Champion of self-acceptance and an advocate for kindness, bestselling author Vex King is no stranger to empowering others. Sharing his inspirational words, he reveals, from his own lived experiences, what a huge difference hope and authentic guidance can make
What does love mean to you? The pang in your heart when you hear that special someone’s voice? That friend who just knows when something isn’t right, and shows up without you needing to ask? The unconditional trust and devotion of a four-legged friend greeting you with an uncontrollable wag?
Looking to answer that question, and exploring the very nature of the most basic human emotion, has been a driving force behind Sunday Times bestselling author Vex King’s work for years. And from romantic relationships to our deepest connections with others and ourselves, his response is underpinned by one universal factor: authenticity.
But to understand his work now, Vex explains, it’s crucial to know about his childhood, which was undeniably difficult. His dad died when he was a baby, his family were homeless for three years, and endured sustained racism and severe poverty. Vex witnessed family members being physically assaulted, robbed, and experienced the real threat of gun violence. There were times, he says, when these early experiences meant that he didn’t want to carry on living.
“It was the love of my mum and sisters that kept me going,” he explains. “It was the love of the people around me that helped me progress during the times that I wanted to give up.”
Vex reflects on how these formative experiences initially played out through his behaviour. “A lot of the time I was angry with the world, but that anger was just a secondary emotion. The primary emotion was pain. To deal with that pain I showed anger, and started wrecking the world around me. Now I’m able to be compassionate towards that version of myself, because I know I lacked support and education.”
Vex found solace, inspiration and education in self-development books. He credits these for creating a sense of hope that there was a better life ahead for him, and knowledge that he could change his mindset and reactions towards those who had treated him so poorly.
Vex started to address how he behaved, too. “I thought that being this hard-edged man was the way to be, and that takes strength. But actually kindness, to me, requires strength. It’s so much easier to react to your emotions than to pause, take a step back, encourage some self-awareness and respond in line with how you wish to see the world in the future.”
And he has big hopes for the future. Everything Vex does is about equipping others with the tools they need to live connected, authentic lives. Having spent so much time working on himself, he feels a strong calling to impart what he’s learned to as many people as possible.
“My work is inspired by the young Vex who didn’t have resources or people around him to encourage his dreams,” he explains. “I want to share the lessons I learned as a child with the world, but, more importantly, a lot of my passion and drive has grown from the desire to help or prevent people from going through the same suffering I did.”
This is where Vex’s writing comes in. He’s already reached millions of people through his books Good Vibes, Good Life, and Healing is the New High, and now his third, Closer to Love: How to Attract the Right Relationships and Deepen Your Connections, explores the crucial role self-love and acceptance play in connecting authentically with others.
While he writes to help others, putting pen to paper has been a therapeutic tool Vex has employed from a young age. Although, he notes, he had no idea it was helping him in such a meaningful way until later.
“I always wrote down how I felt growing up, and I don’t think I’d be a writer if I hadn’t, because I was being very vulnerable with myself on paper. Even now I do the same thing. Although I like to share research, science and studies, essentially I’m talking about my own experiences, and I’m sharing my story. It’s really helped me to understand myself. I always say journaling is your avenue to emotional literacy.”
Vex says that his wife, Kaushal, initially struggled with journaling. As a result of a conversation about the benefits of writing inner thoughts out, they worked together to develop a beautiful journal to help anyone who picks it up. They named it The Greatest Self-Help Book Ever Written (Is The One By You).
“I truly believe that – not to downplay my other books,” he laughs. “I believe that the book that you engage with, the book that you get to know yourself with, is going to make the biggest difference in your life.”
Vex’s take on self-help is refreshing, accessible, and steeped in lived experience. His authenticity comes across strongly with every word, and he notes that his focus will always be on people and purpose, rather than popularity and profit.
However, there’s one thing that Vex is at pains to point out about self-help. That’s the importance of addressing your feelings, and avoiding anything resembling toxic positivity.
“Through my own scars, I’ve found strength, and through my wounds I found wisdom,” he says. “But if anyone is going through a hard time, I would say please don’t feel the pressure to look for the lesson right away, because I did that for a good part of my life.
“When I started reading books, I realised there was this power to positive thinking and I knew I could use it to change my life, but what I did in that process was neglect my emotions for the sake of being a ‘positive person’. I’d pushed them down as low as I could, pretending they weren’t there, that the things I had experienced didn’t matter. But they did.
“So I went on this journey of authentic self-love. I looked back on my trauma, I looked back on the things I’d tried to hide away and I found lessons in them. But the key lesson I learned was to show yourself grace throughout your journey, to hold self-compassion. It doesn’t matter what goal you aspire to, you have to have compassion for yourself. The understanding that you are just a human being that’s trying to do their best in the world, that’s the most important thing of all.”
‘Closer to Love: How to Attract the Right Relationships and Deepen Your Connections’ by Vex King (Bluebird, £16.99 hardback) is available now.
Photography | Alecsandra Dragoi