July has been an intense month between barbecue week-ends and getaways to the sea-side, so it has overall seemed pretty much like a period of vacation while still having to go to work every week day.
After the numerous holidays, weddings and activities booked since the beginning of the year, my bank and holiday accounts were dried up, hence what I feared more than anything was to be left alone and to have nothing planned for the Summer, while July and August in a city like Paris can be particularly boring and uncomfortable. As schools are closed, many companies close too, and people leave town for the fresh air of the sea or the mountain. I always go to Italy for a few days around the 15th of August, but besides that, being in Paris for 2 months when the office slows down and you receive 1 to 5 e-mails per day tops, can be quite unbearable. Especially if outside the weather is hotter than usual and people are posting pictures of themselves at the beach while you have the amazing feeling of melting every time you take the tube, to and from work.
Because of this blog, because this year challenge is all about doing new things, and motivating myself to do more activities than I would ordinarily do, I could obviously not accept to stay put, at least during the week-ends. Today I am happy to report that the upcoming posts will not be about a bored woman wandering around her very hot apartment in leopard slippers (although that could certainly have been me and at times I wish I had been allowed to do exactly that!).
Overcoming Shyness during Summer social events
The week after my cousin’s wedding took place another worldly event that I particularly needed to succeed in. Without going into much details about the event per se, I would say that one of my proudest moments was actually realizing how much my social skills have improved in the past 6 years ago (aka since I started working). I have always been a very shy person, at times it would even be crippling. I could not talk to a waiter or address a stranger until my twenties. The first months I started to work I wouldn’t even call people on the phone nor answer when I did not know who was calling (that’s kind of still the case, but it is more a problem about not knowing how to tell unsolicited advertisers off in a polite way). This was while at the same time being very chatty and bossy with my family and close friends.
What I learned over time is that shyness is really situational. It’s a reaction you have to your environment, and it’s different depending on the situation and people in it. The most valuable thing I learned is also that shyness is not a permanent personality trait. You are not shy, you just become shy in some situations depending on where you are, who you are with and how do you feel around these certain people, and most importantly it can change through time, by exercising and increasing confidence in your self-worth and ability in keep a conversation with a stranger light and interesting.
In spite of all the progress I made I am still terrible at small talks and cannot address strangers at social events until people talk to me first (which has worked well enough so far as I am a girl and it has its perks). However, I have been trying lately to follow self-improvement books advice and to try to initiate small talk as much as possible in stores, in the tube, with neighbors (a 180° change knowing I have spent years trying to avoid running into my neighbors).
These kind of small steps (start a conversation with a cashier, waitress, salesperson, delivery person, the mailman, give someone a genuine compliment, ask someone an informal question while in line) should increase confidence in your abilities because the interactions are small and it is not a big deal if they end up being awkward.
It is still very unlikely that I ask a personal question (I have to constantly fight my grandmother voice in my head saying that if someone wants to tell you he or she will, without you asking about it), so it generally ends up by me being very nervous and talking nonsense and using my very sarcastic, or even dark, humour, which has led more that one colleague confused on my first day at work.
Nowadays I have made progress, maybe because I finally convinced myself that I do not risk anything if I get the wrong answer out or if somebody forms a negative opinion about me. What fuels my courage is thinking that people who do not appreciate my clumsiness, my sensitivity, my awkwardness, are not people I should meet or talk to again so no biggies.
Find more tips on how to slowly address your fears and negative thoughts and step out of your comfort zone to practice your social skills on wikiHow to Be More Talkative and Less Shy
Off to Normandy
After this event where I barely knew anyone, but where I managed to look nice and normal enough for more than 10 hours, was another big week-end to be planned.
Normandy has the closest sea shores to Paris, hence whenever the weather is good you are certain enough to find many Parisians visiting famous locations like Deauville, Trouville, Honfleur, Etretat, etc. I went for the first time 2 years ago and I was honestly surprised to like North Sea green and cold landscapes in spite of the fact that I am more of a warm-Mediterranean sea kind of girl.
This year I went back for a calm retreat in a family house, spending 3 days eating cheese and drinking wine (and Spritz) while having major discussions about everything and anything. The good, and weird part was, that when I went to buy some girly or gossipy newspapers for the beach, as I always indulge myself for the holidays, I instead chose two psychology magazines with lots of personality tests. While answering them together with my friend was bonding in some ways, it also raised some serious questions and generated discussions that were maybe to early to be raised…I certainly came out with mixed feelings and a lot to think about too.
Besides for these serious hours I also discovered the joys of Casinos and that I unfortunately cannot count on that career to become rich. I have always been very bad with gambling games, board games using dices, and although I tried with the utmost conviction to change my luck just this once, I was the only one losing money on a roulette among 5 other friends. But that is fine, I guess I will stick with finding a real career plan instead!
With no surprise this was not the best part about the week-end, at least for me! However the eating and the bathing part made me feel free and “young” in all kinds of ways!
First of all we left by car Thursday afternoon after work, and because I am always scared of being hungry in places where you cannot get food, I bought bags of crisps, and candies and Oreos, in substance things I never get to eat on regular days. This obviously made me sick and having only cheese and wine for the next 3 days did not help me feel healthy either! However, we had one good meal that is compulsory when you go next to the sea: oysters and raw fish! Not everybody likes it I am sure, but it has become one of my favourite things as a grown woman (the first time I had an oyster I was about 16 years old and felt nauseous all night after that). It is an acquired taste like blue cheese, truffles or wine, and it has now become a treat I only indulge on special events (Christmas season, my father coming to visit from Italy, holidays on the seaside).
And finally came the hour for the mandatory dive in the “frozen” sea! I would only say that I hate to be cold more than anything, but for a bet (and for the sake of winning an argument) I was willing to run eyes closed to be the first in the water, and it was the most liberating feeling and the perfect way to end this week-end with style!