Cool For Cats

On 13th July 2014, I was followed on Twitter by a cat. Not just any cat, arguably the most pampered and fashionable petit chat on the planet, one Miss Choupette Lagerfeld. Apart from the fact that I just worship her ‘Daddy’ Lagerfeld, I am also obsessed with felines so this was the ultimate social media top trump of follows for me.

choupette  v magazine

Now Choupette’s world can be explored in a new book published by Thames & Hudson, Choupette: The Private Life of a High-Flying Fashion Cat. This charming book includes photographs and sketches, chapters about her diet and beauty regime, as well as her activities as an e-cat on the net. There’s even some of her published work as a model in fashion stories shot by Karl, sharing the limelight with supermodels such as Linda Evangelista and Laetitia Casta.

Choupette

Did you know that Choupette’s blue eyes inspired a colour palette for a recent Chanel collection? Or that she only travels with personalised Goyard luggage? I love these little insights into Karl’s life and workings. His love for this kitty inspires and delights him, and it’s a real treat to feel like you are learning secrets of this incredibly private designer’s life. Plus Choupette really is just a beautifully pretty cat. The book’s final chapter looks at other great artists such as Baudelaire, Gorey and Jean Cocteau and their love for the feline, bringing home just how special these animals really are. Meow – definitely cool for cats…

choupette karl lagerfeld

Published by Thames & Hudson, Patrick Mauriès’ Choupette: The Private Life of a High-Flying Fashion Cat is available to buy online here.

The Jobs Quest

Looking for work when you’re not working at the time can feel like quite a challenge. It’s great to be free of the job that you had perhaps grown tired of, but the lack of boundaries can present us with a blank canvas that feels overwhelming. Here are ways to apply some structure that will make the process of looking for work feel both productive and enjoyable.

looking for work

Get out of the house

Staring at the same four walls every day will leave you feeling closed in and uninspired. Grab your laptop and head out to a coffee shop or any venue where you can take advantage of the wifi. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to your productivity and positivity. Being around others in a busy atmosphere will help you feel connected with the world.

Structure your day

When we’ve been used to turning up to an office every day and adhering to someone else’s rules, having a lot of spare time suddenly can feel overwhelming. The best thing to do in these circumstances is manage your diary and plan your week. Apportion time for job searching, catching up with people etc. You’ll feel more in control of your week and you’ll make better use of all that time.

catching up with friends

Work in some fun

Google is great, but when we’re looking for our next challenge, eight hours a day on it isn’t necessarily the best approach. Sitting in front of your computer for prolonged hours at a time might make you feel like you’re doing something but actually it can leave you feeling exhausted and disheartened. Ensuring you allow for some time out is really important. It’s often during these times that we have an inspired thought or a new opportunity is presented to us over coffee with an old friend. Make sure you have a balance of work and play in your day.

Talk about where you’re at

Thought leads to words, leads to action. Expressing where you currently are, ideas that you’re playing with and thoughts for the future is one of the best ways to reach your goal by the quickest route. It’s in the discussion of what’s running through your mind that often leads to greater clarity and also new opportunities presenting themselves to you. So don’t be afraid to share your ideas with those willing to be a helpful sounding board.work

Be Patient

It can feel like an anxious time when we’re not sure where we’re headed. But it’s also an exciting time! A time of unknown possibilities and new adventures on the horizon. Allow your exploration to work its magic and don’t be too eager to ‘skip to the end’. Apply some patience and allow things to develop as they will, in the best way for you.

And God Created Woman

Last year I wrote an article about the impossibility of finding jeans that fit actual womanly shapes. Since then I have found Donna Ida. I have known about the brand for a while, but I finally got to the store on Elizabeth Street. They offer a full fitting service, and have a fancy yet practical 360-degree mirror situation installed so you can actually see yourself all the way round without dislocating your neck or talking yourself into what-you-can’t-see-can’t-hurt-you spending tactics. Online, their website offers loads of tips and advice, and it really feels like Donna Ida is listening to what you have to say.

