The one lesson I learned from life: Rachel Riley says that perfection does not make you happy

The One Lesson I Learned From Life: Presenter Rachel Riley Says Perfect Does Not Make You Happy










Rachel, 35, has been presenting TV’s Countdown for 13 years. She lives in London and is married to dancer Pasha Kovalev, her partner at Strictly Come Dancing in 2013. They have two daughters, Maven at two, and newborn Noah.

I did not realize that I was a perfectionist and punished myself for mistakes before I did it severely. At one point, I felt like I was not present in my body.

One week I was in the dance-off and the quick step went a little wrong, which I could not help but think about.

The next week, when the music started at the rehearsal, Pasha looked at my face and said, ‘Are you there?’

Rachel, 35, a resident of London, has been presenting TV's Countdown for 13 years.  She is married to dancer Pasha Kovalev, her Strictly Come Dancing partner from 2013

Rachel, 35, a resident of London, has been presenting TV’s Countdown for 13 years. She is married to dancer Pasha Kovalev, her Strictly Come Dancing partner from 2013

When you are stressed, your brain can store memories in the wrong place. Something that should not worry you is coming back. You relive it and it gets far bigger than it actually was.

Pasha suggested cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It helped him quit smoking after two sessions. So I saw psychologist Michael Carthy, who helps people who have to give speeches.

I’m not a natural speaker. When I started Countdown after studying mathematics at Oxford, I had never made drama.

So every time I made a small slip on TV, it became hugely exaggerated for me.

After two CBT sessions, I was more calm. It has taught me to ask before I do anything: ‘What would be a good result?’ Before, I never even had a benchmark for what I wanted to achieve. So you will never be happy about anything.

I have also learned to only worry about things that will be important in five years.

Therapy was not normal when I was young, but if you try it as an adult, you understand how good it is.

I have passed the message on to my female friends because, as a product of a high school made up entirely of girls, we perform well, accustomed to focusing on what goes wrong while never seeing the good things we have accomplished .

That’s why I’m so passionate about promoting math positivity for women. It is a useful life lesson to realize that you can teach yourself to think differently and see the positive in what you do.

That Sixes And Sevens: How To Understand Numbers And Make Maths Easy, by Rachel Riley (£ 14.99, HarperCollins), is out now.

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