Undoing Series: Performance Culture

Continuing with the Undoing Series, today I want to talk about how we are all acting! Yes, that’s right, you deserve an Oscar for the performance you’re always putting on. Let me explain…

Even the most authentic, real and honest people will have acted differently at some point. Why? Because different people, places and situations call for different behaviour. That’s fair to say, right? Like how you act around your mother may not be the same as your close friends or your boss. What you share with these people can and should be different, too.

Now, this doesn’t mean we’re acting. It’s still us, right? True. But in this modern world I feel like we’ve accidentally turned this up a notch. We’re performing online, and it is extending out into real life at times. We’re creating personal brands even without intention.

This is who I am, see me and applaud me!

Very harsh, yes, but it’s making my point. Why do we post on social media? Have you ever actually sat back and asked yourself this question (honestly)? I think most would say, if they only have personal accounts: “to share my life with my friends.” And that’s nice but I’m not sure it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Here are perhaps some more honest reasons:

  • To show what I’m doing so I don’t seem boring
  • To make X person jealous
  • To keep up with other people living a great life
  • To grab people’s attention
  • To have something to do because I’m often bored and lonely
  • To show off
  • To share something I’m proud of myself for
  • To prove I’m worthy
  • To stop feeling low, angry, sad, lost, unfulfilled, INSERT EMOTION I DON’T WANT HERE
  • To be validated

Some may be disagreeing with me. No, I like to just show my life. I’m proud of my life. Yes, but can’t you be proud without sharing it? I’m not saying sharing is wrong, of course, I’m just getting you to think about WHY you share. Why really… Because I bet you don’t show EVERY part of your life. Just the things you’re more proud of or think are the pretty highlights. Again, nothing wrong with that; it’s perfectly natural. But our need to show this perfect, pretty social media feed highlights our fear of being judged and outcast and not being perfect. We are performing. We are saying we’re better than we are.

When I decided to detox from social media last year, I gained so much clarity. I no longer have the Instagram app on my phone (nor Facebook or Twitter or whatever else; only Pinterest and YouTube). I honestly asked myself why I even need or want social media. And I couldn’t come up with a good reason to keep it. It wasn’t giving me the engagement I wanted on my blog or podcast or book sales or anything, so why bother? It’s mostly a distraction from what’s important.

Bringing it back to performance, then. As I said before, we are becoming a Perfectionist Culture and part and parcel with that is putting on this performance of excellence. Here is my canvas of achievements and beauty. I am worthy. And to be honest, that’s what this all comes down to: people seeking worth and validation from outside of themselves.

I don’t like to lose. I don’t like to be bad at something. This is the Perfectionist in me that I’m trying to smother. Luckily, I’m not a Chronic Perfectionist, as I do things to imperfection all the time and don’t let something not being great stop me from doing it. However, I get this horrible feeling inside when I know I’m not as good as other people at something.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

What do we do when we feel threatened in this way? When our shame triggers are activated? We often run, puff up, or shrink. These are defence mechanisms we default to when feeling triggered without even knowing it, at times. Puffing up is the performance part.

Yeah, well, I went to Asia by myself for 3 months and had a baby aged 20 and write a blog and drive a Mercedes so no, actually, I’m not an idiot!

When people feel low or jealous or angry about something, they can often puff up and get defensive in this way and put on a performance, displaying all the things that make them so great purely because at that moment they feel anything but great.

On a larger scale, I think more and more of us feel threatened and less-than because of comparison to others. It is easier now to be smarter, work more, make more money from many streams of income, have a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, Etsy business, publish a book, travel the world, be an entrepreneur and whatever else. This modern world has opened door after door after door and yes that’s brilliant, but it’s also damn overwhelming!

There is just too much that we feel we must do, and so we put on a show to prove ourselves compared to others when we feel we are not enough.


  • We are putting on a performance online, not showing our real lives, only the highlights.
  • We are performing in front of people or in situations that make us feel threatened or triggered.
  • We are performing to prove we are worthy and can keep up with the modern world

I just wonder if we are truly afraid as a society to be anything less than perfect? That we mustn’t ever cry, be afraid, have bad hair, be seen to fail, or do less than 100 things a day! No, perform and perfect and show that you are this perfect image, even if you’re not, and only take off the mask once you lay to rest at night…wow…that’s a lot, man!


S. xx

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