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First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety
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First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,787 ratings  ·  385 reviews
The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful.

Sarah Wilson first came across this Chinese proverb in psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison's memoir An Unquiet Mind, and it became the key to understanding her own lifelong struggle with anxiety. Wilson, bestselling author, journalist, and entrepreneur has helped over 1.5 million people
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Dey Street Books (first published February 28th 2017)
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Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Four stars for writing candidly about mental health. Bravo!

1 star for:
- Terrible editing.
- Blanket statements such as 'anxiety makes you fat'.
- Inconsistencies in timelines such as (and I'm paraphrasing) 'I haven't owned a car in 5 years' to 'I spent years researching what car to buy and I bought the most environmentally sound car in the world', 'I live in the city' to 'I am a nomad and have lived in 7 different places in the last year'. Huh? I'm lost.
- The bit about going to Thai massage place
Carol (Bookaria)
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
“The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful”

This is the author’s honest and vibrant account of her struggle with anxiety and what she has done to cope or manage it throughout her life. I consider it part-memoir and part self-help book.

I found the book interesting and helpful. In it, Sarah Wilson references books and quotes from other authors such as Matt Haig, Glennon Doyle, Louise Hay , and Eckhart Tolle whose book The Power of Now I’ve read at lea
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't for everybody, but it was 100% for me. It seems people didn't like the meandering structure or the conversational style, which is a-ok, obviously. You do you. But I wanted to write a review because I found the book SO beautiful and helpful, and I was sceptical before buying it, so I wanted to speak directly to my fellow sceptics.

I have read many many books on related subjects the last ten years, and I find most have a tiresome "do these 10 simple things and your anxiety will be g
I'm not reviewing this one. A book on anxiety that made me anxious! Not for me.
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Pitched as a ‘new story about’ anxiety, this underwhelming book has moments of cut-through which are almost lost in celebrity name-dropping and privileged advice. There are the seeds of interesting ideas within the narrative, but each time one is approached the strangely stilted structure interferes. The chance to genuinely engage with anxiety in a new way is lost.

“We yearn for something even if we don’t know what it looks like or if it actually exists”

Sarah Wilson is a journalist/tv presenter
Pro tip: Don’t write a memoir like a self help/motivational book.

The reason: It patronises the reader and makes the author seem entirely entitled and self centred.

Some of the the thoughts and suggestions she gave about managing anxiety were nauseating to someone who has an anxiety disorder. Some suggestions rely on the privilege she has in her life and shouldn’t be toted as necessary salves to anxiety.

If she wanted to write about her anxiety and what she’s finds interesting about the conditio
Kate Olson
(Review copy provided by publisher) FIRST, I'm going to tell you this: this book is NOT for people in crisis and is NOT for people with severe anxiety who are not working with a physician or therapist. It is NOT a recipe for "fixing" anxiety and it's NOT a cure-all (actually, it's not a cure-anything).

I went into this book with a strong affinity for the title and the concept of turning anxiety from an ugly beast into something beautiful, without completely obliterating the beast itself. And I di
Sarah Wilson has long irritated me, often with no discernible reason, yet I have eagerly bought every book she's written. That should tell you where this review will ultimately head. (I loved it and I was often times irked by it.)

For some time now, I had suspected the reason Sarah Wilson both intrigues and weirdly repels me is because she reminds me, too much, of myself. When I learned she had a brand new book out on anxiety, my own longtime friend, I first thought, "Ugh! Must she really?" quic
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a very long time follower of Sarah Wilson, I so wanted to love this book. She is an inspirational person who has helped me greatly with my health (mental and physical).

I applaud her bravery and honesty as some aspects of the book are very hard to read. Evisceratingly honest, one might say. Some of her ideas, and approaches and themes about anxiety's manifestations and how to manage and even live with it are excellent and I think will be (largely) helpful to many readers.

