How To Not Be Naive


Sherley is a Haitian-American flight attendant who served eight years in the US Army Reserve. Her journey with Femme Naturelle began in 2012 as a way to build a safe space, a community to uplift and empower women in relationships transitioning out of crisis. She resides in New Jersey with her husband and two children.

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How To Not Be Naive

This How To Not Be Naive article was written by Tania Bhattacharya on behalf of Sherley Altidor. Edited by Lynn Joseph 

I often wonder if being naïve is a quality that one should be proud of or if it is actually something that needs rectification. Well, rectification might be too harsh of a word to lay down here but it is true that in most cases, we cannot afford to be naïve because the world isn’t fit for something so simple.

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In the ideal world, people would never take advantage of simplicity. But unfortunately, we have not been handed down the ‘ideal’ world. Especially if you are a woman and/or Black, Indigenous, another person of color, or marginalized in any way. In our world, we need to be extra cautious, alert, and prepared for anything (not just the good but the bad too, no matter how much we would rather not think about it). We are affected by everything around us, whether we realize it or not. Having the ability to anchor ourselves in wisdom will no doubt guide us as we find ourselves in situations where it pays not to be naïve. While the saying, “ignorance is bliss” may work at times and may very well be a blessing in disguise, more often than not, ignorance is a lie that we cannot bear to keep.

So, How To Not Be Naive

So, how exactly do you avoid being too naïve or gullible in this world? Well, I’m happy to say that it is actually much simpler than you may think. It’s all about being present and mindful throughout your day to day. If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. We are going to talk about five ways that you can protect your mind, body, and soul to prepare you for the real world. This message is not just for adults either. If there are young adults, teenagers in your life that you want to share this advice to, please share this information. We’re not exactly taught true human relations in school. So let’s go beyond the surface level assembly that half of the audience doesn’t pay attention to anyway and really dig in here. The fact of the matter is, we all need to be equipped with the right armor when we leave the house (and even inside of our homes) and this armor in particular will do you a whole lot of good in the end. Let’s talk about it:

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Do not always assume the best: It would be so wonderful if everyone we met had only good intentions. But we all know that this is not going to happen. Having said that, we should also realize that not everyone we meet has a bad intention. It is best to meet new people with an open but alert mind. You need to hit that middle-way between being a sceptic and an easily gullible person. There’s a reason the saying goes to keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Now, no one is telling you to go make enemies or foster those types of enemies or frenemies relationships. It is wise to pay attention to and understand as best you can what is being said and what steps are being made by those around you. Not everyone is out to get you, so this is not a free pass to play victim. Simply be alert, as any warrior would and be prepared to use your shield if you need to.

Bank on your best judgement: Whenever you encounter anything, try to analyze if what you are seeing is true or if there could be more to the situation that meets the eye. It is not just about people that you interact with physically on a day to day basis that I’m talking about here. This could be for something as trivial as the tone in a Whatsapp forward or a social media share. It’s not always easy to discern tone over a message or a last minute emoji thrown in to maybe soften the blow of the messenger’s message. Not to mention, you know how fake news and rumor mills work, right? Today, the Internet is more powerful than ever before. Sharing or spreading unauthenticated information might trigger communal tension. You have to be very careful to try to see through these things. Set barriers in place that will hinder use of your best judgement and pay attention to your surroundings so that you’re aware of what judgement is needed in the setting that you are in. This is important to know since all settings are not treated equally. This is why it is so important to…

Be observant: A keen observer is often able to notice countless things. For example, focus on not just the words of a person but on their body language. Notice the way the person conducts themself, their attitude towards their loves ones, towards others out in the everyday world, especially to those who are socially and financially at a disadvantage. These little things tell more about a person than their attire for the day, their makeup, their car…you get the picture. Just make you sure clean the picture so that it doesn’t gather so much dust you can’t see.

Widen your horizons: Meet new people, go out, get out of your comfort zone. It might be tough to do now but if you’re in a position to plan ahead and meet new people on a socially distanced hike or at the park, go for it. There is nothing that can replace a firsthand learning experience and you absolutely cannot barter it with anything else. So, visit new places (it’s about time you got to know the city and state that you live in! Go on, no one is stopping you from visiting those tourist traps now), meet new people, and embrace what life has to offer you while it’s still here to be offered. If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that we need to live without regret. Don’t be naive about the time you have left on this earth because you don’t know when your last day will be. So widen your horizons while you still have the opportunity to see new things, learn new things, and immerse yourself in worlds you maybe only read in books, saw on the screen, or simply heard about. Now’s your chance to widen your horizons and learn about how other people not only live their lives but enrich their lives and protect their livelihood. This is not about having a backyard Eat, Pray, Love moment. This is so much more. Because when you implement all of these things, your world, your life will be so much more colorful and joyful and real. Who wouldn’t want that?

Trust is expensive, do not bestow it on everyone: Not everyone deserves to be trusted and sometimes it is better to keep it that way. You cannot change the world or even the people around you. This is such an important reminder to yourself as you are on your own journey to wellness because everyone is on their own time table and you may not the revelations about life in the same amount of time that others need. So, have empathy (do not build walls and keep them up) but still be practical and be careful with who or what you trust. Create doors of opportunity for growth.

The trick here is not to stop being you as you prepare yourself for the world. Although it is less likely that you will come out unscathed, all the wounds would be worth it because they will enrich you in some way or another. If it is safe for you to live your most authentic life, don’t let another day pass you by without doing so. Be prepared to guard yourself and not even yourself, be open to protecting others. Because being naïve is not just a matter of not being aware of how the world works in your favor. Take all of these tips above and use them for the greater good. Yes, it’s okay to put yourself first before other people as you do need to be well enough to be a great support to other people. But please do not ever forget that this is bigger than the world shaping itself to you. So ask yourself what being naïve means to you and take the steps that you need to take to not use naiveté as a shield in itself but a way to accept the lack that is there and do something about it.

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Yes, as you grow older, you will inevitably evolve as a person, but as they say, change is the only thing that’s constant. Changing is okay, as long as you don’t inherently change who you are  at the core because that’s what makes you, you and the world needs that side of you. So think about moments in your life where being naïve hindered your next steps and make a plan for the future to self-correct to avoid similar courses. You deserve better and the people that you will be a blessing to in your future are waiting for you. So hold your head up high and arm yourself with what you need to see as clearly as possible as you walk through each day.

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How To Not Be Naive

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Femme Parler, which in french means, “woman talk,” is a podcast speaking to women about regaining our power after a crisis in a relationship. 


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