They are a multi-brand offer so really do enable you to try as many different labels and styles as possible. And Ida – their own brand – is just brilliant, with a great range of styles, all reasonably priced. The denim feels soft and there is loads of stretch for a structured feel which also means they don’t lose shape in a few days – let alone 25 minutes – like many other denims (J Brand, I’m talking to you). All of the styles have a higher rise for the actual women among us not only craving to not show our knickers every time we bend over, but also to feel sexy and like we are wearing jeans that fit, fit us, and not teenage girls/boys/men/other body shapes. As we all know, one size does not suit all when it comes to jeans.

Donna Ida Jeans

My choice for this Autumn is the Ivy: a totally Bardot-esque blue, worn with a crisp white oversized shirt, sleeves rolled and unbuttoned to reveal to décolletage. For my shape (Pear FYI) I found the ‘Ivy’ to accentuate my waist, hold on to my butt and with the help of an obligatory turn up due to my lack of height, look incredibly French cute chic with flats. I recently used other styles on actresses Gemma Arterton (Rizzo) and Samantha Barks (Ivy Noir), fitting them perfectly for their shapes too. Tres bien.

bardot jeans

In keeping with this Brigitte Bardot theme for autumn, my newest crush is the French market shopping basket, or the ‘Couffin’. I chanced upon one whilst designing a film character and adopted it as my everyday handbag immediately. Apart from being insanely practical to chuck everything in to, I am loving the fact that they are so cheap and accessible. Plus they are not anywhere near ‘on trend’ – in fact you get your own trend for under £20. I am enjoying time away from branded handbags and It-bags and logos, which seem to have reached fever pitch since Jeremy Scott moved to Moschino and Karl is in logoverdrive.

bardot basket

I recommend the East Hampshire-based BasketBasket, they have a great ethos; they’re both fairly trade and made with 100% natural materials, plus they offset their carbon emissions to try and balance out their importation. There are styles which are lined and also fasten at the top for the pickpocket worriers among you.

bardot stripes

Finishing touches? Pretty much wouldn’t be Brigitte without a Breton tee, now would it? Brigitte just celebrated her 80th, and this is a look that’s classic, chic and has that certain je ne sais quoi – whether you’re 18 or 80.

Limbo Lovers

It’s always hard to get your head around how you feel about something when you’re right in the middle of it. If you’re grappling with what to do next and can’t see the wood for the pesky trees, here’s some ideas to get things moving.

write it down

Get your thoughts on paper

This is an old favourite of mine and it works. The aim here is getting the jumble of thoughts that are on constant repeat, out of your head and on to paper. This helps you see what the issues actually are, what you’d like to change and gives you something to plan around. Don’t worry about not having the solutions yet. You need to understand what the problem is first.

Make small changes to your routine

When we’re in auto-pilot mode, it’s more difficult to see what other options might be available to us. Making small changes helps you apply new thinking and shakes up that feeling of stagnation. Buy your morning coffee somewhere new, try an alternative route in to work, do something different on a Monday night. These bite-sized changes will all contribute to you seeing things from a different perspective.

routine

Get out of limbo land

Much of the stress we experience when we don’t know what to do is because we spend so much time in our heads. The problem swells beyond all recognition and becomes overwhelming to the point of paralysis. The best way to avoid this is to, funnily enough, do something. Take some holiday or pick a weekend and put some attention on what you’re feeling, who you could talk to get help, what research you need to. You’re not going to be able to worry yourself out of this one. Take action, however small.

Look your money worries in the eye

Money often feels like the biggest obstacle to making a change. And it’s really easy to make assumptions about your financial commitments that with closer investigation can be inaccurate. Do you really know how much you need to earn or have you plucked a number out of the air largely based on your anxieties? Do the maths and you’ll be much clearer on what your immediate options are and what alternatives that you might have thought weren’t possible. For example? Try reducing your hours to free up time or freelancing to give you flexibility.

limbo 1

Let go of the edge of the cliff

If you’re really serious about making a change, and the situation you’re in is truly adding no value, the most positive statement you can make is to draw a line under it and walk away. When you don’t know what’s next, this can seem very daunting, if not drastic. But, giving yourself some breathing space with a genuinely blank page to work with is hugely beneficial when you’re trying to work out your next move. Take a deep breath and look forward, not back.

