Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Keeping Up Appearances-For Whom?

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jul 20, 2013 7:24 PM

From 7th graders mimicking the "popular kids" to "keeping up with the Joneses" to sucking up to who's who in business to get the next big break or create the perception of success, catering to "society," is centuries old. The retinue of the royal crowd, the courtesans, and the hangers-on of any social group, have unfortunately sacrificed part of their own self-identity to "fit in." Buying into hypocrisy ultimately results in a sense of shame. Yet, who wants to be isolated? Plus, there could be a feeling of curiosity and challenge to be involved with people in certain walks of life.

There is a great solution, making friends with people you really like and respect, regardless of how impressed you are or are not by their "position" in society. I've known my share of social climbers, debtors who overspent to keep up appearances, and show-offs. It's normal to be impressed with someone's success or luck sometimes. The difference, though, between real admiration and authentic relationship vs. social manipulation and artifice is being honest with whomever you meet.

I'm not talking about sharing too much detail or uncomfortable, inappropriate intimacy, but just being who you are without any pretence. That means not faking political views or material worth (or lack of it), not exaggerating successes, not bragging about every adventure or name-dropping gratuously and not proffering false compliments. Sometimes, people who feel "small," have a tendency to do those things, and they may make fools of themselves or not, but however it plays out, they aren't themselves and they know it. It's like a lie, and one lie leads to another, so life becomes a lie. It's not worth it.

For example, there's a woman who cozies up to whomever she thinks is "most important," meaning most-educated, richest, and/or best-looking, at the bar where she goes to hear music. Then, when those people have an event or a problem and turn to their real friends, the hangers-on are ignored and offended. Or, there's the lawyer who accumulates heavy debt and cultivates the richest people only to look successful, signing up for the most pretigious volunteer positions and making his name appesar publically often, taking it's toll on his family and keeping him from the joy of true friendships. There's the woman who refers to her "best friend" as a talented woman who hardly recognizes her as worthwhile and doesn't respect her. I feel sad for these people. They aren't networking to learn and enjoy a variety of good relationships, like a secure, self-actualizing person, but they groveling pathetically and may not even know it. Don't be like that.

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