But dear lord it is b
Sarah Wilson is an Australian journalist and lifestyle guru famous for her book I Quit Sugar. This is a memoir-in-bits of her life with bipolar disorder and anxiety, with lots of references to other writers and strategies for things that might help. The title comes from a Chinese proverb: you have to know and appreciate what you’re fighting before you have a hope of overcoming it. I didn’t much like the structure – 137 fairly short sections; it just feels like a failure to come up with a success ...more
Charmaine Anderson
I loved this book. The inconsistency, the raw honesty and the unapologetic nakedness of the author was beautiful. It reads much like an anxious persons mind - some facts may not add up, backtracking, random side notes popped in. It felt like much being in my own brain, as if sometimes I was reading my own thoughts. I would not say this is a self help book, just a recap of the struggles of one person who recalls their own attempts to calm their life, and bring meaning.
Feb 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not finish this book, I got nearly half way through and skimmed pretty much the whole thing, it was not engaging or thoughtful and all together crap! The whole book is Sarah muddling all this scientific explanations of anxiety and mental health and occasionally putting her 2 cents in and agreeing or disagreeing with something. Theres no real personal level to this maybe it gets better later on? I dont know i couldn't continue with it.
Rebecca Jane Brown
I need time to mull this over.
First of all, I was sent this by the publishers. No expectations at all on their behalf.

Secondly, I’m battling severe anxiety right now. It might not be the best time to read this.

Despite my second point, one thing is clear: this book needed to be two. A more scientific approach and the second being a memoir. The cross between the two was hard to follow.

Page 19, where the author mentions the potential for Anxiety to be made up? Things like that really impact the boo
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
I have two kinds of slumps.

1. I cannot focus, I cannot think, I cannot read.
2. I devour books in hopes of feeling something (often joined by varying cups and flavours of tea).

Today has been a number 2 kind of day where I managed to read almost all of Wilson's First, We Make the Beast Beautiful (FWMtBB). I first came across this book in a generic shop, not one for books, probably Kmart, and found myself in love with the cover. The next thing, was the fact that the book focused on anxiety, and hec
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were definitely little moments of inspiration for me in this book, but the majority of the book didn’t feel relatable. The format of the book was confusing and felt extremely scattered most of the time.

I found myself getting frustrated hearing stories about how much more anxious Wilson has been her whole life than I have. Maybe it’s my own anxiety but I kept feeling like this was a weird game of Wilson trying to one-up me. I had a difficult time listening to her stories about isolated ret
May 04, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone knows that anxiety is craeted through/by childhood trauma.
Not sure how Sarah, with financial and professional status, has not dealt with her trauma properly.
It's clear at the very end of the book it's a trauma relating to her mother.
Lots of mistakes and errors.
Misleading - lots of timeline errors... she has a car, is a nomad, doesn't drive, drives a car, doesn't own anything.
At least she was honest about her 'instagram perfect' Europe trip being a disaster.
Confused... whats
Stopping at 46%.

This book is giving me anxiety!
I am not sure if this is supposed to be a memoir or a self-help book but it is more like reading self published ramblings with no editor in sight. Time lines were inconsistent and I honestly got nothing out of it besides more anxiety reading about her manic thoughts. Many times in the book she states she is still going through it. So, I am not sure that anything has helped her yet. This is not a personal attack on the author about her life and the w
Astrid Kaniele
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favourite thing about this book was how it was part 'here-are-cool-things-I've-come-across-during-research' and part memoir. As I read, I kept making notes to myself on things that I needed to do further reading about in the future. The way Sarah looks at anxiety - as a help, not a hinderence - is also inspiring.

