WHAT I’VE LEARNT
Women tell us what they wish they’d known – and what they know for sure
How often have you thought ‘I wish I’d known that in my 30s’ or ‘If only I could go back and talk some sense into my 20-year-old self ’? With each decade, we gain so many new perspectives. We asked our girlfriends, moms, great-aunts and sisters for their best bits of woman-to-woman advice – here’s what they had to say. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
‘Marry someone who is sensible when it comes to money.’ – Tanya, 46 ‘Invest in more me-time. Do core-building daily. Breathe and blink before you react.
Drink warm lemon-ginger water first thing in the morning. Invest time in yourself. Take lessons and learn how to connect your mind with your body through dance. And make time to be a kid with your kids every day.’ – Mariette, 39 ‘Take more chances. As a woman in your 20s or 30s, you should be wearing a bathing suit with confidence. This is the best you will ever look!’ – Louise, 62 ‘I had both my kids in my 20s and I was so stressed out and worried about doing everything “right” that I don’t think I really enjoyed all the cute things they did and said when they were little. If Take more chances. As a woman in your 20s or 30s, you should be wearing a bathing suit with confidence. This is the best you will ever look! – Louise, 62 I could go back I would be more relaxed and pay less attention to everyone’s “must-follow” advice.’ – Jean, 64 ‘Positivity is not always the best route; sometimes it breeds complacency. It’s okay not to like everything.’ – Leri, 24 ‘Everything is “figureoutable”. It’s okay to do things in your own way at your own pace – don’t worry so much about ticking everyone else’s boxes.’ – Marli, 27 ‘We were raised to always be polite and accommodating – it took me years to learn how to speak up for myself, put my foot down and say “NO (thank you)”.’ – Nina, 62 ‘Don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid to do something. Do it, take responsibility for it and wing the rest.’ – Andrea, 47
You are not your job. You are never too old to learn
new.❜ something – Elma, 59
Looking back, I would have stood up to men, authority and
sooner.❜ traditions – Mia, 24
‘Don’t use hair colour from a box.’ – Amanda, 39 ‘Relax. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And continue to believe in the goodness of people.’ – Annie, 43 ‘Start exercising at a young age. Look after your physical health, and move your body for at least 20 minutes a day. I wish I had. You will be amazed at how quickly your body gives up the ghost on you if you don’t – it literally happens overnight. It’s not really about looking younger; it’s about feeling strong – mentally and physically.’ – Caryn, 50
In my 20s: ‘Trust yourself more and take less advice from others.’
In my 30s: ‘Don’t burn the candle at both ends – nobody’s actually watching!’
In my 40s: ‘Don’t feel guilty about anything – anything. There’s no time to waste: don’t look right and don’t look left – just keep going; it will all work out. And remember to be kind!’
In my 50s: ‘Make friends, make good choices. As much as you can, make life special. And be generous with everyone, including yourself.’ – Maria, 61 ‘You don’t have to do everything; it’s okay to ask for help. Often the people who matter are just waiting for you to reach out and ask them.’ – Kim, 42 ‘Looking back, I would be much kinder to myself and congratulate myself on what I’ve achieved, rather than berating myself for what I haven’t done.’ – Sam, 49
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
‘In my 20s I worked with an older lady who one day told me, “Marry a man that you like as person. He must be fun, kind and make you laugh. Don’t marry a man you love but do not really like as a person. If you like someone as a human being, the love will grow as you get older and you will like and appreciate each other.” Other great pieces of advice I got were: “Never go to bed with makeup on”; “Be financially independent – it gives you confidence in your relationship with your man” and “Always have a little black dress in your cupboard that’s ready to wear”.’ – Louise, 62 ‘When you’re growing up, it’s difficult when you don’t feel like you’re part of the pack, and you find yourself questioning many of the things that adults tell you. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, told me it’s okay to be critical and to question things, including authority. She also told me the person who leads is often alone.’ – Annie, 43 ‘I tend to overcommit, so I’ve learnt never to say “yes” immediately. I say, “I’ll have to check and get back to you.” That way you can go home and think about it, and if you have to, phone back and politely decline.’ – Sonja, 34 ‘“Broaden your horizons, doll.” (from my mom when I had a deadbeat boyfriend in high school).’ – Mia, 24 ‘Being interested is interesting. And never get so angry that it costs you money.’ – Leri, 24 ‘What you tend to want most when you’re young is for people to like you. But I’ve come to accept (especially when dealing with difficult people) that you won’t get on with everyone, and that you can’t change people. The only thing you can change is how you react to them. It’s given me a lot of peace.’ – Jen, 36
In my 20s: ‘Invest time and effort in your friendships. And keep a journal for your kids, starting from the day the test shows a positive result until the day they’re old enough to take over the authorship.’
