Disclaimer: As a mom, I try to watch my language around my children. My children were not around when I wrote this post.
When I first moved to France, I overheard a conversation at a café in town. A group of older ladies were celebrating a birthday or something and I heard one of them say, “It’s good to be at the age where I can tutoie everyone”. She was using the verb tutoyer which has no English equivalent. It refers to using the informal second-person pronoun when talking with another person. In French, it is customary to use the formal pronoun, vous, when you are talking to people who are in a position of power, or who are older than you, or servers at a café. But this woman used tu, the informal, with the waitress and she was happy about it. She didn’t care or have to worry about offending the waitress. She was the one in the position of power and advanced age. (Some people can be really offended if you use the wrong pronoun with them. Unfortunately, I’ve learned this first hand and, trust me, it ain’t pretty.)
I was reminded of the older lady in the café when I came across this link posted on Facebook the other day: http://www.hellou.co.uk/2015/08/11-cool-senior-citizens-who-have-officially-stopped-giving-a-fck-55853/. So you don’t have to click over right away to know what I’m talking about, it’s 11 photos of women like this lady:
For those of us still in the “too young” category to be able to use the informal second person pronoun with strangers on the street, what can we do? How can we shed the fear (because that’s what it is) of being judged by others?
I have followed The F**k It Life’s John & Gaia for some time. They are down-to-Earth, accessible, and honest. A few years ago, I attended one of their weekend seminars in London. Their approach is simple. Life throws everyone shit to swallow. Saying “fuck it” is like the spoonful of sugar that helps the shit go down. It simultaneously blows off the steam of frustration at a situation that feels out of your control and diffuses the bomb of anger that would otherwise explode in the wake of your discomfort.
Though I am in no way a F**k It expert, I have recently been trying to really practice John & Gaia’s teachings not just learn about them. We all have our demons. Some of us more than others. One of mine is this fear of being judged. It drives a lot of my decision-making (consciously and sub-consciously) and, therefore, has shaped who I am and where I am in my life. And because I fear judgement, I give off that vibe. As hippie-dippy, new-agey as it sounds, I honestly believe that people can feel your insecurity and, if you are unlucky enough to meet the wrong person, they will feed off it like ants drawn to honey (I recently blogged about the awesomeness of honey here).
The older people in these photos and the lady at the café, have reminded me that, though I may not be old enough to use tu with strangers, I am capable of saying “fuck it” to my fear of judgement. If I do not fear the judgement, then the fear cannot control me. I can be fuckin’ free!
Here are 3 of the concepts I have come up with to practice in my daily life. Maybe they’ll help you too.
- You are not alone. Everyone has their own shit and everyone’s shit stinks. Just because their lives look happy and they have 6-pack abs on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t mean that they don’t have moments of wanting to curl up under the covers and hide somedays. Whatever you are feeling right now, someone else somewhere in the world is feeling the same feeling at the same time.
- Be your own advocate. Whether you are at the doctor’s office or the yoga studio, be true to your needs, wants, and desires. I’m not suggesting that you know more than a doctor does about the best treatment options for your health issues or that you can do crow pose better than a yoga teacher. I’m saying that, if you aren’t sure WHY something works or HOW to do something, you owe it to yourself to ask questions. This comes up for me ALL.THE.TIME on the expat planet. I am pretty sure I understand what I’m being told in French but I am often too afraid of being perceived as stupid to ask the person to clarify so I can be sure. Like last year when our son’s teacher asked us to bring in yogurt cups for a project and I brought her 12 full yogurts, I didn’t know what the project was. What if they were making a gateau à yaourt (yogurt cake, which is a simple and delicious to-go cake recipe that the French adore). I had to take the cups back home and eat all the yogurt before pick-up time because she needed empty ones. If this were to happen today, I’d ask for clarification. And instead of feeling like I had egg all over my face, I’d use those yogurts I had to buy and those eggs I saved from my face and make that cake!
- Hope for the best, expect the worse. In other words, anticipate! Counselors call it “anticipatory guidance”. Anticipate that you will feel like shit at some point in the coming days, weeks, months, etc. And get prepared. What is in your toolbox that you can pull out when the shit hits the fan? Maybe just saying, “Fuck it” will help. Maybe you know someone who seems to always stay cool under pressure and you can think to yourself, “What would John do?” Or maybe you can call John himself – or another friend or family member that you trust – and ask for guidance and support. Spend time, when you are feeling calm, to map out a plan for yourself. Creating these self-care tools before they are needed allows you to play around with them and embrace them in advance of the trauma. And, in case you are too afraid to ask for clarification, here is some advice on how you can start: get a pen and paper or open up a text editor and JUST START. Make a list of every possible idea you can think of. There are no wrong answers here and, besides, no one is judging you. Add “eat a pint of ice cream” or “get shit-faced” if you want. You don’t actually have to use the tool. Just knowing that you have a full toolbox may give you the courage to move forward and leave your fear in the dust.
And, if you want to share your list, have come up with other self-care tools, or need some support, please comment below or drop me an email.
Update: I have completed my certification as a Life Coach. My clients are people who juggle many priorities – putting the needs of others ahead of their own – and find themselves feeling overwhelmed and burning out. If this sounds like you, check out my new website: Empathy Life Coaching and schedule a FREE discovery session with me.