On Free Spirits…

5 years ago by

Dear Garance,

I have followed you for a very long time and I really adore you. I love how candid you are. You are so open and honest about so many subjects that are hard to talk about.

I think of you as such a free spirit that it confuses me when you detox from things like Instagram, sugar, coffee, friends and when you put pressure on yourself to meditate and work out more.

I don’t understand why you can’t just do those things and not feel guilty about it. We only have one life to live. I do a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t do like eat lots of bad food, don’t exercise as much as I’d like, spend a lot of time on Instagram but I’m okay with it. Life is crazy but I think you should just let life happen!



Dear Allison,

This is an interesting question. Why do we do the things that we do?

You say you see me as a free spirit, which to me is one of the highest compliments.

But what does being a free spirit mean?

To me, it is not to adhere to any pre-formulated thinking.

To not always go by society’s standards.

It is also to be your own person, to follow your heart.

And that is the most difficult thing in the world, because all of us are so conditioned, and very often, we don’t even see it.

I know I am.

I am probably conditioned less and less, which is the magic of maturing, but I am. To me, life is about peeling the layers. First comes the conditioning from your parents. Then from the conditioning from your peers. Then the one from society.


To free myself from my family’s view on life, I had to lose them for a while. They didn’t understand me, they where disappointed in me, mad at me. I was mad at them too. It was so painful, yet years later so rewarding. We don’t think the same. It’s so enriching for everyone.

Had I stayed put, comfortable, in their vision of life, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. Maybe I would have found a way to combine everybody’s desires for me, but I doubt it. I’d probably be doing a job I’d hate – and I’d be pretty depressed, too.

I had to free myself from my peers a few times. It is so painful. Friends love you, yet sometimes their love can make you smaller. I used to be friends with a group of artists. I loved them, was inspired by them. But their vision of an artist’s life was one of very exclusive, some could say snobbish, aspirations. One that keeps you as an artist creating for other artists – the public being considered too vulgar.

Yet I wanted to include everyone. I wanted to be in the world. I used a medium, the Internet, that was looked at as poor and ugly, as compared to pure artistic endeavors. I could have stayed with them and would probably have found my way, again, trying to consent to everyone – but I made the choice to leave. I gradually lost all my friends. “You’ve changed” they said. It hurt. But they were right : I had.

Following your own path is much more heroic than any feel-good quote wants to make you believe…

But, Allison, the most complicated, concealed, convoluted layer is the one of society’s conditioning. It hides in places we couldn’t imagine, sometimes right before our eyes, and we don’t see it.

Believe it or not, I was exactly like you before. I was the French girl, the rebel.

I used to be a real rebel, doing all the things society tells us not to do. Who cares?! I wanted to be free. And a rebel doesn’t go on a fucking diet, does she? She doesn’t detox. She smokes, takes drugs, dances all night, she has fun!!! She’s Kate Moss!!!!!

We have only one life, don’t we?


Slowly as I peeled the layers, and I got in touch with my soul and my body, I realized that, as boring as it appears, self-care goes a long way.

And I also realized that being “a rebel” is in many ways just as much of a conditioning as being a perfect health nut or a straight A student. Just look at the Harley Davidson “rebels”’ – there is sometimes nothing more conforming than free-thinkers.

One look, one way of thinking, one way to see life.

Being 100% sure your way of life is “the right way of life” often comes with having an opinion on others. On that too, I’m not as free of a thinker as you’d think I am. I have an opinion on everything, and on everyone. That crazy girl who doesn’t eat anything at lunch while I scoff down bread and butter. That person who’s still out, drunk at five in the morning. That dude who spends hours at the gym.

But as I peel the layers of my self, my opinions are softening, they’re becoming something more like curiosity. I try to understand where the person comes from, what brought them there. I try to see what they could teach me. Maybe something I wouldn’t want to use today, but maybe one day, who knows?

See, the more I am myself, the more I appreciate others and the choices they make for themselves.

It is probably because when we follow our hearts and disappoint people, we understand how hard it feels to lose someone’s appreciation.

Often, we also understand that judgment comes from projections and frustrations.

And more than often, we would rather everyone wan the same thing as we do – because it comforts us in our life choices.

But there is not only one way to lead an interesting life. And the ONLY right way is the one that feels right to our heart.

To me, that’s the magic of existence.

The more moving, always evolving, the more differences, the more points of views, the more voices, the more “things we don’t understand”, the more experiences, then the more bright, fascinating and beautiful life becomes. The more we allow ourselves to be one thing one day and evolve into something different the next, the more we allow life to vibrate inside us.

