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Relationship week: Just what would you say to your 15-year-old self?

Relate NI is sharing series of letters from people sharing how they are learning to love themselves

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Growing up: Koulla Yiasouma at the age of 15

Growing up: Koulla Yiasouma at the age of 15

Koulla Yiasouma

Koulla Yiasouma

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Growing up: Koulla Yiasouma at the age of 15

Relationships Week takes place until July 11 and is highlighting the importance of healthy relationships in boosting our wellbeing.

The theme of this year’s week is #LoveYourself — building self-esteem to get by, grow and thrive in relationships and life, because how we treat ourselves is just as important as how we treat others and how we allow them to treat us.

During the week Relate NI will be sharing a range of expert tips from its counsellors online as well as a series of Letters to my 15-Year-Old-Self where people from all walks of life will share how they are learning to love themselves.

Below, Koulla Yiasouma, the NI Commissioner for Children & Young People and former director at Include Youth, shares a letter to her teenage self. She was 15 in 1979.

Dear Koulla,

Take a breath and relax. I know that you’re not sure which way to turn and feel stuck between different groups of friends. It’s a head (wanting to be popular) and a heart (wanting to be more true to yourself) issue. Don’t be so hard on yourself and stop worrying about being popular, you are actually well-liked so follow your heart and your passions a bit more. You can’t be liked by everyone and if you are true to yourself then people who you respect and like will reciprocate (look it up in that little dictionary you brought in primary school — you will have it for the rest of your life).

You don’t need to keep jumping in and stop worrying that someone will say or do something horrible to you or someone else. They won’t. Take a breath and let others have their say or take the lead. Being part of a team is good fun.

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Things are strict at home but in time you will experience the freedom you are looking for.

And when you do, don’t try to aspire for a life that you read about in magazines and/or see on TV programmes because that is not real life. Again, pause and look around because there are a lot of things going on that will make you happy and fulfilled.

You put on a good show but those seeds of doubt can fester — don’t let them.

You come alive when you can get your teeth into something so don’t hold your true self back as much.

You decided a while ago that you didn’t mind how you looked physically so the extra bag of crisps was never a problem. You use it to hide yourself in plain sight, but you don’t need to.

Weight will be something that you struggle with for the rest of your life. You embrace the “overweight and bubbly” label too readily and use it to hide other aspects of your personality.

You are loved and respected by your friends, your teachers and your family and that will keep you going throughout life.

Friends talk to you about their worries, which you will learn is an honour, but you will fall quickly into the “mummy” role. You also need to let others see your vulnerabilities and worries because they will also want to look after you the way you look after them.

Remember, your passion for making a difference and your family will fire you up for the rest of your life and you have lots of opportunities to do this but you will wait too long. Start now in 1979.

The other love of your life will not reciprocate, quite so much, so it might be time to cool off a bit on supporting Arsenal. They will break your heart more times than any man ever will.

Take care and keep being kind to others and start being kinder and truer to yourself.

Much love

Older you

To read the rest of the letters to my 15-year-old series and to find out how you can get involved in relationships week, visit www.relateni.org/relationshipsweek21


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