Every Time We Say Goodbye

Living abroad is an immensely rewarding experience: the constant sense of adventure; opportunities for language learning; a greater respect and tolerance for difference. However, as an expat, one inevitably makes a lot of expat friends. It’s only natural – you’re taking language lessons together, perhaps working in international companies, people helpfully introduce you at parties (“Jo – meet Svetlana – she’s Russian so, well, foreign, just like you! You must have lots to discuss…”). And, in my opinion, having expat friends is no bad thing, it’s certainly not a worry.

new friends

Until…

Until your expat friends come over all patriotic and leave. My refined and notoriously indecisive Bostonian friend (it’s all very “Where do you summer?” à la Katherine Hepburn), whom I have in past musings referred to as Peggy-Sue, is returning to her native land, where a new job and her wonderful man await. Despite being thrilled for her, this imminent departure makes me unutterably sad. Peggy was a bridesmaid at my wedding; she’s spent Christmas with my family; I call her when I need to work out the Big Issues of life and when I have nothing other to report than what I ate for dinner. Her not being in the same country or even in the same time zone any more will leave a chasm in my life.

All Good Things

Quite a few friends have left Paris recently – sabbatical years, travelling, job opportunities – but they all plan to come back. Not Peggy-Sue. She’s leaving on a jet plane and not coming back again. Since I found out, I’ve been heavy-hearted, with an unshakeable end-of-an-era feeling. The fact that Peg’s departure coincides with my getting married and a number of friends either doing likewise or having babies only adds to my fin-de-siècle malaise. Like many thirty-somethings, we’re closing the Roaring Twenties chapter of our lives and starting a new one; and while, in its own way, it’s equally as thrilling, I can’t help but mourn the end of a glorious period of much spontaneity and few responsibilities.

friendship

Profit and loss

The French have a wonderful verb for which I’ve never found a satisfying English translation: profiter. It means “to make the most of” or to “fully take advantage of”, though neither seem to really capture the notion of living fully, enjoying, savouring. It’s a word I’ve often had in mind of late. Have I lived this era of my life to the full? Have I made the most of my twenties and of Peggy Sue, enjoyed time spent together, gone places and done things we wanted? I’m still trying to answer myself, and I’m guessing the reply is somewhere in the grey area of “yes, but could have done more”.

Making your mind up

So that’s what I’m trying to focus on in the run-up to Peggy’s leaving. Living deeply and fully. Enjoying every moment. Savouring the people in my world. I can’t redo the chapter of my life that’s slowly coming to a close, but I can learn from it and resolve to make the next one even more of a page-turner. I can make the trip to visit Peggy Sue (and not simply talk about it); schedule Skype dates over a glass of wine (and not just collapse in front of the television); make more time for friends who are still in Paris (and elsewhere); book tickets for that stand-up comic/play/band (instead of simply looking at the posters)…

paris cafe

I’m sad to see my friend move so far away, but I have control over how our friendship evolves and the time I choose to invest in it from a distance. I can choose to wallow and focus on all the things we’ll no longer do together (silly films, Friday night drinks), or I can choose to be here now and make the most of what is. One path leads to misery and stasis, the other promises growth, joy and gratitude. Even Peggy-Sue would see that’s no dilemma!

Werk It

I am in Yorkshire. It is raining. Obviously. However, since my new find I am excited about this rain. It’s been sunny in London since I purchased the Short Rain Cape from Norfolk-based Carrier Company, and while this is very welcome in some respects (and must not end for a minimum of seven months please), I have hardly been able to contain my excitement in regard to wearing my new bit of kit.

short rain cape

You see this cape is just about my wet weather everything. As a shorter lady, this version sits just below the knee in an elegant fashion (although is available in two longer lengths) and the cut is just, well perfection. If it was ever possible to look elegant and chic in a green rectangle of waterproof fabric, this is it. And not only look, but also feel. I feel as if I glide along, fabric draping perfectly from my shoulders, smugly dry shouldered underneath. Dry and stylish, and just like Barbour it is a style that crosses ages easily, but gives you a lovely alternative to the sweat-inducing (let alone just not that Vogue any more) Barbour.

