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What life lessons I would tell myself if I was 18 once again

Published 28/09/2016

High achiever: Mary Rose McGrath at work in her studio
High achiever: Mary Rose McGrath at work in her studio
Kirstie McMurray
Kirstie McMurray at her school formal
Kim Constable when she was 18

In this month’s Vogue magazine Victoria Beckham penned an emotional letter to her 18-year-old self telling how she would succeed in life and love. Karen Ireland spoke to high profile women here to ask what they would tell their younger selves.

Kirstie McMurray (43) presents Downtown Radio Breakfast and DTR Country. She lives in Bangor, with her fiance Andy Brisbane (38) and her two children, Connor (17) and Katie (15). She says:

I wanted to be a teacher aged 18 and still at school. But after going for an interview at Stranmillis College I had doubts about going into teaching.

The first piece of advice I would give myself is to set your sights high and follow your dreams.

Believe that anything is possible. Make the most of every opportunity and create your own chances.

I would say respect yourself, then others will, too.

When it comes to relationships I would warn myself to take my time and not to just jump in with both feet. If something doesn't feel right or you are in any doubt - then don't do it.

You must be comfortable and confident about your decisions and know where you want to be.

Learn that the grass isn't always greener on the other side and be happy with what you have.

I had no confidence when I was 18 and felt insecure so I would tell myself to stand tall, throw my shoulders back, take things on and keep learning.

Also, grow your hair - the short styles don't suit you - so stop getting it cut.

And always stay in touch with good friends as they are an important part of your life and will be there for you many years later."

Fashion designer Mary Rose McGrath (44) is single and lives in Belfast with her son Christopher (16). She says:

At 18 I had just moved to Manchester to study fashion design. Back then it was the place to be and I loved it — those six years were the best time of my life. While I was happy, there are a few things I would tell myself.

The first thing is to always aim high. Talent alone is not enough in this industry, so you need to work hard to succeed.

I’d tell myself to be resilient, persistent and pro-active from early on, and to expect to work long hours.

Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do things — prove them wrong by succeeding even more. Good advice is not to worry about the small things, as they are not important in the grand scheme of things.

Looking back, at that age I had little confidence and always felt fat and ugly. I’d tell myself to believe I was neither.

Style takes time to develop and I would definitely encourage myself not to go for the all black garb with a white face look.

Black is a great colour — just not all the time.

I’d tell myself that exciting things were ahead and I would end up working with the people who inspired me into the industry — like Jeff Banks and Matthew Williamson.

I would tell myself that most rules are made to be broken.

And to forget dieting, as it doesn’t work. The secret is simple — eat less and move more.

When you work in fashion, the two most important things to have are a pair of killer heels and a fabulous bag. Learn not to trust everyone, as not everyone has your best interests at heart.

And steer clear of handsome foreign men — they spell trouble.”

Carla Lockhart, DUP MLA for Upper Bann, (31), lives in Co Tyrone with her husband Rodney Convell. She says:

When I was 18 I was studying at Armagh Tech and hoping to go to university. In my letter I would tell myself to enjoy and appreciate living at home and my mum’s home cooking — as well as her doing my ironing and cleaning — these are things which shouldn’t be taken for granted.

As a Christian I would encourage myself to always stay close to God and keep him at the centre of my world.

I met my husband through church when I was about 19, so I would reassure myself that the right relationship will come along.

I would also reinforce the message that good friends are important and not to get caught up in bad company.

There would also be a line on the importance of being civic minded and getting involved in the community, as well as taking pride in the environment.

I would also tell myself to travel as much as possible and go on many holidays.

At that stage I loved my girlie holidays, having fun, sun bathing all day and shopping for clothes, handbags and shoes.

I have always loved fashion, so that’s something which hasn’t changed.

I would encourage myself to enter into a career which I love doing and to always work hard.

When I was 18 I was told to aim for the moon and you’ll be among the stars — and I believe that to be true.

It sounds obvious, but I would tell myself to always be respectful of my parents and elders.

When you are younger you don’t always want to listen to them and take time for them — when you get older, though, you realise they were always right.

I’d say let your hair down and enjoy yourself when you are young, without getting caught up in any bad habits — and never feel pushed into anything.

Choose your friends wisely and they will be friends for life.

Define yourself as an individual and do your own thing, but never think you know it all, because you don’t and you never will.

There is always a lot to learn.

At that age I had never experienced real pain or tragedy and I suppose I would tell

myself that it won’t always be like that, there will be loss to come.

But the main thing I would say is not to worry or get hung up on things, as God will always place you exactly where he wants you to be.”

Kim Constable (37) is a yoga instructor and is married to Ulster Rugby legend ,Ryan (44). They live in Belfast with children Corey (10), Kai (9), Maya (6) and Jack (4). She says:

I was finishing school when I was 18 and about to go to Jordanstown to do a degree in business studies.

I lived at home when I was at university and rode horses semi-professionally, so I needed to be at home to look after them. The first piece of advice would be to not go to university. I could have got a first in partying — but I barely scraped a 2:2 in my degree and it was the biggest waste of three years of my life.

I didn’t learn anything at university which I have since applied to my life or my business over the years.

Instead, I would tell myself to follow my dreams and find something to be passionate about and which makes me happy.

I was 35 when I began to do what I love — yoga and fitness — and I have never been happier.

My mum says I was always fascinated with muscles and training, yet I had 11 different careers before I found my way to doing what I love most.

I would tell myself not to listen to others or try to follow their idea of a career path, but listen to myself. You can make money doing what you love.

I’d also say don’t worry about anything as you can find your way through everything, one step at a time. For you, the success rate of getting through bad days can be 100%. I would encourage myself to start yoga and meditating right away, as they are tools which will become invaluable coping mechanisms.

Life is one big experiment, so get out there and enjoy it and don’t worry about what is in front of you.”

Belfast Telegraph

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