Posts in Empowerers
See the Bigger Picture
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One day, as I was discussing how dog-friendly California is, with a friend in San Francisco, he told me about the dog he used to have and his "out of the ordinary" behaviour, to say the least.

"My parents had me quite late, in their early 40’s, especially by the standards 30 years ago.

At the time of my arrival, my sister had a Doberman, Rhett, named after a character from the movie “Gone with the wind”. Naturally he became a family dog that grew attached to my parents, who took care of him the most. 

By the time I was born he became very jealous of me, a newborn in the house getting all of the attention...

Doberman are very territorial and a lot of them have neurotic tendencies, and this one was no exception. He started to display growing frustration and hostility towards me. He began to lash out at my parents as well when they would attend to me. It went as far as blocking the doorway to my bedroom not letting anyone attend to my cries. 

I know this might sound crazy but I think me crying in my crib and keeping everyone away from me he was perhaps hoping I would die...

Rhett was a very smart dog. One summer he stayed at my grandma's house. He woke her up in the night tugging away at her to get her attention. When she got up she discovered there was a gas leak from the stove. He saved her life that night.

In the meantime, his behaviour towards me was escalating out of control so my parents ended up tragically giving him away to our close family friends. This way they could visit him frequently yet I wouldn’t be exposed to him. 

 

Even now It’s hard to imagine that my existence meant his separation.

 

As years went by when we'd visit Rhett, I’d try to pet him and every time he would get irritated shaking me off instantly. I didn’t know why this dog would reject me when all I wanted was to hug and pet him. 

It took me many years to understand his behaviour and feelings towards me but when I understood the context explaining his behavior, I stopped blaming myself, rather got impressed at his intellectual capabilities".

Funny how we automatically question ourselves and feel responsible when somebody (whether dog or human by the way ;)) displays hostility towards us.

Often, the vibe just isn't there, but quite as often, it's a matter of jealousy..

Think about it, when somebody tries to put you down, instead of questioning yourself - what do you have that they don’t?
It's All Good as Long as You Apologize
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I met Thomas through a common friend who was visiting me from San Francisco.

We went to a co-working space for the day (we had the luxury of being able to work remote, which means no office, but no real holiday either).

Thomas was another French guy who had his quarters there.

I asked my friend for an introduction.

“- Never mind, you’re never going to get along. 

- Huh? Why?

- Because he’s just the extreme opposite of you. You just won’t connect, that’s all.

He’s just a mean guy!”

I was flabbergasted.

“- Alright, now I HAVE to meet him”.

Listen to his journey from being a social misfit, to finding his way and becoming an influencer with a voice (38 000+ followers on Twitter).

 

Find your way in the episode:

2:20 Truth flows from the mouth of babes & being misunderstood as a child

6:00 The concept of safe zone 

7:00 Teasing as a shell of protection & provoking reactions

9:30 Testing boundaries as a way to filter friends

11:00 Being rude in Southern Europe Vs the States

13:30 Flirting like an asshole

16:00 Being successful and getting a voice on social media by being true to yourself

19:00 The pressure of being on your best behaviour

24:00 Embracing cultures when travelling

You can be rude, but don’t forget to apologize”
It''s Never Too Late, Trust Me
Estimated reading time: 1'30

Estimated reading time: 1'30

I met Liaf while waiting in line at a bakery in Stockholm, Sweden. He advised me which cake to take (you know how french people can be fussy about their desserts!).

"- My name is Liaf, it is a Norwegian viking name , it means "son of the lion" in Arabic. 

I used to be involved in Journalism, traveling the world (incl. the USA, Portugal, Tanzania, Cap Verde...) and meeting some of the most influential people in the political and entertainment scene, particularly in the States. At some point, I was approached by the CIA to become an agent, but I refused.

- Cool, I am also in the journalistic field, I said.

- Do you want to become the next Brandon Stanton?

- No, I want to be the first Helene Clabecq. 

- Trust me, it's never too late to start. 

I've had a rich life full of adventure, but at 69 years-old, I got a stroke and had a choice to make: either be old and scared, or do something about my mental and physical health. 

