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In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I talk about why keeping up appearances as a way of life can be so damaging and why we’ve got to connect with who we really are and want to be so that we stop reinforcing negative stories and outdated ideas. As humans, we’ve learned the habit of keeping up appearances as a means of survival, but it’s killing our spirit and blocking us from thriving.

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5 key topics in this episode

  • So many of us were raised hearing variations of ‘What will the neighbours think?’ As a result, we don’t realise how much of our bandwidth goes to ruthlessly managing our actions and appearances to avoid the scrutiny of others.
  • Keeping up appearances is driven by shame. It’s the idea that we have to make things look OK because we have something bad, wrong, not OK or unacceptable to hide. The big problem is, of course, that we’re often hiding things when there’s no need. We’ve internalised patriarchal, sexist, ageist, racist, homophobic, ableist, classist, and the list goes on, notions of what is and isn’t OK. And these often go against our firmly held beliefs and values, so keeping up appearances causes us to go against ourselves.
  • We experience tension, friction, resentment, criticism, conflict and fallout with others because they interpret us not keeping up appearances as us saying that they’re not OK.
  • When we prioritise things looking OK more than we do actually being OK, that’s what makes boundaries, intimacy and vulnerability feel impossible and scary. To create a boundary, to say no, for instance, disrupts the illusion.
  • There are times when keeping up appearances is necessary and useful. Like when we’re in danger or to get through our workday or difficult situation. As Cate Sevilla points out in her fantastic book How To Work Without Losing Your Mind, bringing your “whole self” to work isn’t always the best idea. Companies encourage it but then can’t actually cope with it!

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