Book review: If in Doubt Wash Your Hair

I’m so used to studying heavy going mental health books that reading entrepreneur Anya Hindmarch’s, If in Doubt Wash Your Hair, was like a mini break for the mind. There’s no trauma, grief or suicide here, just Anya’s common sense advice on how to live a more fulfilling life.

From the chic front cover (sunny yellow, with contrasting blue lettering) to the flippant title it feels as though we’re firmly in beach book territory. But we’re not, or at least not completely. While the tone is light and conversational, the content is actually fairly significant. She lays bare exactly what it’s like to be an entrepreneur managing a multi million dollar business. And doesn’t shy away from detailing the personal price she’s paid for her success, both emotionally and mentally.

But first, who is Anya Hindmarch?

Anya Hindmarch is a handbag designer. More specifically, a high end handbag designer, with her own business and an estimated net worth of $20 million. She is also mother to five children and sits on a number of committees and boards. There honestly were times, as I read this book, that I felt tired and overwhelmed for her.

I’m not sure anyone can live life at this pace and altitude and not experience anxiety, self doubt and severe jet lag.

There is little psychological underpinning for the tips in this book, and aside from a bit of NLP, she doesn’t align her advice to any particular theory. Yet it’s full of good guidance and wisdom, which the author admits has been hard won. At the bottom of the front cover, in small lettering are the words, ‘A manual for life.’ But whose life? If, like me, you work for the NHS have one child and no millions then you may wonder how relevant this book is to you.

What’s to like about this manual for life?

Despite our different lifestyles there is plenty that chimes in this book. Not less Hindmarch’s humility. She doesn’t set herself up as an expert. In the first few pages of the book she writes, “Having hit fifty, I suddenly felt I had a lot to say. Not because I have always got it right, but mostly, actually, because I haven’t.”

And it’s with this honest and open approach that she goes on to detail her battles with anxiety and her life spent building a business. And it’s about as far from Insta fabulous as you can get. Years spent working from the kitchen table, cash flow issues and the realisation that when problems arise at work, she finds it hard to be mentally present at home. Anya also doesn’t do toxic spiritual positivity, which comes as a blessed relief. She’s frank that being in business is sometimes tough and the only way round it is to get through it. Before reading this book I occasionally wondered if I would make a good entrepreneur. And now I know I would not. The amount of hard work and sacrifice it takes it sobering, and I am simply too lazy.

Who is this book for?

If you’re not into fashion accessories and you’re not interested in becoming an entrepreneur, then please don’t feel excluded. I think you’ll still find something that’s meaningful to you here. There’s tips on keeping a marriage together, tips on personal organisation and tips on managing tricky relationships – from toddlers to teens.

However, there is a disclaimer I’d like to add and that is: If you’re currently living with depression, anxiety or any other condition that makes it hard for you to seize the day, then If in Doubt Wash Your Hair may not be quite right for you. It really is a life style manual, and takes for granted a certain level of mental resilience and the ability to cram your day full of activity. Maybe come back to this book when you’re feeling better.

On the other hand if you’re feeling mentally strong but overwhelmed, lacking in motivation or paralysed by self doubt, then taking guidance from someone who’s been there, done it and got the handbag could be all the help you need.

If you’ve read If in Doubt Wash your Hair, then please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.

Leave a Comment