Obviously, I wasn't gonna let myself die. At the time, my daughter was taking a degree as a Pedagogue, and since the teacher seemed to push all the work and supervision to parents, I decided that I might as well study for that diploma too. I got it at age 72, aside to studying gender equity. Shortly after, I started a travel agency for seniors, and took 2500 of them to Portugal".

I expressed my awe.

"69 is the middle of life, it's nothing impressive! You need to take care of your "cabeza*" or you will slowly die"

This discussion reminded me that we are the ones setting limits to ourselves. Not only it is never too late to reach for our goals, but most of the so-called obstacles that we think stop us, are just excuses we give ourselves.

The sky is the limit.

_______

* "Head" in Spanish

Do you set limits to yourself? Which one(s) are you going to get rid of today?
Get Help From Your Friends
Estimated reading time: 2'

Estimated reading time: 2'

Conversation with one of my colleagues on his most memorable turning point.

“At college, for 180 days straight, I got drunk, smoke a lot of weed and took pills.  Once, I did something really bad that could have led me both dismissed from school and go to prison.

The counsellor gave two choices, either I’d go to AA meetings every week and report on what I’d learnt, or he would report me to the university and the police for what I did.

I took the first option. Once there, I met this guy from AA who told me:

“Look, man, you think this is funny, you think you’re tough? You think this isn’t the problem?

You’ve been doing this for 180 days, I’ve been struggling with this for 30 years.

Do you want to wake up at 9.20 when you have a job, you’re drunk, you don’t know where you are, you can’t find your shoes and you have to get a cab to get to work? You go to a good school with a very difficult major and you seem like a smart kid, so I want you to go home today and I want you to look in the mirror tonight and think:

“Do I want to do this for the rest of my life? Do I want the first thought in my head when I wake up to be “I need a drink”?"

Right now you’re at school, but one day you’ll have a kid and a wife. I missed the birth of my daughter because I was in a drunk holding cell. I wasn't there for her, is that what you want? I missed my father’s funeral because I was at the bar.

My first answer was “Look man, that’s your problem”.

He said “for 30 years, every decision in my life was influenced by alcohol, and I don’t want that to be you.

You think you have the whole world under your feet but you’re right on the verge of losing everything in front of your eyes".

So I listened.

When I got home, I got rid of all the bottles and asked my roommates to hold me accountable.

If there were parties, they’d tell me to go upstairs. 2-3 days in, I was sweating, I felt horrible.

After 2 weeks, I went out, planning on only getting one drink.

After the first drink, my friends took my credit card, and if a girl would offer me a drink, they’d slap it out of my hand. Or they’d smell my glass to check whether I was having water or vodka. It eventually got to the point when I’d go out and only want to have soft drinks and slowly grow out of it. This dude's sentence still sticks with me.”

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
Estimated reading time: 6'

Estimated reading time: 6'

Pamela is a girl that I met back in London. She was one of my clients, back when I had to work as a babysitter and cleaning lady aside to my full-time work, to be able to pay for my expenses.

She had two children and confessed how having the first one impacted her relationship.

“Having a first child, and in our case, twins, is the best moment to have a crisis in your relationship. You don’t have time to go to the gym, you don’t have time for each other…

You cannot surprise your husband at the door with sexy lingerie, spend the weekend at the spa, nor go on a spontaneous escape. You have your routine, you don’t try new things anymore.

So when this colleague approached me and started to flirt and compliment me non-stop, I fell for it.

I had become a mum, and needed to feel desired as a woman.

 

The first phase: attraction

First step. You idealize the lover. Everything he says, does, his projects sound perfect.

You think that if you are attracted and start having feelings for somebody else, you cannot turn back, and that your husband is not the right one for you, because what you get at home is not enough, since the new guy gives you something new that your husband doesn’t. Compliments. Attentions. Gifts.

You contemplate leaving him. This guy in question was a serial-lover. He had had conquests from 18 to 50 years-old. He knew exactly what he was doing, and how to do it.

He was an expert in seduction. He was well-dressed, cultivated, charming, mature, straightforward… A real Christian Grey.

 

The second phase: disgust

The honeymoon phase starts fading and you see the lover’s true colors. You understand you were blinded.

