercises I received from coaches, therapists, or courses. The only one I created specifically for the book is the Joy exercise. These exercises have played a significant role in my own growth and development. And, over the years, I have even revisited some of them. My answers continue to guide me to this day and are all incorporated into my Playbook. I saw this beautiful quote this summer by Maya Angelou at my local beach, “We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” So why not spend a little time for ourselves, a little SELF!SH time, to figure out how we can bring more of all of that to our life.
Q: It can be helpful hearing about others people’s journeys and I love how you included a variety of personal stories in the book. Did you have everyone who contributed to the book do the work in this workbook? Did you test it out before you published it?
A: Yes, every contributor to the book, and Give an Hour ambassador was given an exercise to complete, and asked for feedback. If they had a personal story that related to a specific exercise, we asked if they’d be comfortable sharing it. These stories are featured at the beginning of each step. Additionally, we shared the exercises with Give an Hour employees, friends, mental health professionals, and coaches, keeping track of comments, feedback, and changes we wanted to make. It was truly a collaborative process and I am immensely grateful for everyone’s contributions.
Q: Can you tell us more about the organization, Give and Hour? How can we get involved?
A: Give an Hour is a nationally recognized non-profit that has been providing customized mental health since 2005. They work with various communities, including those impacted by human-made trauma, the military, individuals affected by violence and crime, and those in the workforce. They offer tools such as one-on-one counseling at no cost through their network of volunteer mental health professionals, peer support, and education and training. To get involved, mental health professionals can join their network and offer an hour of their time each week to counsel those in needs. You can also train to be a peer supporter if you have lived experience and feel that you can help others, or become a wellness ambassador in your community. And, of course you can donate, or buy SELF!SH, as 50% of my proceeds will go to Give an Hour. For more information, visit their website at giveanhour.org
Q: I loved the story about you meeting Harry Connick Jr and I wondered if he has read SELF!SH and if you ever discussed your embarrassment from that first meeting with him after the fact?
A: I have not seen him since but you got me thinking, maybe I should send him a copy of SELF!SH.
Q: Of course I love all your work and most recently, the tv series A Million Little Things. Has the book helped you with your acting career and understanding your character on a deeper level? What is next for you on the acting front and will you be writing another book?
A: Oh l love that! You know, you’re right, the exercises in the book could be used to flesh out a character. Maybe I should add that to my preparation! I don’t know what’s next, we’re in the middle of a strike right now, and hopefully we can get back to work soon! And, who knows about another book… I have to get the App supporting this book out first.
Q: How can we keep up with you and all that you are doing?
A: @stephshortstak on instagram, and through my website www.stephanieszostak.me , and the SELF!SH website www.selfishplaybook.com Don’t hesitate to send feedback on your playbook, or share pictures with your own workbook!