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Do You Care More About The “Appearance of Success” Than Actually Being Successful?

mask photo

Social media has both improved and damaged the way we look at commitments, more specifically keeping commitments. On one hand we are encouraged to be more accountable. On the other, some simply avoid being seen – and wear a “social mask”.

So the question is: how are you affected? Are you living behind a mask? Do you care more about the “appearance of success” than actually being successful?

In truth, we all use masks in life. Some have estimated that most people have no less than seven. There is one mask for our immediate family, another one for our friends, a different one for our work environment, and maybe one nobody but us sees. We can safely say that when our masks don’t vary much – we have less cognitive dissonance, and are probably more balanced. But some people have very different masks. Maybe they use them for reasons other than protection. Maybe they use them to project success, or even to lie, cheat, and manipulate.

So how are you using yours?

What are the distinctions and how individuals move from self-preservation to manipulation?

In the article Differences Between a Psychopath vs. Sociopath John Grohol Ph.D. discusses some of the characteristics. One of the main conclusions is that sociopathy is a learned behavior. We are not inherently bad, however some individuals turn toward sociopathy more than others. These people are manipulating others by using more masks and with more premeditation than the normal population. Yet, they could very well be starting with good intentions.

We are all familiar with the popular saying “a man who buys a very expensive car is making up for other shortcomings.” It is not always true, nevertheless, the expansive car industry is based on the idea of selling a certain image generally associated with a very expensive car. Let’s be honest, very few people would spend more than $300,000 on a car because it is something they need. The same thing could be said for gigantic homes, top of the line fashion, etc. However, to attain these things you need substantial wealth, or access to a hefty line of credit. As most people do not have that, a new trend started to develop to accommodate the less financially fortunate. Instead of actually being successful, we can now just appear to be so. We can create a “social media mask” where, using very affordable tools, we can “become” anything. And the “appearance of success” becomes more important than success itself.

In a podcast interview published on Peak Performance Sports, tennis mental coach Jeff Moore explains how today’s generations of athletes do not have the grit to suffer enough to be successful, they care more about their appearance of success and they craft very detailed masks to protect that image. The masks can be a combination of images, slogans, excuses, complete with “life philosophies” to justify lack of success and rebrand it in the appearance of success.

Using the examples of running and ultrarunning we can distinguish between the success and the appearance of success. Just a few months ago a blog repeatedly appeared on my Facebook wall. I didn’t comment myself, yet the debate was endless debates, and, at times, very intense. It involved a personal trainer who, after passing an overweight man on the track, wrote an “open letter” of praise toward the man. While the intent of the personal trainer was to cheer up the overweight person somehow the blog was interpreted as an insult. It was followed up by a “response to the personal trainer” where the overweight man took offense that he was not considered a “runner” and became defensive – instead of simply accepting the compliment. Many people, including many runners took part in the debate and shared very strong feelings. While the merits of the debate are not important, what’s important to notice is the fact that a large group of people cared more about defending the image of success – albeit wrapped in a hostile attitude — than any measurable success.

Another example that comes to mind is the newest issue of Sports Illustrated and the heated debates about “plus size models.” Once again, a large number of people seem to care more about being considered a model or having figures good enough for being a model, than actually doing what it takes to be a model.

In the sport of ultrarunning, the phenomenon of using a mask to create the appearance of success is more prevalent than in many other sports. The reason is simple, the sport is slowly growing in notoriety, there are no restrictions on who can be an “athlete” and the successful athletes in the sport are very tough individuals. Many people want to present an image of strength and tenacity and what better way to do so than to become an ultrarunner, run races much longer than a marathon, battle the elements, cross mountains, streams, overcome adversity, all without quitting?

But is it really that way? To be successful in an ultramarathon longer than 100 miles, an athlete has to learn to suffer, to train very seriously, to make sacrifices. Most people just don’t do it! As expected the results are less than great — so we have masks, a lot of them. These individuals associate themselves with successful athletes, they take and post photos, take part in discussions about training and racing strategies, buy the most modern equipment on the market, give advice to others pretending to be experts. We’ve all have seen them – people who take more time to pose, showing off their fancy new equipment — than they do actually competing. Then, the inevitable happens, they reach a tough point in the race and they as expected quit…

But we are not done yet. What happens next determines whether or not social media can help or harm.

Those wishing to have a positive influence will admit that failure HURTS, and in order to prevent experiencing that PAIN ever again, one will probably have to put in a lot of time, hard work, and yes, suffer. On the other hand, others will create excuses for the failure, and try to present it as success. But it’s not a success – and rebranding it as one avoids the pain of failure that is NEEDED to make changes necessary to ultimately succeed. Should this go on long enough, some will move to other measures to maintain the appearance of success and even begin to lie and cheat in cases where a strong “unrealistic” persona was created.

The use of social media as a self-accountability measure is a great Commitment Strategy in any area of life. However to be successful, you have to be HONEST with yourself and others, and you have to be willing to SUFFER in order to reach SUCCESS.






Grohol, J. (2015). Differences Between a Psychopath vs. Sociopath, Psych Central. Retrieved from:

Cohn, P. (Producer). (February 2015). Emotional Toughness in Tennis with Jeff Moore [Audio Podcast]. Peak Performance Sports. Retrieved from:




Do You Care More About The “Appearance of Success” Than Actually Being Successful?

Andrei Nana

Andrei Nana is a licensed attorney, specializing in business law, business owner, and ultra-runner. Andrei has completed 22 races of 100+ miles or 24 hours, including the Spartathlon in 2013 and 2014 – finishing 2nd American and 27th overall in 2013. Recognizing the need for organization in international ultrarunning, Andrei founded the International 100+ UltraRunning Foundation, which focuses on developing elite international ultrarunning. Nana is also the creator of the first six day race in Florida, the Icarus Florida UltraFest. Sought out for his ability to overcome excuses and his unique approach to commitments, Andrei created Nana Endurance Training and frequently presents to organizations, businesses and works directly with individuals.

For more information about Andrei, visit: or

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APA Reference
Nana, A. (2015). Do You Care More About The “Appearance of Success” Than Actually Being Successful?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 21 Feb 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2015
Published on All rights reserved.