I don’t fit in culturally at work

At work, everyone is part of the same culture. They all celebrate Christmas and Easter and don’t realize that some people celebrate other things. I feel like I don’t fit in. Every time I do something different or mention a different holiday, they look at me like I’m an alien. How could I possibly fit it?

Episode Transcript

 
[00:00:00] Kim Ades: Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I'm the president and founder of Frame of Mind Coaching and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back. You have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast with my incredible amazing s stupendous, wonderfully awesome daughter, Ferne. Ferne, welcome. 

[00:00:22] Ferne Koltyar: Wow. I always get such a wonderful introduction here. I really appreciate it. Thanks. 

[00:00:28] Kim Ades: Well, it's truthful and it comes from the heart. But I'm always happy to do these podcasts with you. I'm excited to see you, and I'm excited to have these conversations. So what do you wanna talk about today? 

[00:00:41] Ferne Koltyar: Cool. So today I wanna talk about not fitting in culturally. So let's say you're at work and, for example, let's say you're a Muslim and you're doing Ramadan, so you're fasting during the days and people constantly ask you "why are you not eating? That's so bad for you". Like, They're judging you and looking at you funny. 

Or let's say you're Jewish and you go to work and they always ask you "oh, what are you doing for Christmas?" And you have to explain a million times that you don't celebrate Christmas. and at some point, you just start making stuff up because you feel like nobody understands you.

So how do you move on from that and feel more kind of settled in a community where you don't feel like you really fit in? 

[00:01:25] Kim Ades: Yeah. So it's an interesting question because as a Jewish person... I mean, I'll tell you a very quick story. I don't know that I've ever told you this before, but you know, in malls when they have Santa Claus...

[00:01:37] Ferne Koltyar: Mm-hmm. 

[00:01:37] Kim Ades: Yeah, so when I was very young, I don't know, maybe six or something, six years old, my brother took me to see Santa Claus... 

[00:01:45] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:01:45] Kim Ades: And, you know, it's exciting. You get to sit on his lap and then they give you a candy cane and like, what could be wrong with that? Right? So I went to sit on his lap and he said "what do you want for Christmas?" I said "well, actually I'm Jewish". 

So this little six year old kid spilled the beans and Santa Claus kind of had got a chuckle, I still got my lollipop or my candy cane and I walked off, and I felt a little funny about that. So much so that I remember that story to this day, and I think even my brother probably repeated it a few times to other people. 

[00:02:20] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:02:21] Kim Ades: But here we go. So definitely in that situation, there was a mismatch between cultures and histories. But so your question's interesting because... One of the things you said is sometimes you just make things up. When people say Merry Christmas, you say "Merry Christmas to you too", right? 

[00:02:42] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:02:42] Kim Ades: You don't need to address it, right? And so, I think an important element in this conversation is deciding who, with whom and when, where, and how, it's important for you to tell people what you're really about. And I don't think the answer is always, right? So if you are leaving the grocery store and someone says Happy holidays, it's okay to say Happy Holidays. If someone says Merry Christmas, you say Thank you. 

[00:03:16] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:03:17] Kim Ades: Right? So I think that you need to select carefully who you are making an issue out of this with. Or you have to select carefully with whom this is important, that's a better way to say it. And so, now, how do you select carefully with whom this is important?

Is it important to let everybody that you're walking down the street know "Hey, I'm Jewish" or "Hey, I'm Muslim"? I don't think it's that important. People are wishing you well, you say thank you, you appreciate it. You don't need to take offense to it. I don't think that's the point. The point is the intention with where it's coming from. So now... You were about to say something. 

[00:04:04] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah, I guess like the situation of somebody saying "may God bless you" and you're like "well..." 

[00:04:09] Kim Ades: "I don't believe in God"? 

[00:04:12] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah, for someone who doesn't believe in God, they say, well, I don't believe in God. And that's super weird, you know? Like, don't push your religion on me. But I think you have a good point. It's like their intent is to wish you well. 

[00:04:23] Kim Ades: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:04:24] Ferne Koltyar: Doesn't matter whether you agree with their beliefs or not. 

[00:04:26] Kim Ades: Exactly. So if someone says "God bless you", you say thank you. 

