MGC 1997 Leaver

When I first came to Malvern Girls’ College, as it was then, I was lacking in self-confidence. I was scared, nervous and had been through an unhappy time at my previous school. It was a cognitive leap becoming a full-time boarder, but luckily when I joined in Upper Four I had my older sister Catherine, who was then in her final year, to shepherd me through.

When I arrived, lugging a suitcase that was twice my size, I felt almost immediately embraced by an atmosphere of warmth. It wasn’t just that the teachers seemed to care (although they did). Nor was it just that my fellow pupils were welcoming rather than judgemental (although they were). It was something less tangible than either of those things. It was the sense that, at MGC, I would be encouraged to be not someone else, but rather to be the best version of myself.

My four years at Malvern gave me confidence, not just academically but personally too. I did a lot of debating and my coaching sessions with Mrs Melhuish taught me so much about speaking in public and winning over an audience (one of her key pieces of advice was to smile before I started talking so that you set yourself and your listeners at ease, which is something I now do every time I give a speech). I was so lucky to be taught by some incredible people: at A Level I remember being impassioned by Mr Thomas’s History of Art lessons, stimulated by English with Mrs Melhuish and Mr O’Reilly and so deeply inspired by History with Miss Walker that I went on to read this subject at Cambridge University, graduating with a Double First. It was Miss Walker who encouraged me to think for myself and to read Hobbes’s Leviathan, a book I vividly recall talking about in my university admission interview.

I left Malvern with some great friends, more courage and an excitement about engaging with the world around me. I remain profoundly grateful for this extraordinary gift.

In July 2018, I launched my podcast, How To Fail With Elizabeth Day, which is now in its third season and has attracted guests such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Lily Allen, Gina Miller and David Baddiel, as well as reaching the top of the iTunes chart. My fifth book, part-memoir, part-manifesto, is called How To Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong and will be published in April 2019. I'm currently a weekly columnist for The Mail on Sunday's You magazine and contributing editor at Harper's Bazaar.

What does success look like?

Success is not an absence of failure; rather it is treating failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow. Failing is normal. It happens all the time. It’s how you choose to respond to it that defines you as an individual.

What is your best piece of advice?

Life gets better the more you get to know yourself.