That’s why I want to tell you: YES, have fun. Spend as much time as you want on Instagram, don’t detox from it if you don’t feel like it. Don’t detox from anything. Be yourself. As you say so well, let life happen.

Or, in other words let *what your vision of what life is* to happen.

And don’t be disappointed in people because they’ve changed or because they don’t do or think like you. Value and learn from their experience – the same way you value and learn from your personal experience and let it change you.

Maybe after months of spending as much time on Instagram as you want, you’ll email me and tell me: I stopped it completely, it was too much!!! Or maybe you’ll have become a world-famous influencer.

Who knows? I know I don’t. In the meantime, do as you heart pleases, and trust me. Even if we’re not in the same place, we can both be, or at least try to be – happy, wild, and free spirits.




Welcome to “Dear Garance…” where Garance will answer reader questions in her monthly newsletter! If you have a question you’d like Garance to answer, please submit it to [email protected]. We encourage questions of all types: love, relationships, family, personal dilemmas, the meaning of life, and of course, career.


Add yours
  • Super post ! Connaissez vous le podcast “Change ma vie” ? votre post me fait penser à l’épisode “le manuel”.

  • jackie May, 26 2018, 2:32 / Reply

    So beautifully said! Love your thoughts and insights – thank you for sharing yourself with us so deeply. xo

  • Garance, your answer is so interesting and considered. There is a balance to everything–the person who parties all night, sleeps all day and never exercises is one extreme, but the guy who spends hours upon hours at the gym is another extreme. When I was a volunteer in Africa, I would go jogging, and people thought I was completely bonkers–who NEEDS to exercise? Living in a world where it was hard to get enough calories, they could not imagine a world where people would run for no reason at all, to avoid becoming fat! Yet, I can see the effects: I have two neighbors, the same age (75). One does long hikes in the mountains several times a week and goes to the gym; the other is on death’s doorstep with diabetes. I prefer to be like the one who hikes and is in fantastic shape.

  • Wonderfully written response to this question. Saving and re-sending! It sums up how I feel about my life and interaction with others. The goal or objective would be to find what is right for you and run with it.

  • Quel bel article, très intérestant et bien écris. La question de la liberté et du conformisme est vraiment délicate, comme tu le dis parfois être “rebelle” n’est rien de plus que de se conformer à un groupe social comme un autre. Pour ma part, j’ai du mal à croire à la liberté. Toutes nos pensées, qu’on le veuille ou non, sont sous l’influence du milieu dans lequel on évolue et de notre éducation, des gens que l’on côtoie, de nos intérêts. Chercher la liberté me semble illusoire, et peut-être que la quête du bonheur, le besoin d’être soi-même -but ultime de nombre de personnes- ne devrait pas dépendre de cette liberté, mais de faire la paix avec cette idée et d’assumer ses choix :)


  • Valerie May, 27 2018, 6:42 / Reply

    Chère Garance,
    Je l’avoue, ces derniers temps j’ai pris de la distance car les 80-20 sont devenus 20-80. Toutefois, je reviens toujours de temps en temps car les 20 me manquent et je sais que j’y trouverai quelque chose qui me parlera. A peu de choses près nous avons le même âge toi et moi, et tes prises de paroles rejoignent souvent mon propre cheminement.
    Celle que je viens de lire me perturbe au plus haut point, et j’ai du griffonner sur un papier et réfléchir au sens de certaines de tes phrases, non pas car mal écrites mais car très profondes et révélatrices de blessures internes.
    Je n’ai jamais été jalouse ni envieuse de personne, je ne suis jamais dans le jugement, mais je dois le reconnaître : je t’envie.
    Je t’envie d’avoir réussi à devenir l’héroïne de ta propre vie (“suivre son propre chemin est beaucoup héroïque que de…”)
    Je t’envie d’avoir réussi à passer outre les “tu as changé” même si comme tu le dis, c’est douloureux
    Je t’envie d’avoir réussi à mettre des mots sur “nous sommes conditionnés par les parents, par… etc” et d’avoir réussi à t’en éloigner (sans, je le suppose, les rayer de ta vie)
    Je t’envie surtout d’avoir réussi à partir.
    Tout ça j’en suis consciente, tout ça je l’ai assimilé, et pourtant je reste coincée dans ce carcan que j’appelle ma prison.
    Je viens de lire un livre qui s’appelle “Le courage de partir”, je l’ai refermé en me disant “ça y est tu as enfin compris, tu es prête”, et pourtant je suis encore là.
    Influencée par le regard et les allusions désapprobateurs de ma mère, par la peur de l’inconnu, de l’après.
    Et pourtant dieu sait que je l’ai été aussi, rebelle, forte, même si comme toi je me marre en y pensant, et pourtant je vois les mois, années défiler et j’ai peur.
    Peur de laisser filer le temps et de regretter un jour de ne pas avoir pu/su partir.

