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Katie Byrne: ''Unflappable' women like Kate Middleton hide unhealthy personality traits'

Modern Life


Kate is good at hiding her true feelings in public. Photo: Getty

Kate is good at hiding her true feelings in public. Photo: Getty

Kate is good at hiding her true feelings in public. Photo: Getty

Royal Family approval ratings are always interesting to read - even if the findings are often depressingly predictable. The most recent poll, commissioned by YouGov, delivers no surprises. The British public are falling out of love with Meghan Markle - as evidenced by her 49pc approval rating among the 9,000 adults surveyed - and falling into the arms of her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton.

The Duchess of Cambridge - the woman formerly known as 'Waity Katie' (then 'Boring Kate', then 'Bland Kate') has an approval rating of 64pc, making her a hit with the public. She is also said to be winning favour within the palace walls. According to a "royal source", who spoke to Vanity Fair, the Queen is a fan of Kate, and admires her "unflappable" nature.

The pair apparently share a "keep calm and carry on" approach to life, which of course contrasts with Meghan's touchy-feely way of navigating the world. Speaking in that ITV interview, Meghan said she wants to "thrive" rather than just "survive", before suggesting that the "stiff upper lip" approach is "probably really damaging". Kate, on the other hand, exudes resilience and quiet dignity.

Kate and Meghan have long been pitted against each other. And while some of the comparisons are deeply unfair (their fashion choices being the obvious example), others are bang on the money. Like it or not, these women represent two very different tribes with two completely opposing worldviews.

Kate is a stoic, Meghan a softie. Kate believes in dignified silence; Meghan believes in talking (and talking and talking). Kate thinks vulnerability is a sign of weakness; Meghan thinks it's a show of strength. What's interesting, however, is that while Kate is increasingly lauded for her "unflappable" spirit, Meghan is subtly demeaned for daring to admit she's anything but.

When Meghan opens up and speaks candidly, Kate is celebrated for saying little to nothing. When Meghan breaks Royal protocol, Kate is praised for her grace, restraint and decorum.All of the characteristics that once made Kate seem boring and bland are now being held up as strengths to which all women should aspire.

And that's a little jarring, especially in an era where perfect, 'I don't know how she does it!' presentations of motherhood are being replaced with more authentic, warts-and-all accounts.When we praise Kate for being unflappable, we are exalting yet another unattainable feminine ideal, just as we're buying into the myth of the woman who can smile through struggle and rise above the storm with not a hair out of place.

The unflappable woman doesn't get weighed down by life's challenges. She never appears flustered in the workplace or stressed at the school gates, even as she tries to corral three under-10s out of the car and into the classroom. The unflappable woman isn't at the whim of her fluctuating hormones. She has never PMS-cried at work, honked her car horn while stuck in gridlock traffic or flown into a premenstrual rage over something as trifling as a chip in her nail polish.

Maybe Kate really is unflappable. Perhaps she has transcended all the drama that surrounds her with yoga and breathing exercises and daily meditations on the meaningless of it all. Or maybe she's like every other 'unflappable' woman: serene and swan-like above the water but furiously paddling underneath.

We all know, deep down, that unflappability is not so much a foundation as it is a facade. Sure, there are outliers but, for the most part, unflappable people don't have an innate ability to rise above a situation with poise and elegance. What they have is a knack for suppressing their emotions which, as Meghan pointed out, can be physically and mentally catastrophic.

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Thus, when we praise unflappable women like Kate Middleton, we're in fact admiring unhealthy personality traits: the ability to fight back tears, hide frustration, conceal disappointment, rise above adversity and turn the other cheek.

The 'keep calm and carry on' approach to life was for women who came of age during World War II. But for modern women who are now in the trenches of the workplace and no longer defined by marriage or motherhood? Not so much.

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