It’s only normal to trace the steps back to your twenties, wishing you’d done something differently or felt more confident but experience only comes with age, something that some of the most amazing women in the world know.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, online giant NET-A-PORTER has turned to 20 influential women to share what they wish they’d know when they were 20.

Whether you’re just about to turn the big 2-0, or are two decades down the line, there is something we can all take away from these words of wisdom.

celebrities advice younger self net a porter

Alison Loehnis, President NET-A-PORTER & MR PORTER (pictured above)

“You are younger than you think. You will never feel like a grown-up. Never underestimate the power of a smile. You will never regret time spent with family and friends. Travel, travel, travel! Grades don’t really matter that much, hard work does. Go with your gut – it rarely lets you down. What does not kill you makes you stronger – truly. Your long-standing love of fashion will one day come in handy.”

Donatella Versace, designer

“I would tell myself that I am going to have an incredible life, full of love, but also with its share of pain… That I am going to be a survivor, and for that reason, I will feel a stronger connection to people, especially those who suffer or are being mistreated.”

Margaret Atwood, award-winning writer

“It’s 1960 in Canada, few writers make a living, and everyone knows women writers are crazy and doomed to be single. My advice: times will change and so will attitudes. You can help change them.”

Jane Fonda, actor

“I would tell myself that NO is a complete sentence. At 20 I was like a colander, I had no boundaries, I desperately wanted to be liked and so whatever anybody wanted I would be compliant.”

Janet Mock, writer

“Don’t let anyone’s lack of imagination, low expectations, or distorted projections sway you from your path.”

Ava DuVernay, filmmaker

“I only learned in the past decade that whatever bad thing you are going through isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you.”

Gillian Anderson, actor

“Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you. Your opinion is the only one that matters.”

Emilia Wickstead, designer

“It’s easy to get swept up when you’re following your heart, but appreciating the present is an important part of the journey.”

Charlotte Tilbury, makeup artist and founder of her namesake beauty brand

“I received a note from a Beauty Editor saying, ‘Knock it to them, Charlotte. I know you’ll be a star.’ It encouraged me to keep following my dreams during tough times and really gave me motivation when I was cold calling for jobs and struggling.”

Misty Copeland, ballet dancer

“Most of all, embrace all that is to come and know that your voice can be used to bring about change far beyond what you’ll do on the stage during your career.”

celebrities advice younger self net a porter

Zainab Salbi, writer, activist and founder of Women for Women International (pictured above)

“Oh, how I wish for my 20-year-old self to know that she is so beautiful. That her beauty comes from her loving heart and radiant soul.”

Roisin Murphy, singer-songwriter

“My 20-year-old self was my most instinctive self. I signed my record deal when I was 20, so I would tell myself that following my gut, going with the flow, was the right thing – but take away the anxiety that I didn’t deserve it, that I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

Dr Barbara Sturm, aesthetic doctor and founder of namesake skincare brand

“Don’t spend too much time worrying about things you can’t change. Just move on and smile, because it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.”

Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize-winning author

“I’d tell her to consciously develop a positive mental attitude sooner rather than later, because it will get her through the difficult times, which might last many years. It will also help her grow her talent, achieve her goals and make her more compassionate towards her fellow humans, which is important for a writer who needs to understand and be non-judgemental towards their fictional creations.”

Simone Rocha, designer

“I was in my first year of my masters at Central Saint Martins. I would say to myself listen, concentrate, and contribute; [and] visit the library more.”

Gucci Westman, makeup artist and founder of cosmetics line Westman Atelier

“Never be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you don’t try, you will never know what that new opportunity could have brought you.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writer

“Looking now (at 41) at photos of myself at 20, I cannot believe how much time I wasted believing that I was not enough just as I was.”

Maria Balshaw, director of the Tate art museums and galleries in London

“It would have been nice if someone had also tipped me off that I would one day run the Tate that I so loved visiting when I was 20. But I wouldn’t have believed them.”

Tata Harper, founder of namesake skincare brand

“This is a time that you will never get back. Put yourself out there and don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Most importantly, have fun!”

Isabel Marant, designer

“I think your 20s is a period in which you search for yourself and an age where you can play a lot with your look. And that’s something you should do, to find yourself and to gain self-confidence.”

– For more about Dubai’s lifestyle, news and fashion scene follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram.

Images: Supplied, Instagram