In my case, that guy was egoistic, and after 6 months, I started to see that. He had no problem fucking me, but if I would leave everything behind for him, he would not want to take the responsibility and he would let me deal with the mess alone. It would be convenient so that he could see me more often, but he would not be a support...

While I was crying every day, devastated because he was messing up with my head and I had no perspective of the future, he would be whistling around, feeling grateful for the moment we had had, and for having seduced a girl almost half his age.

I was an emotional wreck, and all he had to say was “don’t worry it’s gonna be fine”.

He would meet other girls and tell me about it. Not to make me jealous, rather to make it clear that there would be nothing “serious” between us.

To protect myself, I kept thinking “do not react in the heat of the moment”. Every single thing I do is thought-through. I never take any decision that could be a turning point hot-minded. I'd rather leave the room, wait, one, two days, breathe, have a good cry, meditate, think…

I understand where he was coming from though. He had been married. He had had a lot of relationships. He wanted to feel free and was afraid of the routine and commitment. But that’s not was I was looking for. I wouldn’t leave everything I had for something haphazardly, and I understood that I would lose so much more than I would gain if I went down that road.

Also, even though I was fantasizing about him, and I was feeling waves in my body when he was around, when he finally kissed me, it felt wrong.

I got disappointed and though: “don't you see that you're jumping into something that you're not even going to enjoy?!”.

It broke the spell.

When you kiss your husband and have your way, you know what each other likes after ten years, it is hard to find this somewhere else. Same with love in general, my husband knows me by heart, and we just clicked from the beginning.

Once, I told him to tease him that someone else had admitted his feelings for me. He said” nobody will love you like I do”. At the time, I thought “yeah, right”, but afterwards I figured it was true.

The last time I met the guy at his place, I thought “I’d rather be home right now”, as things were starting to settle back from my side.

And that’s how I knew it was over.

Now when I cross path with him and I have to hug him, I feel completely neutral. It’s over.

 

The third phase: switching focus

Just like he used me for instant gratification, I used him for the lesson he had taught me.

He was complimenting me all the time, boosting my self-esteem.

I felt more desired and it started to impact my relationship with my husband. I started to feel more dary, more sexual, at ease. I broke down my barriers, physically with my man.

I’ve always been an adventurer, while my husband had a more traditional education. Especially after we had our first child, he could not combine "the mother and the whore". So, I had to take things a step further to feel sexually fulfilled, especially approaching 30, when you are reaching your sexual peak. I needed that.

This little adventure, I did it for me, not against anyone.

But at that stage in my life, I did not want my children to blame me later on for not having tried harder. For having destroyed their lives before giving my marriage a proper shot. So, I did everything I could to make it work, and it did. It brought us closer.

Funnily enough, Christian (the lover), had told me right from the beginning that our little affair could actually save my relationship, because it had happened with other women. At the time, it sounded silly...

Of course, I don’t know what will happen in the future, maybe one day I will freak out and feel unsatisfied again. But right now, I am happy.

And I will always remember that lesson, of that time when I had doubts and managed to pick myself up.

And even if I suffered, I do not regret anything. Because he taught me so much, he changed me for the better, and it changed my relationship. Because sexuality is the strongest bond in a relationship.

Some people say: "you need to leave before you cheat". I disagree. I don’t think it's worth ruining your life for a stupid side-story, to end up disappointed. I think that faithfulness is also coming back. And I also think that we shall keep our secret garden, there is no point in breaking someone’s heart to ease one’s conscience. Our secrets “make” who we are".

Patricia is the first person I met who managed to use her desire for somebody else, to bring passion back to her relationship with her husband.

A lot of people don’t try hard enough and that’s why there are so many divorces. But if you believe that you are with the love of your life and that there is still a chance, do everything to save that. Give 200%, try anything, it is never over.

Just like a businesswoman: did you try everything to not let the company go bankrupt?

If you want things to change, you need to pay attention to things that your husband or boyfriend complains about, and change yourself instead of expecting him to do the work (and the other way around, obviously).

Some men do not communicate, they are just in a bad mood, and we have no idea of what we do wrong. You’re always alone in life. Even if you are in a couple. Don’t count on anybody. If you want things to change, change them, and be determined. And you need to be two to tango, so the other person needs to be responsive.

