Today, I’d like to discuss a new experience I had while in France this summer. Or rather, my deliberate decision to remain true to myself, no matter what.

You see, we French are a bit different in the way we relate to people we do not know. We are reserved about opening up. For instance, we don't chat with the cashier or the person in line next to us. We don't smile or say hello to people we pass in the street. It’s as though protocol dictates us to basically ignore each other.

I am generalizing here, of course … it’s my perception; not everyone is like that. But, even in my small beach town, when passing a “little old lady,” I smiled and said hello, and she looked down and clutched her purse. Here, however, it would seem almost impolite not to acknowledge a passerby in the street. To say hello and share a smile might be a small gesture, but it goes a long way. It lifts us up. And, I think in the today’s world, we need more of that.

So here, I smile a lot, I chat easily with people in lines or in stores … I’m being playful and creating joy. It is well received and I know my joy empowers others. When I would return to France, however, I used to convince myself that I couldn’t be that way. It was my interpretation, of course. It made me feel awkward, insecure and suppressed. That’s because my Core Values of Joy and Playfulness weren’t expressed, and therefore a big part of me was missing.

During the last few years, I have noticed this more about me. This summer I made the conscious choice to shift my way of being. I didn’t want to lose myself when I went home to France. So I started behaving there the way I do here ... being my authentic self … smiling, chatting, looking for the positive and the possibilities.

I was amazed to see how this shift affected my surroundings, and I noticed that people actually were receptive to my way of being. Whether at the market, buying bread, going to stores, or just taking a stroll, I smiled and was myself. I made friendly, fun comments. Joy and Playfulness were very alive in me, and it impacted others around me positively. It felt good and as a result, I even made some nice connections. This summer, I finally realized I could be French – and true to myself – at the same time, with great results. Whatever stopped me before didn’t exist anymore. I felt free and happy. 

This experience makes me wonder… are there areas of your life where you feel you cannot be self-expressed? Do you feel suppressed in certain situations? If so, chances are that at least one of your Core Values is not being honored. I encourage you to recognize it, figure out which Value is being snuffed, and find a way to honor that Value and rekindle it in the moment. The experience is worth it, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by more pleasant, positive and nurturing interactions. Have fun!