Life Wellbeing Advice to a younger me: Wendy Harmer
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Advice to a younger me: Wendy Harmer

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Actually, I think that the younger me could tell the older me a few home truths.

For example, young me could say that resilience and self-worth don’t come from looking in the mirror. You forget these lessons as you get older.

Resilience

At 14, the exact age my daughter is now, I went off to have major plastic surgery on my face for my double cleft lip and palate and it was an extremely challenging time for me.

Wendy Harmer at age 15.
Wendy Harmer at age 15.

Today, the operation I had is now done when kids are really young. Before the surgery my face was patched up in a fairly rudimentary way; I had a wonky lip and weird teeth and kids at school used to call me “Wendy the witch”, “eagle beak” and “flat face”.

I think waiting 14 years for the operation allowed me to develop resilience and work out how to survive when people say things like “you’d be really pretty if…” or “what happened to that lady?”

You can’t do anything about other people’s perceptions you just have to find a little bit of inner courage and prevail.

Self-image

I’ve spent a lot of time looking in a mirror, my entire life. In makeup chairs, backstage at stand-up shows, it’s part of the business I’m in. It’s been a constant battle to get away from it.

Now, I watch my daughter taking selfies and just want to tell her to put the bloody phone down and stop looking in the mirror! It sounds clichéd but it’s what’s within that counts.

However, I do think worrying comes with the territory when you’re a teenager. It’s no good telling my younger self, “don’t worry about what people think” because I think it’s very rare to achieve that. You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

Asking for help

One of the things I’d really like to tell myself is that you will make mistakes, just don’t dwell on them. They have to happen so it’s better if you just move on.

By the way, I’m not buying the idea that mistakes make you a stronger person. I think they can be absolutely debilitating!

If you really do have a hole in the heart in a psychological way, go and see someone. I had all sorts of abandonment issues – my mum left home when I was 10 – and it wasn’t until my mid 30’s that I realised I needed to see someone to overcome that childhood trauma.

Looking back, I’d tell the younger me to not be so reticent about seeking help.

Work

I’m so proud that I’ve been able to make a living from the things I love doing. Sometimes you’re at the top of your game and earning big money and sometimes you’re freelancing. Regardless, doing what I love is a massive achievement for me and it’s not something that many people get to do.

I do think it’s important to always have a plan B. When I was doing stand-up comedy I would have a mantra: “You don’t have to do this for a living. You have chosen this. If there’s no joy here, do something else.”

I also firmly believe that you shouldn’t wait until someone picks up the phone to offer you something; you have to make your own opportunities. And be adventurous! I waited until I was in my 30’s to take the adventure route. Get a tattoo or dye your hair pink!

Ageing

I’m 58 now. I don’t know what 60 means yet but it’s looming pretty fast. You start to realise if you haven’t been able to change anything you’re pretty well stuck!

Still, I look around and don’t take anything for granted. When I was growing up I used to think “No one will ever marry me, I’ll never have kids.” Now I think “Wow, I have a house! And a fridge! A husband of 20 years next to me! And two kids in the next room!”

I have something in my life every day that brings me a lot of joy. I sound like Pollyanna!

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