[00:04:31] Ferne Koltyar: You don't say "I didn't sneeze"? [Laughs] 

[00:04:33] Kim Ades: Right. So I'll give you a perfect example. One of my clients, who is Christian and really, really follows Jesus and believes in all of that, told me "I wish that you were Christian. I wish that I could convert you to Christianity". and it was a very interesting experience for me because I'm Jewish, I'm not Christian, but I took it as a huge compliment. Why? 

[00:04:59] Ferne Koltyar: You did? 

[00:04:59] Kim Ades: Of course! Because it's something that really matters to him and something that he wants me to be a part of. So I didn't take it as an offensive statement, right? I didn't take it as an offensive statement. I thought it was a little bit funny. It was definitely a little bit jarring for me. 

[00:05:17] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles]

[00:05:18] Kim Ades: But I understood where it was coming from and it was coming from "this is one of the greatest loves of my life, which is Christianity. Christianity and Jesus, and this community and this religion, and I want you to be a part of it because you matter to me". So if you take it from that perspective, what's there to be offended by? There's no offense at all, right? 

[00:05:38] Ferne Koltyar: Well, the fact that they want you to change. 

[00:05:41] Kim Ades: Well, the fact that they want me to change, but that's okay. That's okay. Right? So now the question is, who do you take this up with? Right? Who do you need in your life to understand you? Select carefully. Not everybody needs to understand you. Not everybody needs to understand, for example, my dietary restrictions. 

[00:06:01] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:06:01] Kim Ades: It's not important for me to tell the whole world what I eat and what I don't eat and what I'm allowed to eat and what I'm not allowed to eat and why. Nobody needs to know. Some people need to know. 

[00:06:11] Ferne Koltyar: [Laughs] 

[00:06:12] Kim Ades: Right? Some people need to know, and the question is, who are those some people? And that's the conversation we need to have right now. Who are the people that I want in my life to understand me? Who are the people I want in my life to participate with me in the process? 

So let's say I am Jewish and I'm surrounded by people who are not, then what I do is I take an interest in what they do and how they do it, and then I take the time to share what I do and how I do it. 

And part of the "making it stick" component is giving yourself the opportunity to actually have the conversation, to share some of the details. "Here's what we do. Here's how we play it out. Here's why it's important for us". Right? 

[00:06:57] Ferne Koltyar: So-- 

[00:06:58] Kim Ades: And so, I think-- I'll come back to you in a second. I think one of the things that happens is-- and we're Jewish and nobody else is, we just kind of stay to ourselves. We're like "okay, we'll just do our thing. We won't talk about about it with anybody else. Nobody really needs to know. Nobody understands anyways, so we'll just do our thing". And I think that's where the mistake happens. It's let people in, let people see, let people be exposed. 

[00:07:25] Ferne Koltyar: Well, it seems a bit contradictory, no? Because you just said that you have to select very carefully, you have to like-- not everybody needs to know. 

[00:07:33] Kim Ades: Yeah! Not everybody needs to know! 

[00:07:33] Ferne Koltyar: And now you're saying let people in. Like, tell everybody... 

[00:07:36] Kim Ades: I don't-- 

[00:07:37] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:07:37] Kim Ades: I didn't say tell everybody. Tell the people that are important. I'll give you an example. Your brother is a perfect example.

[00:07:43] Ferne Koltyar: Which one? 

[00:07:44] Kim Ades: Louis. Okay, so Louis works in a restaurant and what he does-- he is surrounded by all kinds of different people, cultures, religions, all kinds of different things. But when it's Hanukkah, what does he do? He brings in a menorah and he lights the candles with everybody and he makes them sing songs... 

[00:08:03] Ferne Koltyar: [Laughs] 

[00:08:03] Kim Ades: ...And plays the dreidel game with them, right? So he engages with them. He's like, "here's who I am, here's my culture. I want you to be a part of it". Not everybody, not all the patrons, not every single person walking the streets, but the people he works with, the people that matter to him. So he invites them in to who he is so that he can be sharing his experiences with others and that they understand where he's coming from. 

And so when I say select carefully, what I'm saying is invite those people that matter into your world. Invite them to a Passover dinner. Invite them to a celebration of Ramadan when it's over. Right? Invite them. Right? Invite them in. 

[00:08:51] Ferne Koltyar: Okay, so how do you move from feeling isolated to inviting them in? 

[00:08:57] Kim Ades: By showing interest in what other people are up to, and then slowly by sharing what you're up to. 

