I am delighted to review ‘I Thought There Would Be Cake‘ by Katharine Welby-Roberts for the SPCK Book Club this month. With ‘cake’ in the title, I was immediately interested…
Katharine invites the reader on a journey through some of life’s challenges that can make us doubt our self-worth. The title reflects how life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to and being a grown-up is hard! She writes the book to process her thoughts and the book is conversational in style which some readers may find difficult to follow if they like clear structure and answered questions. It’s a short book which can be read quite quickly and it can also be dipped in and out of if you need time to reflect on what has been written.
The author explores complex issues from a Christian perspective; she has experienced the depths of depression and anxiety and takes the reader on a journey to self-acceptance, greater confidence and to start to see ourselves as how God sees us. The book is an account of Katharine’s experiences of self-doubt and fear told with humour and empathy covering issues like: comparing ourselves to others, fear of failure and rejection, taking responsibility of our own behaviour, carrying the weight of our own problems as well as others and how this can impact us, how the power of numbers on social media (number of likes, shares and comments etc.) can have a negative influence, the need to be ‘seen’ as something/to have value/to be liked by others etc and many more stories.
In each chapter, there are questions scattered in bold throughout which encourages the reader to think about their own unique contexts. She states in the introduction that not all of the issues explored will apply to everyone. Each chapter explores parts of the Bible that address some of challenges and how this can begin to change the author’s thinking whilst being applicable to the situation of the reader.
I found this book extremely practical and helpful in places especially with some of the tools that have helped the author. She talks of a book called ‘The Perfectionism Book‘ by Will van der Hart and Rob Waller which I have not read but plan to. The authors talk about rules vs. guidelines as a basis of how we determine what we think we should be doing. Katharine uses the example with regards to her blog. A rule could be that she must blog every week, whereas a guideline would say to aim to post a blog each week, thereby offering more flexibility and less pressure. Thinking about the rules I often set myself, I will see if I can turn them into guidelines in my own life to help me feel less overwhelmed.
She also shares wisdom from her counsellor which I found beneficial. When Katharine replays something over and over again in her mind e.g. saying the wrong thing or being misunderstood by someone, it can fester in her thoughts for months and months. However, her counsellor helpfully points out that it does two things: 1) it gives permission for that person to live rent-free in her head and 2) it doesn’t give the other person an opportunity to refute what she thinks about them or that situation, so essentially she is speaking for them. There have been so many times when I will overthink things to the extent that it can cause unnecessary worry and anxiety – however this advice is worth remembering!
Throughout the book I could relate to a lot of different aspects of Katharine’s life with my own, for example: seeking affirmation from others, the desire for my writing to generate a response which sometimes clouds why I write in the first place, carrying the weight of the problems of others who I care about, wanting to be liked, replaying conversations over and over again in my mind and worrying about offending others and the role that society and culture plays in shaping how I think about myself e.g. if I have recognition from certain people, I will feel better about myself, I need to be better than I am to be truly acceptable etc. However, the author brought me back to God time and again with words of truth like this:
‘If I seek to be valuable based on what I do, then my value will always be susceptible to being lost. I will fail in things, on a regular basis. However, if I base my value on who God has made me to be, then what I do is suddenly no longer about my accomplishment but about his glory. God’s belief in my inherent value means that regardless of what happens in my life, I am special beyond description.’ (pg. 27)
In the epilogue at the end of the book, Katharine shares that through writing the book her confidence has grown, she has started to believe in her own worth even though she admits that there is still a way to go. It is a process of changing a ‘lifetime of habits of believing that you are the opposite’ (pg 3) of what the Bible says about individuals being worthy of love, being unique and of value to God. She has gone from not really liking herself at the start of the book to being less critical and more accepting of who she is. I love her honesty and it has felt like a friend has been sharing her struggles and in turn, she has helped me with my own and it has made a difference to my own thinking.
‘You may have come to the end of it wondering, like me, if it has really made any difference, not because of my magical writing skills, but because through thinking about the issues that tie us down, we can start to loosen the knots.’ (pg. 133)
I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with their self-worth, value and identity. It will get you thinking about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind the thoughts and start to unpack the issues that make you doubt your value. Plus it brings God into the process which is essential to have an unchanging, solid identity in Him – He loves you!
Katharine Welby-Roberts speaks and writes about issues relating to mental and emotional health, and the wider context of how the church responds to those in suffering. She is married to Mike and they live in Reading with their baby son Elijah. Much of her time is taken up occupying Elijah and drinking tea with other mums, but outside of those things she loves a good steak, comic book films and wine.
Katharine’s website: katharinewelby.com