It’s a funny thing, fame. We are bombarded by it so implicitly and continuously that I believe we rarely take pause to really think about the implications and the issues that accompany it.
Fame is not a new phenomenon. Fame has been around since the beginning of human consciousness, although it has evolved in its form over the centuries. There has always been something within mankind that is pulled towards idolatry. We want to admire someone. We have an insatiable curiosity to dissect the lives of those who have risen to the ranks of fame. We want to know what makes them who they are. We want to feel that we are on the inside.
Today’s fame is defined mostly by celebrity. There are certain things we want from our celebrities. Beauty and perfection. Wealth. Juicy gossip. Accessibility. An almost impenetrable sheen. A ‘how does he/she do it’ quality. A good story.
All of us, whether we like to admit it or not, are in some way or another a part of the phenomenon of fame. Whether we enjoy a tabloid magazine, take our inspiration from certain personalities on social media, Google actors and actresses, or religiously follow a certain TV show, we are somehow connected to the machinery of fame.
Fame is not evil or bad. It has, however, taken on some sort of otherworldly quality, that speaks of promises of a good life and success. More and more people are becoming public personalities through the accessibility of mass audiences now available through the internet and social media.
Suddenly we have young kids dreaming of becoming the next YouTube star. We have people staging their life for their Instagram followers. We have people doing anything and everything on reality TV shows. We have cat videos and pregnancy photos, provocative Facebook statuses and shocking behaviour – anything at all really to bask in that deliciously elusive and much sought-after fame.
Fame tells us certain things. Some of the messages that fame often tells us are:
-Fame and beauty are associated
-Fame and fortune are associated
-Fame and success are associated
-Fame and a good life are associated
-Fame and prestige are associated
-Fame and influence are associated
-Fame and respect are associated
-Fame and power are associated
-Fame and recognition are associated
These are just some of the things that we come to associate with fame, and in today’s world, with celebrity. We all want wealth, success, influence, recognition and a good life. But for many, there is a core belief or feeling that these things are not enough without the widespread public attention that is also associated with the prospect of being famous.
I have personally met some remarkable individuals, doing remarkable things that are not in the public eye nor are tremendously wealthy and well known. There seems to be, however, a growing sense – particularly among Millennials – of a “what is the point” attitude in achieving and succeeding without prolific recognition.
Of course there are millions of individuals who are content and satisfied with a life of humble anonymity, regardless of the extraordinary things they may or may not be doing in their lives. Fame is not something coveted by each and every one of us.
I believe though that the natural human quality of wanting to feel special, important, recognized and appreciated has taken on a distorted quality in our technology-driven world where racking up ‘Likes’, ‘Followers’, and ‘Friends’ augments our sense of self-esteem and success. More people continue to push out the boat, with more self-exposure, more provocation, more attention-seeking in an attempt to build up an image or an idea that is in demand for public consumption on a large scale.
Not all celebrity or fame is bad and there is much good done by people who hold a space in the spotlight. Awareness is raised, positive change is catalyzed, influence and connections are created, money is fundraised or donated. Good things often do materialize as the result of a widely-known individual with considerable sway and influence.
Where we need to be careful, however, is when we allow ourselves to get carried away in the idolatry of a certain individual. When we stop living our lives to follow their lives. When we do or say things because they do or say certain things. When we think they are greater than and we are lesser than. When we spend more time in fantasy and adoration than in the process of developing and contributing to our own lives. When we allow ourselves to be brainwashed into thinking we’ll never be of value because we are not like “them”- skinny enough, pretty enough, rich enough, talented enough, good enough. When we compromise our values and morals or sense of decency in an effort to garner public attention. When we injure ourselves or others in a quest to be famous. When we give up on our dreams or ideas because we don’t think that they’ll make us celebrities or well-known. When we live only for the number of hits on our social media accounts, the number of views on our photos, the number of followers on our Twitter. This is when this intangible thing – fame – takes us away from living our own lives fully, in an engaged and passionate manner.
The reason why I believe that this message is so important, important enough to write about, is because of the way that celebrity and the mass media ideals associated with it are woven into the fabric of our every day lives. Our products are marketed to us by famous celebrities, or by perfectly photoshopped models, or by TV personalities. We cannot buy our groceries without passing by the stands of tabloids and fashion magazines, their headlines and images shouting for our attention. We see billboards on buses, on trains, on roadsides. We read interviews, see Tweets, watch movies or flick on the TV. Our friends gossip, celebrity stories are broadcast, paparazzi abound. We can’t escape it.
And if we can’t escape it we have to look at it honestly and objectively. We have to really truly believe that fame is not the be-all and end-all. We need to want and crave only one thing – to be truly, fully, passionately engaged in our own lives, our own talents, our own friends, our own relationships, our own families and our own experiences.
For the trap of fame is this: leading and living a life for someone else, for something else; always wanting more than what you have; putting your sense of worth and success into the hands of others; ranking the worthiness of individuals and their lives; not living your truth; passing by your own life; avoiding coming into your own power and special gifts.
For today, step into the spotlight of your own life. Bask in the brilliance of it.