This is the second article in the Sources of Negative Stress series and, in the light of the tragic suicide of the gifted and successful designer, Kate Spade, I thought it would be timely to talk about the stress of keeping up appearances.
Early reports say that Kate Spade was unwilling to risk the public discovering her depression if she sought help, so she struggled alone, self-medicating with alcohol. The problem when we self-medicate is that it doesn’t help us deal with the underlying problem – it simply masks it. The underlying problem just festers and festers until you implode, or seek the right kind of help.
The burden of trying to keep up appearances could not be heavier, or the consequences worse. The façade of the perfect life, perfect business, perfect relationship is just too much for anyone to sustain. And the price is just too high.
Best food forward
It is natural to want to put your best foot forward, to allow others to see the best in you, to want to fudge the facts so that they don’t spoil the successful-have-it-all-and-loving it image. And sometimes that image is important for business. But you have to know when to let your guard down and offload, and how to.
Social media doesn’t help as it seems to have become the barometer against which we measure our success, despite the fact that most of what is shown is hugely distorted. Against this backdrop, it can be difficult not to make comparisons and find yourself wanting. It is time to stop comparing your out-takes with others’ (often distorted) show-reels.
In her excellent book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says that we are hard wired for connection but it is really difficult to truly connect if you aren’t being authentic. And being authentic is having the courage to be vulnerable sometimes. The willingness to be vulnerable requires great courage. In letting ourselves be truly seen, we give other people permission and courage to be real too.
And in doing this, we can reverse the tide of the toxic effect of keeping up appearances and stand up to support each other through tough times.
Brene lists 10 guidelines for ‘wholehearted living’ – what I would call the antidote to the stress of keeping up appearances. Here they are:
1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think
2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism
3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty
6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison
7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to’
10. Cultivating laughter, song and dance: letting go of being cool and ‘always in control’
The courage to be vulnerable
Brene’s research has shown that people who cultivate wholehearted living attribute their success, professional and personal, to their ability to be vulnerable. But you don’t have to do it alone. I would urge you to either read her book, or dial 0345 130 0854 to find out how we can help if you feel that you are feeling the stress of keeping up appearances is taking its toll. Sometimes, what’s needed is someone to offload to, to gain a new perspective and a clear way forward.