barbour

This purchase is the latest in a new direction I am trying, which interestingly in some ways harks back to my early twenties flirtation with a skater aesthetic. Carhartt have been a go-to staple for skater types for decades, and I have recently re-embraced their chinos and shorts as elements of my new grown up look. Strong, mature-coloured hardwearing cotton drill chinos that sit nonchalantly on the hips, and incidentally they make your ass look incredible. Bound interior seams and perfect finishings add to the appeal to an adult connoisseur, a person to whom quality is key.

Bill Cunningham

What is it about work wear that has such appeal? The fashion industry are constantly throwing colour and shape and texture and more and more at consumers, maybe this is a way to take a break from this sensory overload? Arguably the most important man in fashion wears only a blue multi-pocketed French work jacket. I am talking of course of the original doyen of street style, Bill Cunningham. In the beautiful film documenting his work, he explains why these jackets are perfect for him as they have pockets for all of his film and pens and things, they are hard-wearing and they are practical. Bill is a very gentle man, who has very simple tastes. His ‘uniform’ consists of his work jacket, cotton shirt, chinos and dress shoes (lace-up boots if it’s winter), and to me he is the most refreshing person to have ever existed in the fashion industry. A stylist I used to assist once said to me that you can tell a good stylist a mile off, that if she looks a bit dull in the clobber department it’s because she spends her time making other people look fabulous, and not all of her time making herself look fabulous. This quote always stuck with me, and I think this is adding to my current draw to such style, having now been a stylist now for over a decade.

Suffice to say, in true fashion industry style, you’d be hard pressed to find Bill’s jacket for ‘about $20′ any longer, which ironically is what he paid for them before he made them such objects of desire with scores of people wishing to pay a little homage to the king of street snappers. The Norfolk Work Jacket from Carrier Company is one that comes very close to the holy Bill grail. Currently priced at £68 it is certainly not the most expensive variation either. The images on their website show the jacket sun-bleached and weather-worn beautifully, evidence that such pieces create their own life from the life of their wearer. I admire a company which promotes long life, and an investment in their products, as opposed to the throw away nature so often employed when trend is involved. I think work wear is almost an anti-trend, so maybe that’s the key.

norfolk jacket

I feel, at the moment at least, that I am alone among my peers with this look, which obviously appeals to the stylist in me, but also the blank canvas, practicality and quality of the pieces is in line with my tutorage that as a creator of other people’s looks I need to retain a simplicity that inspires trust. Trust that I am 100% in creating the fabulous for my client and that I am 100% concentrating on them. After all, what’s a celebrity without the self-centred ego hmm? There’s no wonder when thinking along these lines, why it is that artists traditionally wear smocks when creating art.

chanel couture

In the Chanel atelier, all of the staff wear custom white work jackets. If it’s chic enough for Chanel, well. It stands to reason that garments which are held in lower regard than your day or fancy clothes are bound to create a much richer tale of life. Cheap, hard-wearing, neutral pieces of clothing chosen so as not to distract from the (often messy) creative process- being that stitching for Karl or trawling oysters in Dublin Bay. With pockets. Work wear is your own self-couture, buy it, live it, make it your own.

Good Glitter

I am not sure whether it is a chromosome thing, a stylist thing, or an antithesis to my grunge thing – but for as long as I can remember, I have been a magpie for glitter. Not just any glitter, good glitter. For me, a good glitter for is chunky, thick and unwavering. I am especially drawn to what I like to call Sixties Lurex; thick knitted garments with crude metallic threads running through them. Silver was often combined with a black nylon base giving a dirty grungy glitter that could easily be incorporated into a goth girl’s outfit without drawing too much attention for being girly.

