#RHONY, Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#RHONY Psychology: Is the Bar Set Low for Your “Bethenny”? (Opinion)

Disclaimer: The following post may be deemed “psychobabble” as it reflects thoughts of a former psychology major, rather than psychologist or licensed mental health professional.

It is a residual learned helplessness from elementary school interactions with mean girls. When we come across someone brash, opinionated and intimidating, it’s somewhat instinctive how we set the bar lower, how we’ll lap up the love we do receive – between thorny barbs that prick us repetitively – like a little lost puppy dog.

As with an A-Plus student, someone like Bethenny Frankel has a podium to stand on so we are at a loss for words during debates. The little girls inside of us, upon recognizing approval from the harshest of critics, prize the praise of a “Bethenny” over the kind words of someone softer and more sensitive.

Because she is one who suffers fools lightly (so to speak), her moments of tenderness and vulnerability stand out more prominently than they would in an easygoing individual, and a fortress of respect surrounds her.

While I did not agree with certain actions of Carole Radziwill this season of Real Housewives of New York (RHONY), – her need to repeat atrocious things said to people behind their backs could perhaps be justified by the fact that cameras were capturing everything – I had compassion for her after witnessing her evisceration by cast mate and former buddy Bethenny Frankel.

No one on this show is without faults and the argument about “setting the bar lower” could be applied to other cast mates too. However, that would entail several other separate, lengthy articles. I’m going to stick to Bethenny in this particular one, while bearing in mind the argument about allowances made for Ramona Singer. We can save that Megillah (and ones devoted to Sonja, Luann, Dorinda…) for another time.

Think back to your days vying for the popular classmate’s attention and wishing you were in “the clique.” Remember laughing at the girl in the back brace who the cool kids were taunting? Would you put up with and participate in that sort of behavior now? I’m sure you are saying “no”, but if you think hard, you have probably made other mental adjustments for rude people.

You may know someone blunt who won’t back down and listen to you finish your points in a discussion – even when what they’re spewing is entirely wrong. It may be because they’re so often right and regarded as the “voice of reason” in other instances.

Despite some aggravation, you say to yourself, consciously or subconsciously, “She’s tough, but has chosen ME as her friend…ME!!!” So you listen and bite your tongue to keep from objecting.

This does reflect a collective self esteem and the desire we have to be appreciated by people we see as accomplished, authoritative and determined. As confident as one could argue that Manhattan socialite and bestselling author Carole Radziwill is, she is not above succumbing to another’s flattery and adoration of her.

Avid RHONY viewer and reality TV blogger Essence Capp observes: “When Carole met Bethenny at Luann’s during Season 7, she was almost ‘star struck.’ She really did seem in awe of her during the early period of their friendship.”

Bethenny called Carole the “cool girl” during that time and Carole (no doubt) loved it. I cannot blame her at all: I’ve been a a part of this type of dynamic in my own social life. Who doesn’t appreciate and value the praise of a highly discerning individual? Bethenny had already set herself apart as being that fussy, fault finding judge whose BS detector was extra fine-tuned.

My husband will say to me “Forget elementary school! That was 100 years ago!” However, it is the experience of playground and classroom interactions, including past swift assessments made by teachers and peers alike, that shaped who we are today. Whether we are willing to reflect and admit to it or not, the social and academic scrutiny in our formative years can affect us throughout young adulthood and beyond.

Knowing this allows us to ask ourselves “Why exactly do I need this person in my life? Why does their opinion of me matter so much?”

Unfortunately, as the Carole-Bethenny breakup attests, it can take a falling out for us to step back and decide what is worth fighting for…and what isn’t.

As I write this, Carole is still tweeting about the fights with her former friend. In doing so, she comes across to many as the Bitter Betty of the duo. Perhaps it’s because she feels that now that she won’t be returning to RHONY, she has nothing to lose and can totally go rogue.

It is best, when there’s no reality show in the picture, to be the better person. In the fashion of those beloved by Bravo who can look scornfully upon the Housewives and laugh at them, Carole could bow out gracefully and opt to “plead the fifth” instead.

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