[00:09:04] Ferne Koltyar: If they say, for example, Merry Christmas, kind of at what point, or even, let's take the Ramadan example. If they're skeptical of the fact that you're not eating during the day, how do you move from that skepticism and say like, "oh, what do you do? I know you eat". You know? [Laughs] 

[00:09:21] Kim Ades: [Laughs] Yeah. So, you say, "you know what? I celebrate Ramadan. This is what it means to me, this is why we do it, and this is how it works. What are the holidays that you celebrate? Tell me what you do for Christmas. Tell me what you do for Easter. What are your cultural traditions" and you share. But here's the thing. I think it's very important that you take interest in others. 

[00:09:45] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah. I guess the reason I'm asking is because sometimes I've heard friends express, like, if I ask them, "oh, what are your... I don't know... What do you do for Easter?" It's like, they feel weird explaining it because everybody celebrates Easter, you know? They're one of the masses. 

[00:10:00] Kim Ades: Yes, so you say, "Hey, I don't celebrate Easter. Tell me how it works. What do you do? Do you have turkey or is it a ham day? Like, what do you do?" 

[00:10:10] Ferne Koltyar: Okay, so now the question is-- 

[00:10:11] Kim Ades: "Do you hide eggs in the backyard? How does it work?" 

[00:10:13] Ferne Koltyar: Some people do. 

[00:10:14] Kim Ades: Okay, but some people don't.

[00:10:16] Ferne Koltyar: But I guess the question is now like, okay, so let's say, you're Christian, I know you celebrate Christmas. How do you take interest in a process that you already know? 

[00:10:25] Kim Ades: Well, but it's different for every family. 

[00:10:28] Ferne Koltyar: Right. So you get more specific. 

[00:10:30] Kim Ades: Exactly. You get more specific. What are your family traditions with respect to Christmas? So now it's not, "what are your Christian-- 

[00:10:39] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah, because I think-- 

[00:10:40] Kim Ades: Traditions?" 

[00:10:41] Ferne Koltyar: I think a lot of people know that, like sometimes I think a lot of people don't necessarily know or have never met a Jewish person, but I think most people have met a Christian person. 

[00:10:50] Kim Ades: Most people in North America, but that's not necessarily the case... 

[00:10:53] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah.

[00:10:53] Kim Ades: ...Let's say, somewhere else in the world. 

[00:10:56] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah, no, fair enough. 

[00:10:59] Kim Ades: So we take interest and when we take interest, we feel heard and we feel understood, and that opens the door for us to share as well. 

[00:11:07] Ferne Koltyar: Okay. 

[00:11:08] Kim Ades: Yeah. 

[00:11:08] Ferne Koltyar: I like that. 

[00:11:09] Kim Ades: It's an interesting story because-- or an interesting topic because when you are interested in others, people don't feel threaten.

[00:11:19] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah. 

[00:11:19] Kim Ades: And people take an interest in you. 

[00:11:22] Ferne Koltyar: That's fair. I like that. 

[00:11:24] Kim Ades: Right? 

[00:11:24] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah. 

[00:11:24] Kim Ades: I mean, like, it's spirit of learning, spirit of exposure. 

[00:11:29] Ferne Koltyar: Spirit of sharing? 

[00:11:30] Kim Ades: Spirit of sharing, spirit of curiosity. 

[00:11:33] Ferne Koltyar: Yeah. 

[00:11:34] Kim Ades: And so, if we come to the table with that, we invite that into our world. 

[00:11:41] Ferne Koltyar: Absolutely. 

[00:11:42] Kim Ades: We like it? 

[00:11:43] Ferne Koltyar: Love it. Thank you for sharing. 

[00:11:45] Kim Ades: Yeah. So that was a good one. And for those of you who are getting ready for the holidays, whatever the holidays are, happy holidays and... 

[00:11:52] Ferne Koltyar: Happy holidays. 

[00:11:52] Kim Ades: ...enjoy your family time, enjoy your traditions, enjoy all the things you do, whether it's turkey, ham, or a brisket. 

[00:12:01] Ferne Koltyar: [Chuckles] 

[00:12:01] Kim Ades: [Chuckles] Enjoy it all. And we will see you next year. Have a good holiday, everyone! 

[00:12:07] Ferne Koltyar: Bye!

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