dorothy red shoes

Dorothy’s hand sequinned ruby slippers from the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz were designed by the original king of glamour ‘Adrian’. A very famous Hollywood gown designer, his career spanned the 1920’s right up to the 1940’s. Adrian dressed every starlet you can possibly think of in sparkle and glamour; Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow and Katherine Hepburn to name a famous few. These slippers are officially the most important piece of Hollywood memorabilia, each pair remaining from the original movie worth an estimated $3 million. No wonder I covet them. Many covet them. Music man of the moment, Pharrell Williams even paid tribute to the glittery treads during his Oscars performance wearing a pair of custom made red sequinned Adidas high tops.

glitter

As a fashion student in my early twenties, I came across a pair of red sequinned pumps from Miu Miu. I obviously did what any self-respecting fashion student would do and promptly started eating back copies of Vogue until I had saved up enough to purchase them. That is not quite true; I bought them as soon as I set eyes on them and then had to eat white pasta with only garlic salt for flavour for months. I still have them, one heel so bent it is impossible to stand, and they featured in a piece of work I styled recently; my trashed beyond belief, wonky ruby slippers. (image below by Zoe Buckman)

If I Were A Rose

When I worked in the music industry, I created a special process to glitter {cheap} heeled pumps for a songstress on stage, and it seems Hedi Slimane loves this idea too. The ‘Flats are back’ announcement is only making me mutinously decide to wear heels as much as possible {although this is rapidly reminding myself why I always wear flats obviously as they are impossible to be speedily constructive in}. As a life long hater of the insipid kitten heel, I must confess Hedi as buggered that up royally with his AW Saint Laurent collection. I am mentioning this all now, so far from winter, as we all know such things get, ahem, homaged, quite quickly, and the things I am about to talk about are crazy money. They are also potentially my dream shoes and will go with everything all year round. See, see how I talk myself into purchases? I am a fully-grown woman who still lies to herself about how much things cost.

saint laurent glitter shoes

The shoes which currently hold my desires? Glittered. Chunky, heavenly, ankle strapped, low heeled, pointy, dirty, grungy and glittered. Grown up glitter. Get it now glitter. Get a grip on yourself spending over £600 on a pair of shoes glitter.

Dear Diary

On this day in 2013, I was having my first wedding dress fitting. And it’ll be a year ago this weekend that I saw a fantastic production of Sunday in the Park with George, with (and this pleases me no end) my friend George. And around this time last year, I was enjoying reading The Woman in White. Fascinating, I know – but more interesting is how I know and remember all this. Well, in 2013, I started keeping a one-line-a-day, five-year diary. The concept is this: each date has a page, each page is divided into five sections. You write on the same page on the same date each year – and you do so for five years.

Diary writing

I bought my journal for a song. Baby blue and leather-bound with gold-edged paper, it’s a little marvel that consistently makes me reflect on the passage of time – both looking back and thinking forward. I find traditional journaling a chore – the pressure to write regularly, the tendency just to pen a personal monologue of every worried, angry or depressed thought I’ve had. But this diary is different – I only have space to write two sentences, which only take a couple of minutes so there’s no pressure. Even more delightful is my discovery that, far from dragging me into a quagmire of self-analysis and rehashing my doubts and fears, it elevates my thoughts and offers me clarity and positivity.

Remember, remember…

Since I began the project, having just a few lines in which to sum up my day has made me think very clearly about what I want to be reminded of five years from now. Do I want to write that I had an argument with my boss, got a manicure and had drinks with a friend? Or perhaps I want to express something that I won’t remember unless I write it down. A stunning winter sunset watched from the office window with a couple of fun colleagues as we worked late? The stranger on the metro who handed me a tissue when I was crying with laughter reading David Sedaris? It makes me really choose what shapes my memories and thus my experience of the day.

sunset

How Was Your Day?

And by making me consider what I want to remember about this day, the diary also makes me think about what I want to focus on here and now. So, when my husband asks about my day, I can go into details about an endless meeting, a last-minute request for a report, a coaching client who keeps changing her appointment. Or… I can tell him about a great book I read during my commute, the email I got from a friend I haven’t seen in ages, how I got on in my yoga class. What I choose to tell him about my day colours how I view my day even as I see it that very evening.

