The art of insouciance in 4 simple steps
This post was first published on 5 February, 2014. Given that this week I indulged in post-Christmas shenanigans of the plot twist variety, I still need to work on cultivating my insouciance. I’m happy to report that I’m getting better at it, though. Pfft. Meh. Whatever.
Insouciant. Insouciance. I really like this word: how it sounds when I say it, and what the word actually means. It’s French, of course; what other language could manufacture such a linguistically delightful word that has such a cool meaning?
I stumbled on this word as I was trying to find the answer to philosophical question on Google, and it hit me! Insouciance is both the answer and a way of life… a state of mind that I must practice more regularly to be more zen in my outlook.
And my reasons for wanting to emanate insouciance? Being more insouciant doesn’t mean that you stop caring. Or that you stop feeling. It means that you worry less about things you have no control over, so you can care more about things you do have a say in. And it means that you are ensuring that the things you feel strongly about will give you a good return on investment. Plus radiating insouciance is dead sexy… think Mae West, Lauren Bacall and other such femme fatales (blokes: think George Clooney and Jeffrey Donovan aka Michael Westen in Burn Notice) who ooze laid back cool. Insouciance is bringing sexy back.
Step 1 – Acknowledge your triggers
What bothers you? I mean, really bothers you? What gets up your nose, or keeps you awake at night? What puts you into a tailspin of thoughts that you have trouble switching off? Or equally, gets your adrenalin pumping and your stomach in a knot? These are the areas that demand insouciance. My triggers have always been work* and men**. I invest much too much energy in trying to figure out both, and generally – in my experience, anyway! – neither category is worthy of this investment. Insouciance, I believe, will help me refocus my emotional investments into niche markets where I experience a better return on investment. My days of analysing the whys and wherefores are ending: I’m phasing in more whatevers and what does it matters.
Step 2 – Reframe your response
Pfft. Meh. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Casual shrug of the shoulders. In my pursuit of insouciance, these should be my default responses to anything related to my intense, over-thinking angst ridden triggers. Management not up to scratch? Pfft. Colleagues not meeting deadlines? Casual shrug of the shoulders. Meeting not on track? It doesn’t matter. Man that I’m interested in contacts me? Whatever. Man that I’m interested in doesn’t contact me? Meh. Casual shrug of the shoulders. Insouciance means more emotional control in areas are typically fraught for me.
Step 3 – Channel insouciant beings
I am not, by nature, insouciant. I am often intense, and angst ridden, and prone to over-thinking practically every situation** known to woman. It is helpful, therefore, that I channel those who do radiate insouciance. I know I’ve mentioned femme fatales from the Golden Years of Hollywood, but I’ve recently discovered Sally Wheet from Boardwalk Empire (played to perfection by Patricia Arquette), who oozes insouciance with every laid back, sub-text ridden line she coolly delivers in her southern drawl. Gems include:
Step 4 – Practice insouciance every day
And by practicing insouciance I mean practicing insouciant Salliness (or Maeness or Laurenness, depending on the situation). Every interaction at work and with the opposite sex is an opportunity to refine my insouciance technique. And it is an art: you arrive at insouciance knowing you are an amateur. You acknowledge your apprenticeship, and practice and hone and polish until you are less of an amateur, more of an artiste. In the end you aim to embody insouciance so that it becomes a part of who you are – your identity, intertwined. You are insouciant. Insouciance is you. Insyouciance.
* And by work, I don’t mean my work buddies, who I love dearly and who do not trigger irrational tailspins of over-thinking. By work I mean the resources, ego/status and vested interests that are battlefields for political and personal agendas, and the power games that permeate work tasks and activities.
** I’m usually exactly like Hugh Grant’s character in Notting Hill who assures Julia Robert’s character (after she accuses him of playing it cool by not returning a phone call for a few days) that he has never played anything cool in his life!