Saturday, 14 December 2013

Why Success Can Sometimes Be Our Worst Eneny

If any of you have seen the film 'The Devil Wears Prada' starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, I'm sure the first thing that comes into your mind is Fashion, Magazine or New York. However, after watching the film for the second time last night and also being much older than the first time I watched it, I realised how significant the storyline is to our lives in the adult working world and the long-term effects it can have on the people around us.
Side-by-sideAndrea, before and after her transformation
For those of you who haven't seen 'The Devil Wears Prada', it relates the story of a twenty-something budding journalist, Andrea, who wants to be a writer but ends up applying for a job as the assistant to the Editor in Chief of America's number one fashion magazine, 'Runway'. This job changes her and in turn, changes the relationships she has with everyone around her including her long-term boyfriend. The constant battle Andrea faces is whether these changes are happening because she can't control the demands of her job or on the other hand, if she's not decided to quit the job, then surely it's her choice towards her change in direction. Either way, the fast pace of her job, means that she barely has any time to realise what is going on and how to stop it.
This film got me thinking about jobs and life and about how each job that we take on, also bears the responsibility of a certain lifestyle and also a certain identity.
The importance of our careers can force us to question our morals and our commitments - for example in the film, Andrea ends up missing her boyfriend's birthday celebration because she has to work late; she betrays her rival work colleague by taking her place on a trip that her colleague has been so excited about for years, so much so that she starves herself on a diet just to look 'good' for it, and after all the stress of her deteriorating relationship, she sleeps with a sexually-persistent famous writer of whom she needed a favour from for her boss. This film shows that people are willing to do a lot for their job, so much so that it its importance is placed above anything else.
The glamour and importance of her place at Runway meant that there was no time for 'downtime'. No time for relaxing, no time for laughing or having fun. The only fun she was having was when people were telling her how brilliant she looked after she dropped a dress size, or when her Boss made the effort to call her by her real name rather than the ex-Assistant's name. This quickly separates her from everyone else in the world who is not involved in the Fashion world such as her best friends in New York, but also shows that it will be very difficult for Andrea to ever reach out to anyone who is not part of the same niche as she is. What's more, she wouldn't have time to do that, and probably wouldn't care as she is so involved in her career. From the day she started working there, she has been moulded into a specific kind of person to meet the requirements of her position, and almost a product of her surroundings. This therefore changes her and destroys the relationships she has with other people.
Obviously this does not apply to every job out there, but I think it's important to consider the social lifestyles that are involved with particular jobs and whether they are worth it in the long-run. Committing yourself to an intense career, means that you are likely to change. I know people who have been constantly pestered for modelling opportunities but feel that the competitive and heated atmosphere involved is not something they'd agree with. I also know people who would give anything to work in the Fashion industry even if they feel they might have to sell their soul to the devil to get ahead in life, because they want it that badly.
I guess this also opens up the question of whether these commitments can stem from a greed for money and how someone deals with the confidence boost that affects your ego. Working in a big business feels good. You feel like you've been accepted amongst other people who are important for the job, the company needs your skills and your hard work on a daily basis in order for the business to strive. Why on earth wouldn't you feel good? And I'm sure if you're getting along well with the Boss that you'll receive a gold star from your ego too. Flying high on the career train changes your perspective on things. What once seemed an achievement, now seems insignificant. What once seemed like fun, now seems boring and dissatisfying.
"The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure."
- Sigmund Freud
This quote by Freud shows how our ego can sometimes work against us in difficult situations. When given the choice to defend the ego through our current commitments or delve into opportunities that were to damage our egos, then most of the time we'd stick to the option which satisfies our ego the most, even if it means losing important parts of our lives. As the old saying goes: It's sad but it's true. Buddhists believed that the 'ego-self' that we cling to is the root of most of our problems. Yet, our ego is what drives us forward in life and everything else along the way are just counterparts. Is this selfish thinking? Why, of course. But that's why sometimes people need a reality check. Much like Andrea, who ended up leaving the job at Runway after she realised that her efforts were not fully appreciated and that she didn't like the person who she'd become.