Definitely worth reading for anyone who suffers with anxiety or wishes to understand people with it a little more.
Span Streatfeild
Both intoxicatingly relatable and completely foreign. A must read.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
A little too scattered to serve me, either as a reader or as an anxious person. Setting it down at the halfway mark.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was apprehensive at first when Sarah Wilson said "read by Sarah Wilson" as the audiobook started ("oh dear, the author reading their own book? this could be very awkward") but I am so pleased to say I fretted for nothing and if anything, it's so much better hearing her own words in her own words. I admire her carving out space for fellow travellers to be uncomfortable, where we are encouraged to sit with our discomfort and listen and learn from it, to take heart and flow through to the other s ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well that took an awfully long time.
But a good read about anxiety and some coping mechanisms.
In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson explores her anxiety and her lifelong struggle to handle it with some kind of grace. For anxiety sufferers, this battle is familiar. It can take years to amass the tools to deal with anxiety. And the tools don't always work. Anxiety is a lifelong problem.

Anxiety can make living a "normal" life difficult. It's hard to function like neurotypical people when your mind is determined to convince you the world is ending. It makes everyday tasks hard
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I... did not enjoy reading this book. It’s about anxiety, which was fine, but the stories the author told about her experiences made me stressed out and worried on her behalf. I was constantly thinking BUT WHO DOES THAT??? as she’s describing activities like packing only a pair of underpants and going hiking in an unfamiliar area at like 2am as though these are common experiences we share and can laugh about in hindsight.

It felt like a lot of the tips she was offering suggested she had somethin
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't a literary masterpiece by any means, but I still think it's worth the read for anyone struggling with anxiety. I decided on a whim to read this one after having a really tough few months dealing with my own anxiety disorder, and at first I almost put the book down because the author's anxiety doesn't manifest like mine, so I was having trouble relating. But then throughout the book there were just these little gems, little quotes that made me feel comforted, that made me feel le ...more
I want to start with that I love this book and found it very inspirational.

First, I wouldn't use it as a self-help, self-fixing guide/book, it's someone else's experience dealing with and coping with anxiety.
What I found so enjoyable about the book is the author's symptoms and struggles resonated with me, reading it I felt often like, "wow, that's something I do". I don't particularly agree with all her "fixes", but it reminds me why it's good to accept and be accepting of a part of me that's
Nicole Brinkley
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: c-nonfiction
"We try to cope by revving up the angst, don't we? ... We should be able to work our way through this. We think this is what will fire us up out of our funk and gets us back on our game. It's a self-perpetuating pain—we use anxiety to fight our anxiety." Touching on her own personal relationship with anxiety, Sarah Wilson's FIRST, WE MAKE THE BEAST BEAUTIFUL explores anxiety through cultural, scientific and philosophical avenues. While Wilson could do with examining her own privilege more, the q ...more
Wilson has lived with anxiety for decades, and she's cycled through several therapists and diagnoses. She's a voracious reader and a prolific writer. She's eternally curious, and she's constantly seeking.

Basically, she and I are twins. (But she got this book done and is collecting the royalties.)

Fans: If you want to journey through my anxious brain, read Wilson's book. She has explored various religions, read a lot of psychology, looked at neuroscience, done progressive relaxation, gone on yoga
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am writing this as someone who does not have anxiety, but am trying to understand it as a family member has it. I think the book gave me a better understanding of anxiety and what people with anxiety go through. I also realised that I am one of the people that people with anxiety find incredibly frustrating.

I did struggle a bit with the way the book was written. It was a bit chaotic and I found it difficult to follow the flow of her discussions.

There are a number of tips in this book for peopl
Ali Edwards
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I pre-ordered this book and read it quickly once I received it. I didn't read any reviews before I read it and I just let it be what it was without preconceived notions (I just read some reviews so that's top of mind as I write my own). I liked the rambling style of this book. I liked the storytelling aspect. I liked simply reading about someone else who lives with anxiety and how it manifests in their own life and the ways she has found to keep moving forward in her own life. I underlined a bun ...more
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“It can be a good thing, too, to learn to sit in your own weirdness.” 4 likes
“I said earlier that making decisions is a key anxiety trigger, If we drill down a bit we can see that this happens because we work to the belief there's a perfect decision out there to be made. But such a thing doesn't exist. And clutching at something that doesn't exist is enough to send anyone into a drowning panic.” 0 likes
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