I’ve found that as the years pass and I become more comfortable with who I am and my place in the world, I’m less concerned about what people think, about conforming or acting in a way simply to appease others.

This is a particularly important life lesson for me as I often find myself in minority territory.

Despite growing up in New Zealand – practically the outdoor capital of the world – I’m not one for “the great outdoors”. I don’t really enjoy a day at the beach – I burn, I get too hot and then lose interest. Walking on the beach at first light is more my thing. I’m not one for water sports or sports of any kind for that matter. And as for organised group activities, my heart begins to palpitate at the mere thought. Lunching al fresco is how I would choose to enjoy the outdoors on a beautiful day.

That’s not to say there aren’t many things I do enjoy. I’m a passionate foodie and love to cook and create. I tend to enjoy eating just as much. I’m a voracious reader and traveller and, above all, I love to write.

See? There’s plenty I like to do. But if you’re about to play a game of volleyball on the beach then count me out.

As I said, I’m often in the minority. Because of this, I have learned to be protective of my time and ensure it is spent doing the things I enjoy whilst being unapologetic about shunning the things I don’t enjoy. This practise has led my friends to commonly refer to me as somewhat of a princess. It’s not a label that is supposed to be in any way disparaging; they’re teasing me. Many of my friends applaud my determination to be myself.

But there’s no getting away from the fact I’ve opened myself up for ridicule. There are two reasons why I have no problem with this.

The first is that I can take it. No problem. In fact my very dear friend Clare tells me that I can take it better than anyone she knows. It’s because I don’t take myself too seriously. When Clare first introduced me to her new boyfriend (who incidentally is now her husband) she warned him first: “Just so you know, Tracey’s a bit of a princess, but it’s really funny.”

The second reason I have no problem with the ridicule is because it's my licence to dish it out to others. It’s a firm rule and an important one – don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

The British sense of humour is heavily laden with irony. They mercilessly tease each other. I love their dry wit and, even more so, their ability to be self-deprecating. In my twenties I lived in London for some years, which is where I met my husband. With an English husband and many English friends I’ve slowly become a pro at irony.

It was Oscar Wilde who said: “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.” However I think the second part of this quote is less known: “but the highest form of intelligence.” 

I tend to believe this is because it forces us to be quick-thinking in our own delivery as well as rapidly analyse contradictory comments received by others. And it’s just great fun. In fact, if I’m being ironic it’s a sure way of knowing that I like you. I would never do it with someone I didn’t like (not that I’ve come across many people in my lifetime that I haven’t liked) because then I actually would mean it and I would never deliberately hurt someone’s feelings.

I suppose I have learned over the years to gauge who I’m safe with, who will “get the joke” so that I’m not on the receiving end of a gaping jaw and someone being offended at what was supposed to be a joke and a bit of fun.

A good sense of humour starts with you. First and foremost you need to be able to laugh at yourself.

Published by Tracey O'Brien