We stand in awe of those people who we have labeled “celebrities” or “geniuses” or “gurus” or “moguls” or whatever word we have created to call those who are highly productive and successful. We recognize good work, innovation, and creativity. In a way, it can serve as a healthy motivation for us to step out and fulfill our own dreams.
In most cases, this attention we pay to other human beings is natural. Psychologists have dubbed us “social animals”. We gravitate to other human beings and they become a part of our environment. While some of this is good, fed by the media and technology, it can quickly turn into a dangerous obsession.
This obsession is called celebrity worship syndrome or CWS, a term first used scientifically by North American Journal of Psychology editor, Dr. Lynn McCutcheon. CWS is an obsessive-addictive disorder in which an individual is immoderately interested in the life of a celebrity. A “celebrity” in this context can be anyone, from movie stars to politicians to athletes to company managers.
We admire what they do, who they are, and the kind of power they hold. We do this in large part because we have a void in our own lives from failing to recognize our purpose and realize our potential. Therefore, we are wasting many of our precious years trying to be like someone else or obtain what someone else has.
Psychologist James Houran says, “Celebrity worship, at its heart, seems to fill something in a person’s life. It gives them a sense of identity, a sense of self. It feeds a psychological need.” That psychological need is the need to be connected to something or someone we deem greater than ourselves. The problem is we can find that connection through people because everyone is unique and no two experiences or paths in life are exactly the same.
Go behind the scenes of any person’s life and you will find that underneath all the beautiful pictures they post on social media and all the glam shots and photo shoots and all the glowing articles and reviews, are some things you wouldn’t want, some problems you could do without, some paths you couldn’t want, some experiences you are better off without.
Beware of wanting to copy others. You don’t know what flaws they have or sins that are in their lives. You don’t know how much they have wasted, neglected, or abandoned. You don’t know the costs they had to pay to become who they are. Trying to “be like” someone you admire is not the goal. The goal is to become the best you that you can possibly be, live your own experiences, walk your own path, tell your own stories and do your own work.
The real questions are not, What is someone else doing? Where is someone else going? How wonderful is someone else’s life? Or what does someone else have? The real questions that we need to ask and answer for ourselves are: How much do you love? How humble are you? Do you seek justice for others? Do you serve others humbly? Do you know what your purpose is? Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you living up to your fullest potential? Are you making a good return on the investment of the life you’ve been given? Are you making the difference that only you can make in the world?
If we’re all really honest, we’ll tell all those who want to be like us “please, you don’t want to copy me”. Don’t waste your time trying to “be like”. Just be you. It’s so much easier and the world is so much more beautiful that way.
Until next time, Vita. Consilio.