How do you define success? Who or what shaped your ideas of what success is? Has this definition served you not only financially, but so too spiritually, and emotionally?
Our vision of success has likely been dictated by past experiences, relationships, education, opportunity, culture, and the society in which we live. In our society success is often defined by external accomplishments- our bank accounts, our home, our cars, our clothing, how many letters we have after our name, and how many followers we have on our social media accounts. Many of us know there are shortcomings to this model of success, yet we nevertheless embrace the facade day after day.
Putting on a bit of a masquerade is human nature. We all like to flaunt our stuff once in a while or feel impressive from time to time. Our quest for belonging and acceptance is part of the human experience that has roots in survival, emotional, and physical well-being.
What worries me is that we have set the bar too high and this has had significant ramifications on our well-being. We are bombarded by expectations that are both unrealistic and often impossible all the time every day. We have bought into the idea that our value is connected to fleeting affirmations of worth and we compare ourselves to filtered, edited, and false portrayals. Have you ever followed somebody on social media and then met up with them in person only to realize their life is nowhere near as effortless as their virtual portrayal may seem? And have you been guilty of trying to portray your own “effortless” existence? My answer is yes and YES.
Former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, in an interview with the Washington Post (2017) emphasized this dynamic:
“…We curate our lives around the perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short-term signals—hearts, likes, thumbs up—and we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth. And instead, what it is is a fake, brittle popularity that’s short-term and leaves you even more, admit it, vacant and empty…”
Some of us are afraid to portray anything but an edited version of who we are. Aside from social media we may rely on our fancy labels, titles, career, makeup, or substances to distract from vulnerability and authenticity. Ultimately, this can be pretty lonely. We realize our connections to others are built on a facade that can be exhausting to maintain and that few if any persons have been allowed access to what’s behind the mask. Maintaining prestige, fame, and status can ultimately be emotionally depleting as well as isolating.
Genuine social connection and space to be simply “real” is central to our health and I might argue, success. Loneliness and isolation have been associated with cardiovascular disease, inflammation, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and suicide. Our largely individualistic society loves to give pats on the back to those who have apparently forged life by their own willpower. We become afraid to ask for help fearing it is a sign of weakness. We convince ourselves that virtual followers and connections can replace face to face encounters.
In my opinion the loss of genuine human connection is central to the rising depression and suicide rates plaguing our country. It is why wealth does not always buy health and why those who appear to “have it all together” may be experiencing deep personal struggle. So in addition to your yoga class, green smoothie, eco-friendly home, and meditation make sure that you also call a friend, meet a neighbor, plan a coffee date, and just maybe let your guard down a bit.
Thanks for listening everyone.
Audry Van Houweling, Owner & Founder, She Soars Psychiatry, LLC
Sisters & Silverton, Oregon