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Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

A dear friend all the way back from my college years recommended this one to me. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is book number 21 on my Goodreads challenge to read 60 books this year. Not bad eh? I’m quite on schedule! This reading challenge is expanding my knowledge and my network, and it’s even resulted in the wonderfully nerdy Mad Tea Book Club.

Don’t worry, no spoilers in this review. I haven’t mastered the art of reviewing books without spoiling the plot or ending (it’s like reviewing food without actually saying the ingredients…tips anyone??). But I won’t give it away for this book because the plot twist is so important. It would be horrible to give it away. Wait till the end, and let the twist wash over your whole realization…


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut novel of Scottish author Gail Honeyman, who wrote it when she was working as an administrator at Glasgow University. This situation mirrors her character Eleanor who works as a back office finance clerk to a graphic design company. She issues invoices. Exciting isn’t it?

Okay, anyone who does admin work will testify it’s not exciting. It’s tedious and boring and absolutely incredibly necessary. A great admin knows he or she makes or breaks the project, especially if it’s a FINANCE admin. Money is the life and blood of the company, and when Eleanor takes a break from her office to sort out her clinical depression then everyone realizes this.

Yes, Eleanor Oliphant has clinical depression. And she is very lonely. Her antisocial behaviors do not help her loneliness. Add on to this a past incident due to a very toxic mother and you have a woman who is completely fine on the outside, but crumbling inside.


To keep her loneliness at bay, Eleanor stocks herself up on vodka every weekend. As Eleanor finds out throughout this book though, just one sincere person can make a big difference in life. That person is Raymond, the unhygienic, new IT guy at the office.

If you have just one friend that you can count on, that’s enough. You’re rich beyond measure if you have two or three.

Indeed we don’t need to have too many friends. If you have just one friend that you can count on, that’s enough. You’re rich beyond measure if you have two or three. But to build lifelong friendships, you must first open yourself up and be completely vulnerable. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is a story of a brilliant, independent girl, who finds the courage to be real, to be vulnerable, and ultimately, to be herself.

It is a powerful debut novel indeed.

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Dealing with Toxic Voices

Up until my my early twenties I was my own worst critic. I had toxic voices in my head which imprisoned and almost destroyed my life. Now in my early thirties, I still hear that voice sometimes. However, through conscious effort, I now have some tools for helping me deal with the toxic voices inside. Here is what I do.

Identify keywords and phrases the toxic voice uses most.

For me, the keywords are “stupid”, “ugly”, and “not good enough.” The phrases sound like this:

  • I’m so stupid.
  • I’m so ugly.
  • I can’t, I’m not good enough.

Then, I looked deeper into the situation which triggered my toxic voice. I realized that in most situations, the intent behind it was really for my own betterment. However, the critic was not trained to frame the response in a more constructive manner.

Analyze the situation and reframe the statement.

“I’m so stupid” often comes up when I am trying to accomplish a task, but failed. Saying the opposite of the statement (I’m smart) will make me feel better about myself. But it still doesn’t solve the issue. Instead, reframing to “I didn’t know this. Where can I find more information about this?” Then try to find out more sources of information to help in accomplishing the task.

“I’m so ugly” comes up when I look in the mirror and see a physical feature that is not Instagram Perfect. This is very difficult, because pictures in social media are often edited and far from reality. To look Instagram Perfect, what I actually need is a crash course in Adobe Photoshop.

To look Instagram Perfect, what I actually need is a crash course in Adobe Photoshop.

So a possible reframing would be making factual observations. For example:

  • My skin is dry.
  • I have zits on my forehead.
  • I have bags underneath my eyes.

Then to help analyze, I ask the question of Why.

  • Why is my skin so dry? Perhaps I forgot to use my moisturizer. Or perhaps I need a different moisturizer.
  • Why am I breaking out on my forehead? Perhaps I touched my forehead too much with my fingers.
  • Why do I have bags underneath my eyes? Perhaps I didn’t sleep enough the last couple of days.

Everything physical has a cause. If I can find the cause, then I can begin to improve the physical ailments.

Dig into the details and then make sure the conclusion is really your choice.

“I can’t, I’m not good enough” is heard when someone challenges me with something, and I am surprised by the challenge. For example, a colleague asks me to present on a certain topic. My first automatic response is “I can’t, I’m not good enough!” But wait. Let me dig deeper into the challenge. I ask questions like:

  • What is it that I actually have to do?
  • What would I have to prepare?
  • How much time will I need to prepare it?

As you look deeper, you will grasp more of the real demands of the challenge. Then, if you end up not doing it, it will be because you choose not to commit to the preparation which was necessary. Not because you are not good enough, but simply because you choose to do something else with that time.

Do you have strategies to deal with the toxic voices in your heads? Share some tips in the comments!

To learn more about toxic voices, visit this article from Psych Alive. If you need a reminder of your self worth, visit this poem which I wrote.