In my 30s: ‘Make sure your brain secretes all four happy hormones each day. This is within your control, and there are enough variables in life that are not.’ – Mariette, 39 ‘Buy property as soon as you can, no matter how young you are – the sooner the better. I listened and it has really paid off. Also, never rely on anyone else to pay the bills – be self-sufficient. It will help you to make the right decisions in your life, that could otherwise be swayed by not having the means to look after yourself.’ – Caryn, 50 ‘I had my kid when I turned 30, which I thought was a good age since I was mature and stable The best advice I got in my 20s was to breathe before you react. Try to understand what you want to achieve with your reaction before you respond. – Gina, 53
You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. – Sam, 49 enough to deal with all the challenges that come with a new baby… or so I thought. The best advice I received from my mom was: “Parenting doesn’t come with a manual and every kid is different. Go with your gut; you will know when something is right and when something is not. And don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself and on your child.”
‘Another great piece of advice came from a primary school friend I reconnected with, who said: “Enjoy the space you are in.” Even when things aren’t going too well, live through it and learn from it because it can lead to greater fulfillment later.’ – Kim, 42
In my 20s: ‘Go away to faraway lands, learn to wash in public places, eat off other people’s plates.’
In my 30s: ‘Pay for a babysitter – no one likes other people’s children.’
In my 40s: ‘Get a life and remember that Monday is a good day to want to “divorce” your husband – it gives you the whole week to relearn to love him!’
In my 50s: ‘Travel to faraway lands – you can afford it.’ – Penny, 52 ‘My aunt has a saying that we can all parrot back to her at this point: “What you allow is what you get.” It applies to just about every relationship you have – your friends, partner, your kids and even your parents. You teach people how to treat you. If you keep quiet when someone is being disrespectful of your time, or you give in to unreasonable demands, you’re setting the tone for that relationship, and those patterns become ingrained over time.’ – Liesl, 35 ‘I used to think people who were loud and opinionated had it all figured out. But often all that pomp is just a smokescreen for a whole lot of insecurities’ – Julia, 37 When choosing a partner, kindness trumps cool – and humour trumps everything.
Learn how to be a damn good friend and a seestah to other women: the friendship of women is one of the great joys in life.
Cultivate a healthy disrespect for everything (this doesn’t mean rudeness: good manners are a pretty good social lubricant).
Believe in people as much as you can: they’ll let you down as much as if you didn’t, but your own head will be a happier place to be. – Suzy, 55 ‘My grandfather wasn’t exactly a font of wisdom, but he did give me this piece of advice: “Don’t come to me with problems – come with solutions.” It’s been incredibly useful at work and in my personal life as it makes me focus on the positive. Almost every problem does indeed have a ready solution, and if it doesn’t, you can thrash it out with someone you trust.’ – Amanda, 39 If you’re feeling deflated, volunteer at an organisation in your community – like a place of safety for vulnerable children or something fun like Santa Shoebox. Whenever I’ve felt down or like everything is pointless, volunteering at a place in need has put things into perspective and showed me that the small things really are the big things.’ – Marli, 27 ✤