Practical Psychology: Fame is an addictive drug, and does not equal success

As the presidential election looms, many of us equate fame with success. We envy the fame of the suc

As the presidential election looms, many of us equate fame with success. We envy the fame of the successful politician. We long for the fame of the sports star. We envy the fame of the movie star. We are fascinated with the lives of the rich and famous. We believe success means we either have lots of money or are very famous. Preferably both.

Unfortunately, fame is a psychological drug. It is addictive. It is fleeting and always leaves us craving more. Fame is sometimes the by-product of success. Even as radioactive waste is a by-product of nuclear energy production, fame can be a highly toxic by-product of achievement.

The reason fame is so toxic is because it is based upon how others perceive us to be. Like approval from others, fame is never under our control. It is completely dependent on the ever-changing opinions of others. Their opinions are always under their control. They either choose to like and admire us or they don’t. We can never be in charge of others’ choices.

Intangible factor

The reason fame is never psychologically nourishing is because it is so abstract. The perceptions and opinions of others are not tangible to us. We can only assume what they are by our own interpretation of their behavior. If people respond to us with applause, we assume they like us. If people choose to be close to us, we assume we are attractive.

When we assume we are famous, we often increase our desire to attain it, to hold on to it, to constantly be reminded of it. Like the addictive drug, obtaining the recognition of others becomes central to our lives. Fame addicts literally will do anything, even self-destructive actions, to obtain what they believe to be the behavior reflecting others’ approval or admiration. “How do I look to them?” becomes the central question. Image and appearance replaces personal authenticity and integrity.

In this election year, fame becomes paramount to politicians. Rarely do we as voters know the authentic talents, skills and abilities of those people seeking political office. We see the images of them. And the more we see those images, the more famous they become. We tend to elect our political leaders based on fame, not personal integrity.

When we focus on fame and whether we are getting enough, we always feel a need for more. There is never enough of the “fame drug” and wanting more always discredits our past accomplishments and diminishes any joy we might experience in the accomplishments of others.

Alternative goal

In our desire for fame, what we fear most is that without it we won’t be loved as the genuine person we are. We need to replace “what others think” of us with what we think of ourselves. Our own approval and recognition is much more nourishing than the arbitrary approval of others.

Artist, writer and filmmaker Julie Cameron writes, “Remember, treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong. When you have been toxified by the fame drug, you need to detox by coddling yourself. What’s in order here is a great deal of gentleness and some behavior that makes you like yourself.” Be creative in these (perhaps new) activities.

The antidote for the fame drug is treating yourself like a very precious person . . . a famous one. You can choose to treat yourself as you would like to be treated by others. You can choose your own attitude toward yourself. The solution to the fear of not being loved is to learn to love who you really are . . . your true, authentic self. Begin with concrete, small, loving actions taken to nurture your self.

Cameron writes, “The only cure for the fame drug is creative endeavor. Only when we are being joyfully creative can we release the obsession with others and how they are doing” or what they are thinking about us.

Rather than behaving famously, genuine success in life is being and behaving authentically.

Categories: Life & Arts

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