Looking Back

Now that I’m in my second year of the diary, I also get to look back at what I was doing last year. I have cited just a few examples and every memory makes me smile. When I’m feeling in a rut and look back at what I was doing last year, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. I’m also noticing potential patterns: for two years running, late January has not been a pleasant time for me. Maybe in 2015 I’ll be able to factor that in and find a way to take the edge off.

diary

Choosing your memories

Journaling, of either the traditional sort or the type I’ve embarked upon, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but really thinking about how you want to describe your day, week, month or year and what you’d like to remember are great habits to adopt. It’s so easy to get caught up in what went wrong with your day or what you didn’t get done, but those things don’t have to be the sum of your experience. So, the next time you’re having drinks with a friend on a Friday night and she asks, “So, how was your week?” think about what you want your week to have been about and the experience you want to call to mind before you answer.

Ugly Shoes

It is a well-known fact that ugly shoes are better for your feet. I would hate to name any shoe brands in particular as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But every time I step out in fancy, impractical, blister-inducing footwear I berate myself for not wearing ‘sensible shoes’.

pool slides

What gets to me is that there is a presumption that once you are ready for comfortable shoes you are also ready to hang up any stylishness that you have procured throughout your life. I realised this most recently when I styled a job for a character – a 65-year-woman. The general idea I was fighting against is the notion that 65-year-old women are frumpy, dowdy and sans style. This was very hard for me to get my head around, as the women I know anywhere near this age category are rather fabulously dressed. Case in point? The stars of Sue Bourne’s fantastic documentary Fabulous Fashionistas.  I can only imagine that this notion comes from the image of 65-year-old women from previous decades. The women who are 65 now grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so these are women who championed mini skirts, crochet and platforms. They were the first generation to really have fun with their clothes.

fabulous fashionistas

While this is a preconception about an older generation’s style which we must fight, when it comes to footwear that’s a different matter. Working as a stylist, I’m on my feet all day long, so I crave comfort in footwear. During preproduction I am dashing around shops, hire houses, driving and carrying, and on shoots I can be on my feet for up to 18 hours a day. I have always favoured the Converse low top or a ballerina, but am now finding these less comfortable day to day. I have recently followed the pack (shock horror) and invested in a pair of Air Max 90’s to put some actual max air between the ground and me, and I must confess they are enjoyable to wear. However, I am not a teenager and I fear this look must be restricted to work only.

nike air max 90s

Men have spent years complaining about women, complaining about their shoes; walking slowly, limping occasionally, blistered bleeding aching feet ahoy. However as soon as we switch over to practical-looking, clumpy safe choices they are up in arms that women now don’t look sexy and we all look like we knit our own muesli. You can’t have it all mate. Or can you?

Celine Furkenstocks

For several seasons now the Ugly Shoe has been creeping into collections. And now it has finally infiltrated the high street, it is officially a trend. Style reference? See Celine’s fur-lined Furkenstocks for Spring 2013. These have translated into a slightly more practical non fur-lined version for this summer, featuring a criss cross grosgrain strap and Birkenstock styling. Birkenstocks themselves have enjoyed several summers in the spotlight now and joyfully this success looks set to continue. Who wouldn’t want a super on-trend, cool, practical, flat, soft cork-lined footbed with arch support and a roomy toe box hmm? And even Vogue said it was okay. And Alexa. And remember the images of Kate taken by Corinne Day back in the 1990’s? See.

birkenstocks alexa olsens kate moss

Givenchy Spring 2014 was styled exclusively with leather sandals, and the Prada collection featured some chunky rhinestoned neoprene rainbow brite practical sandals that I just can’t decide whether I secretly love them or openly hate them. The Prada offer brings me on to the other big hitter in this slightly ugly and strange trending footwear department – The Humble Poolslide.

