Advice to my younger self

Hindsight is always 20/20 and a wonderful thing, and even more wonderful is the fact that the older you are the more hindsight helps to hone a foresight that’s equally sharp.

On Wednesday, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour shared a video of some of their wisest guests – from actors Phina Oruche and Elisabeth Moss to model Adwoa Aboah, former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman to Mobo Awards founder Kanya King, who shared the things they’ve learnt the hard way.

“Be brave because fortune favours the brave,” says Kanya King whose bravery kicked off what has become a key annual event for British music.“Worry less,” says Alexandra Shulman.“Chill, sis; chill, kid, relax – it’ll be alright,” says Phiona Oruche.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. Things will start to fall into place,” Adwoa Aboah affirms. Getting closer to 40, I’ve found myself thinking back to my teenage years, twenties and thirties more and more, sometimes with a sense of nostalgia, and other times a sense of guilt that perhaps had I known what I know now I would’ve lived a fuller life. This video couldn’t come at a better time as it is now almost a weekly occurrence I find myself half amused, half amazed by how years put life into perspective. Often, in the process, I think of what advice I might have given my younger self, and the closer I am to 40, the clearer it becomes. And if speaking to my younger self, I am able to share some nuggets of hard earned wisdom to help another woman’s growth, even better.

Worry less
Worrying is a waste of your energy you can channel towards more positive and productive endeavours. In Wiz Khalifa’s words, “Worrying is like walking around with an umbrella waiting for it to rain.” As the older adage goes, worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace. Perhaps you will need years of worrying to realise that it is pretty useless, but do yourself a favour, let go of your worries, and let God.

Have courage
Have courage to speak out. It may seem easier to be a wallflower and speak when only spoken to, but speak up, speak out. Have courage to voice your thoughts, your emotions, your truth. The longer you keep quiet the harder it will be to find your voice.

Leave the elephants fight
When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. You may feel emotionally invested in someone else’s fight, you may feel they have suffered an injustice you need to stand up against, but many years from now you will realise sometimes people don’t fight, not because they are weak but because they are happy with the status quo. Don’t take Panadol for their headache, don’t carry their troubles on your head. And always remember: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

You are not others’ opinions
You will spend many years pointlessly worrying about being liked. Do not bother trying to make everyone like you; they won’t. Wherever you are there will always be someone that will dislike you. Perhaps you remind them of an annoying relative, or you’re too nice, or not nice enough, or perhaps it is because of your colour, race, religion. Leave them be. They are, after all, entitled to their opinion, and you are way more than the sum of their opinion.

Make peace with yourself
You will always be too short, or too tall, too skinny, too fat; your thighs will be thunderous, your stomach a mellow mound, your hair too frizzy or too dark. The sooner you make peace with the woman staring back at you in the mirror the sooner you will discover inner peace and a healthy compass to light your way in a world so obsessed with appearances.

Listen to your gut
Every time life trips you up, you will discover it is often those times you failed to listen to your gut. That instinctive hunch which we call a gut feeling has helped your species survive millennia on this earth and is now honed to perfection. If it is trying to tell you something, ignore it at your expense.

In this article:
Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo

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