In the latest of our new WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of walks of life share the important lessons they've learned along the way - we're chatting to Sarah Harding, who has a very exciting few months ahead of her.
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Over a decade after first skyrocketing to household name status, as one fifth of the pop group Girls Aloud, she's now branching out alone, and is gearing up for the release of her debut solo single, 'Threads', as well as her forthcoming role in 'Coronation Street'.
Luckily, she still found the time to sit down for a natter with us, about how she moves on from negativity, taking time out to spend with her nearest and dearest, as well as the toughest life lesson she's had to learn along the way...
What do you do to switch off from the world?
I live just outside London, in the countryside, so I just treat it like a retreat when I come back here, really. I love it. I potter around, spend time with the dogs, it’s just nice to have some peace and quiet, really. Compared with the rest of my mad life!
How do you deal with negativity?
I just choose not to embrace it. End of, really. I don’t have time for negativity, it’s much less stressful and less draining to channel positive energy and surround yourself with that. And I just don’t look at negative comments, to be fair. At the end of the day, let them worry, let them have their opinions. As long as you’re happy in yourself, and your career and you’re doing everything you can to make yourself happy, why bother with anyone else’s negativity? I think more people should think like that.
I guess it’s just choosing who your real friends are, and filtering out the fake ones.
When and where are you happiest?
I guess really, when I’m working hard, when I feel like I’ve made another achievement or a goal point in my career. I think I’m happy when I feel that sense of achievement, but also when I get some downtime, and I have time to reflect on that as well, which is nice. I think it’s important every few months to just take a little mini-break and recharge your batteries.
The time that I was in the band, we spent so much time working that we didn’t have time to appreciate it all, and you forget yourself sometimes, because you’re too busy. And so when you take a break you can give yourself a pat on the back, a lot of people don’t take the time to do that, and I think it’s so important for your well-being.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I think really not to overthink things. My mind is constantly going, it’s like a broken record, it never stops, I’m always thinking about stuff. And over time someone said it’s like having monkeys on your brain - and you’ve got to sort of tell them to shut up! And don’t overthink things… It can be quite deceiving, the brain’s a very powerful tool. Just live in the moment really.
What’s been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
Take certain things or people with a pinch of salt, don’t believe everything you hear, and you can’t please everybody. Because that’s life! Not to take yourself too seriously. I’ve learned a lot, you know, and I think what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I know that sounds like a cliché, but we’re put on this planet to learn, and every day there’s something to learn, so just embrace it.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Kind of the same thing, really - you can’t please everyone, so just make sure that you’re happy. Not trying to fit in all the time, I guess. Eventually you have to break out of that box and say, ‘look, I am who I am. I’m not going to follow a crowd, I’m an individual and I’m going to embrace that’. You know, you can’t live your life trying to please everybody else, you’re never going to be able to do that, there’s no point, so just make yourself happy, first and foremost. And you’ll know who your true friends are, you’ll sort out who are the real ones and who are the fake ones.
What is still left on your bucket list?
Oh my goodness, when you say ‘bucket list’ I think of Karl Pilkington, sorry! I guess I’d love to try something like a sky dive or I’d love to try scuba diving, because I love to snorkle. I don’t know! I’d love to take a year out at some point. And I think I’d like to be a wife and a mum one day, that’d be on my bucket list.
What was your last good deed?
I wouldn’t say there’s one major thing, but I think as long as you do little things every day that’s the important thing. Making sure you stay in touch with your nearest and dearest and your loved ones, and making sure you make time. That’s the most important thing, but it’s very difficult for me to have time to do that because I’m so busy. It’s the little things that count.
What do you think happens when we die?
I saw this thing on Facebook talking about the planets, and how many there are in the context of the size of our planet. And I’m pretty sure there’s more to life than meets the eye. There’s definitely more to it. We’re just a vessel really, I think that every human body has a soul and that soul has to come from somewhere. That’s a really difficult question *laughs* but I do think we’re here to learn a particular lesson, and when the soul learns that lesson, we move onto something greater.
What keeps you grounded?
I don’t know, being at home really, and making time for family, like I said. I like to go back up North. When I’ve been doing ‘Coronation Street’ it’s great to see my family up there, as well. I think it’s important to make the effort, and last week after I filmed my final scenes I stopped off to see my family en route home back to London, and as much as sometimes you really don’t feel like it because you’re shattered, you get a real sense of well-being afterwards. And it’s nice to see yourself brighten up other people’s days as well, seeing their faces lighten up when you surprise them. I made a little surprise visit to one of my elderly family members and he was really chuffed to see me.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Fun, loyalty, compassion, and friendship.
Sarah launched Virgin Media's High Speed Selfie booth, created to mark the start of Virgin Media’s £3 billion fibre broadband network expansion. Homeowners and businesses can express their interest in getting high speed internet by registering at virginmedia.com/cablemystreet.