prada ss14

I spent the majority of last summer trying to persuade the various Directors of E4’s Misfits to let me style a pair of poolslides into the show, alas to no avail. I was saddened to notice them appear in countless shows and on pretty much every catwalk subsequently and I now mourn the passing of my poolslider trendsetting moment. Now here is an item I have championed on holidays since the 1990’s, loving its chaviness, especially with white towelling sports socks. My father had a thing for poolsliders and socks, and as much as we berated him and I hid in shame as a teenager, it is a style I have adopted with gung ho as an adult. These beauties are making a mainstream reappearance on the high street too. You can even design your own at Adidas for under £30. That’s semi bespoke footwear for under a bullseye. Bullseye indeed.

adidas poolslides

For full ‘I don’t give a blister’ ugliness I like all-black sandals, but white is super nice for summer too. You can get glitzy with metallics, which are huge for 2014, and there are some delicate florals and cool stripes to be had too. Bright or pastel, natural leather, anything goes. The great thing about this trend is it won’t break your bank or your feet. The real battle is now not whether your footwear is seen as fashionable but how sexy it makes you feel. And your feet may well be considered sexier when they are not covered in blisters and plasters. The dilemma continues…

Winning Differently

Seeing things through. Honouring your commitments. Giving your all. Noble thoughts, and laudable goals indeed, but are they always the best route to peace and happiness?

Stop pushing yourself

This week, as I was leaving the office after a hectic day, I faced a dilemma. I had a life coach networking event to attend and, boy, did I not want to go. All I could think about was a hot bath, a glass of wine and a comedy show that would relax my over-taxed brain. But wait, the type-A/achiever/self-motivator demon living inside me shouted: “You’ll regret not going and slobbing on the sofa when you could be making valuable new contacts!” I phoned a friend. “Don’t go”, she said, “You’ll regret going because if it’s anything other than insanely useful, you’ll just sit there wishing you’d listened to yourself and headed home”.

networking

It took a lot of effort for me to overcome the dire sense that I was copping out – baling on something I’d said I would do. (Said to whom? Just myself and my diary!) And yet… as I unwound at home, I didn’t regret staying in one bit. It didn’t feel like laziness or doing myself out of opportunities. It felt something a little like… self-care.

Help those who would be helped

It has been theorised that when you decide to buy a red car, you start seeing red cars everywhere. In that spirit, a coaching client this week brought me a second example of when giving up is far from giving in. She was bewailing her failed attempts to help a friend, complaining that the friend just wouldn’t listen and was impossible to help: “I sometimes think my friend doesn’t want my help.” Ah, there it is. My powerful coaching question: “So, if this person doesn’t want help, what’s the result of trying to help him against his will?”

counselling

Cue fireworks, glass shattering, earth ceasing to rotate on its axis for a split second. “Yes”, said my client slowly, wrapping her mind around my unexpected enquiry, “I can only really help people who want to be helped. The rest is just a waste of energy.” When faced with intransigence and a lack of willing, insistence can only lead to frustration and even conflict; sometimes giving up is an act of self-protection and kindness.

Why shout them down?

I have recently been grappling with a difficult relationship with a work colleague. She does not listen. I don’t mean she hears what I say then ignores my recommendations. No, worse: she literally doesn’t let anyone speak – she cuts people off, talks over them; I even saw her get up and leave the room when another co-worker was midway through answering a question she had asked. This kind of behaviour pushes all my buttons. A lack of consideration for anyone else’s contribution to the discussion (otherwise known as interrupting, not letting you finish, finishing your sentence for you) is a personal bête noire.

This week I realised (finally) that I was never going to change this woman (see my previous point!), and I am certainly not willing to shout in order to be heard. So I decided I’d just stop. Stop trying to make her hear, stop trying to give her my opinion, stop attempting to converse with her at all, in fact. And, oh, the relief! Essentially, I’ve decided that if she doesn’t want to hear me, I won’t waste my breath. I’ll give up, and in doing so, I’ll conserve my energy and spend it on someone who wants to listen and who shows me enough courtesy to deserve my precious time!

communication

Obviously, powering through is sometimes the best course of action – who wants to be someone who doesn’t follow through or get anything done? But it’s essential to identify those times when the wiser course of action is to stop trying so hard, walk away from a damaging situation, or abandon a toxic project or relationship. Sometimes giving up is not equivalent to losing the war but to picking your battles.