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Balance isn’t just a buzzword. It can be a matter of life or death.
I thought I’d write something to get out the emotions I’ve been feeling over the last week. The news has hit me hard recently. Two people who seemed to be leading dream lives chose to end them prematurely, and we are all the worse off for not having people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain in the world. It fully and truly sucks that they are gone. Everything about it.
In all the discussion and outpouring of sadness that followed their deaths, there was a particular line that I heard echoed by a lot of people, which I found an interesting window into the way we think about being happy these days. You probably hear it too, something along the lines of: “Hard to believe someone could be so unhappy when their job is traveling around the world eating amazing food.”
Of course I understand where this is coming from. It’s part of the lifestyle culture we have built up, the idea that if you have built a fulfilling career, then you should expect to be a happy, fulfilled person. That’s certainly the unwritten assumption here in New York, where people are working 100-hour weeks because they think that professional success will - eventually, at some undetermined time in the future —yield contentment.
But as someone who has had, to a greater or lesser extent, a “dream job” for the last 10 years, to me this idea is one big misdirection. Professional success and happiness don’t have anything like a one-to-one relationship... far from it! I can’t sit here and tell you I know the secret to happiness, but I can say with certainty that it depends more on your perception of yourself than the way that others perceive you. And if you can’t be okay with yourself, no amount of professional success or money or fame is going to be able to paper over that crack.
This week when people floated that “how could they?” around me, I made a point to give them my two cents: All this news shows is that no matter the way others see you, your state of mind is a product of the way that you see yourself. So you have to work really hard to make the voice in your head as loving and supportive as possible. I know it’s so easy to be self-critical, but really...there’s enough critics out there already!