    Merci sincèrement pour ce billet qui ne m’était pas adressé mais qui me touche profondément.
    Demain je serai toujours dans ma prison, dont je possède pourtant les clés je le sais, comme j’imagine que je me complais dans l’idée que je possède la clé de toutes les cellules sauf de la porte qui mène vers l’extérieur, mais imaginer le ciel bleu derrière cette porte est déjà merveilleux.

    Bon dimanche Garance

  • This article was beautiful and uplifting. I’m happy I read it and I hope others find it moving as well.

  • Garance, this is pure poetry. I enjoyed reading this so much. You truly speak to my heart with these words and have affirmed that I am on the right path because it’s *my* path. Thank you for sharing this well written piece. You are so humble and it shows in this post.

    Another Free Spirit <3

  • Wonderful piece Garance. Thank you! So true that one of the benefits of aging is that we stop equating freedom with lack of conscience, discipline or consideration for ourselves and others. We also let go of the stereotypical and superficial marks of what constitutes a “free spirit”. The Hollywood definition can become too confining as we gain life experience. We take the time to consider ourselves, what we really want and matters. What others think is really not important in the long run. Yes, this means spending a decent amount of time by ourselves, listening to our voice. For me, the ultimate lack of freedom has become doing things because we either think we “should” (oh what a dreadful word!) do or saying we can’t help but do them and then feeling bad as we try to justify ourselves.

    The other beautiful thing about aging has been learning that real friends and accomplices, those that remain steady throughout our long, sometimes wobbly years, never say “You have changed.” Such valuable friends know you well enough to know that changes are part of this ride called life. In fact, they enjoy it along with you. As one such dear, lifelong friend wrote me on my last birthday “47? But we were just 14!” Exactly.

  • C’est fou comme ta réponse m’a donné envie de t’écrire à mon tour.
    Il n’y a pas à dire, tu es au blog ce que Beyoncé est à la musique.


  • Carmen May, 30 2018, 5:19 / Reply


  • Brandi May, 31 2018, 7:35 / Reply

    As a “somewhat” French speaker, I realize how hard languages are to learn to speak and use in conversation, but your use of the English language is simply beautiful and elegant.

    As a former English teacher, I love clinging to the way you’ve attached the words together. Your writing is simply amazing.

  • Fartydoodle May, 31 2018, 11:06 / Reply

    Ohhh.. This is so beautiful, Garance! I will probably re-read this a couple more times to serve as a guide. Thank you so much for expressing your thoughts!

  • You nailed it with this, Garance. I’m nearly 41 and shedding parental, peer and societal conditioning just started for me 5 years ago. I didn’t wake up to my life, life period, until just before I turned 30 years old. I’m in a transitional period right now, the fourth one in as many years, facing the decision to do “what makes sense” (based on conditioning) and knowing it’s not what I want really want, versus doing something totally different that will appear on the surface to most people to be irresponsible or reckless.

    It’s so hard. Especially having no idea what’s next. I’m grateful to have come across this post, seemingly by chance, from clicking the link in your Instagram bio today. I never come to the website this way. I’ve been following it for years. I missed this post. I read it and cried, which was a much-needed release and my response to a truth that touched me so close to home through your words.

    It was the image of you walking through a field of olive trees and lavender in Aix-En-Provence that you posted on Instagram that triggered an emotional response in me. I viewed the image from my laptop. I was trying to get to the stories you mentioned in the post so I could see more. Instead, I got to the link in your bio that brought me here.

    Thank you!

From the Archives

This or That
  • This or That
  • Holiday Gifting
  • Happy Holidays!
  • #AtelierDoreDoes
  • How To...
atelier dore this or that summer sandals chunky sandals vs. delicate sandals

This or That / Sandal Edition

This or That: American or Française?

This or That: American or Française?

atelier dore this or that lingerie lace or cotton sex month

This or That / Lingerie Edition

This or That / Blush vs. Bronzer

This or That / Blush vs. Bronzer

This or That: The Beanie

This or That: The Beanie

This or That: Nails

This or That: Nails

This or That

This or That

This Or That

This Or That

Silja Danielsen Photo

This Or That: Low Knot or Top Knot