As a kid I lived in the shadow of my hugely successful brother. He was great at school and appeared to be brilliant at everything. People never believe me when I say this, but at school I was shy – I used to go deep red if my name was called out in class. They used to call me Kyle Pile Haemorrhoids. I found it very difficult to talk in public. I learned to grow a skin eventually.
I was very nervous of the opposite sex. I worked out early on, the way to get a girl if you looked like me was to make them laugh. I used to think how weird it was that there was a person out there I’d one day share my life with -I wondered where they were and what they were doing.
I’d reassure my younger self that he doesn’t have to worry that he doesn’t know what to do with his life. I started as a salesman, I ended up on TV – how lucky am I? I have admiration for people who have mapped their years out but I also stick up for people who don’t know what to make of their lives. I think there’s a skill in everybody but it’s not always blindingly obvious.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Being a salesman brought out the performer in me. I loved the competition in selling. Even now, playing Scrabble with my wife, I always love to win. Maybe it’s because I never stood out at anything when I was young. But that made me want to try my best at everything. Yeah, I turned out to be very competitive.
The biggest mistake I made as a younger man was probably spending money I didn’t have following a dream that was never going to be achieved. I got very involved in gambling in my early 20s and painted myself into a corner. My marriage was going wrong at the same time and I stuck my head in the sand.
We get to the root cause of people’s pain,
I did 12 years of confessional radio before TV, I got used to giving my opinion. Sometimes I did ask myself if I should have done things differently, but I had to learn to think of it as a job, and go home. I’d go mad if I went over everything I say and all the awful things I hear.
I had a very secure family unit. Today, one-in-three marriages end in divorce. When you’re growing up you accept your own family as the norm: we played together, laughed together, cried together. I was much older before I got any kind of understanding of what it was like to live a totally different kind of life, without anyone really caring about you. Now I understand why kids go off the rails.
People look down on the people who come on my show but they’re all trying to do something to improve their lives. I believe The Jeremy Kyle Show changes people’s lives. I know, with my hands on my heart, that it does. We get to the root cause of people’s pain and we sort it out. It’s a TV show, and I think you have to find that line between entertainment and counselling and I think we do.
This Letter To My Younger Self originally appeared in The Big Issue in June 2010.