What’s your take on that? How do you deal with your sexual drives?
Self-Love is the New 30
Estimated reading time: 4'

Estimated reading time: 4'

When my sister turned thirty, I gave her a card that read:

"Turning 30 is a celebration of the free-to-be-yourself decade:

Feeling comfortable in your own skin,

Realizing you can do whatever you put your mind to,

Being surrounded by loving friends and family,

Knowing your deserve to be happy".

I am 29, so I was curious to hear her feedback on that description: she agreed 100%.

"As time passes, the more I know myself, and the better I feel about myself," she says, "it's not related to age. It's a journey.
Everyone is not necessarily comfortable in their own skin at 30. But what is certain is that time has a positive impact on our well-being.

We know what we love, and we choose to do what makes us feel good. We take more time to think about it and act upon it. It becomes a lifestyle, a wisdom almost. And if something does not please us, we change direction.

It seems simple, so why do so many of us remain in situations that do not suit us? A job? A relationship? Toxic habits?

I think the trigger was my independence. Most people have this revelation on average at 30, once they are out of school, have a stable situation, become financially independent. Relationships to our environment are freed from all these constraints and focus on the emotional, we preserve the long relationships, we have deeper, even more spiritual discussions.

For example, instead of investing only in ephemeral things as before (perfume, shoes, etc.), I also invest in sustainable things, like an apartment, it's quite revealing. When I eat, I try to eat well, whereas before I was swallowing potato crisps on my way home. I went back to sport ... So on.

I see. It is the age where one chooses one's life.

When I had my teenage crisis, it was difficult for me to differentiate between my desires, those of others and those of society. And how to get there when we do not recognize ourselves as individual, when we are still part of a group? At 30, we take independence from our social circle and our well-being is refocused on oneself .

On the other hand, attention not to be confused between being an individual and being an individualist! Others are essential to our happiness, be it in love, in friendship, or for any type of relationship.

The other day, I was listening to a podcast with sociologist Durkheim, explaining that the suicide rate was very low in united communities. I concluded that selfishness does not make happiness. To think about, know and accept oneself makes happiness, and once you've done that, you can direct your thoughts towards what the outside brings you and appreciate a good book, a painting, a meal, a person, or the contemplation of a landscape.

Self-love allows you to appreciate external pleasures better.

I have a small relaxation and beauty ritual that I practice every night without fail, for at least 45 minutes to do good to my body:

I start with a good hot shower with music, then I remove all the makeup and I put cream on every square millimeter of skin, from the toes to the neck, through the tips of the hair and the eyelashes, I stretch out, I make yoga greetings, I relax ...

Self-love is taking time for yourself.

The other day besides, at my yoga class, we were doing a stretching position and I was focusing on my body in motion and my breath.

The teacher said," Look at Pauline, she's in mindfulness!" He approached, crossed my feet behind my head and walked away.

Well, I found myself stuck and had to call for help (!), but the bottom line is that being satisfied with yourself and your body shell helps relieve tension as well!

To give a contradictory example, another participant was only giggling, scratching, dressing up, and so on. She could not let go, she could not just be there, feel the good waves, be satisfied with this moment of relaxation or the sun on her face.

Self-love is also consciousness of one's body.

Before, my happiness was defined exclusively in the intensity of the moment. Now I've realized that happiness is a global equilibrium, a sum of moments and emotions that fluctuate.

My relationship to time is different: when I was 15 years old, one year was 7% of my life. Today, one year is 3% of my life, it has nothing to do!
I am not afraid to grow old, but I am aware of having to develop and optimize my time. I do not want to waste it, so I become demanding.

I focus on the quality of relationships with others, and I surround myself with people I find exceptional. Of course we do not always have discussions of intellectuals, we also take pleasure in passing superficial moments! And sometimes we can not talk to each other, but just be together, and feel good".

Self-love is awareness of time.

In conclusion: you have to be the person you want to talk to... I would like to have the chance to be my best friend or my boyfriend, or my sister ... (laughs) Helene, do you confirm ?!☺ "

Are you a person you’d like to meet? What is your own definition of self-love?