THE CELEBRITY SYNDROME
The Celebrity Syndrome is a phrase that I’ve begun using recently to describe the incessant human need for attention. It’s not meant to be a judgement, nor am I implying that attention-seeking as a natural human trait is a negative thing. But, as an observer of human behavior in general, including my own, I’ve noticed that most of us (if not all) share a common need to be noticed, acknowledged, and ultimately praised. However, for some, that need can become insatiable and can develop into a major obsession. Although I do believe that we are all born with an innate craving for attention, I do not believe that all of us will distort that craving into unhealthy degrees of attention-seeking.
The Celebrity Syndrome is a bit more insidious than just your everyday, ordinary attention-seeking. It is when a person is convinced that their successes and failures in life are inextricably tied to other people’s perception of them.
The Celebrity Syndrome is when a person develops schemes and strategies deliberately designed to generate a “buzz” about them which attracts all the sought after attention. It doesn’t really matter whether that buzz is in Hollywood, or a person’s own neighborhood, as long as their names conjure up images of some self-styled Svengali who seemingly “has it all together.” Tragically, many will do anything to make a name for themselves, and will imagine all types of schemes in order to project a certain perception of themselves on to others.
I was thinking about this recently in light of the recent news story regarding actor Jussie Smollett, one of the co-stars of the hugely popular Fox TV show “Empire.”
As the story goes, Jussie told Chicago Police Department last month that 2 men attacked him near his apartment, put a noose around his neck, poured a suspicious liquid substance on him during one of the coldest nights in Chicago, and yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. Jussie, who is both, black and gay, emerged from the incident with bruised ribs, a cut on his face, and an upside down smile. A few weeks later, CPD began saying that Jussie was lying about the entire incident. Whether Jussie’s version of the story is fact or fiction remains to be seen at this point. Although there are certain aspects of this case that just do not make any logical sense, I’ve decided to just let the whole thing play out and reserve judgement until after.
My purpose in bringing up this story is not to suggest in any way that Jussie Smollett is guilty of making a false claim, but rather to highlight the reality that people really do make up shit up for attention. There are so many stories in recent American history about people fabricating stories in order to elicit specific responses from the public, only to have it revealed that the stories were either blatant fiction, or gross exaggerations. And for what? All for the purpose of what we all commonly refer to as “15 minutes of fame.”
Although typically when we think of the word “celebrity,” we think Hollywood. However, celebrities are created everyday, in everyday situations, among everyday people. A person can claim celebrity status among family members, friend circles, on the job with co-workers, and even in their own neighborhoods. Any scenario where a person becomes a primary focus of attention and/or topic of discussion among entire groups of people,one might declare celebrity status, even if this status is but a mere delusion in the mind of the subject. People enjoy believing that they are living rent-free inside other people’s heads.
In Hollywood when a person wants to increase and capitalize off of their celebrity status, they do things for attention. Even when unflattering news stories come out about a celebrity’s private life, in many cases, they will allow those stories to persist without any effort to circumvent them. There’s an ancient Hollywood axiom that says: “When people are talking about you, it’s a good thing. It’s when they’re not talking about you that you should worry.” In the world of Hollywood there is no such thing as “bad” press.
And so it is with everyday people. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with a basic human need for attention. The Celebrity Syndrome becomes a thing when a person’s entire self-concept is built on the faulty premise that other people’s thoughts, opinions, and attitudes are what make them who they are. The truth is, we can’t control other people’s perceptions of us. Trying to do so is an exercise in futility. But sadly, even when this realization occurs, people become emotionally and psychologically belligerent, even to the point of concocting ridiculous, bullshit-filled drama that will generate the kind of attention needed in order to feed their EGO. They become completely unhinged…willing to sacrifice their entire lives (family, career, and dignity) in order to maintain the illusion of celebrity level status. They become completely oblivious to the reality that they are potentially causing plenty of collateral damage in the lives of people who aren’t even aware of that person’s neurotic quest for attention. People are murdered over this kind of stuff. Lies are told, and entire families are destroyed as a result of this dangerous obsession. The Celebrity Syndrome is an insatiable need to believe that you are a god in the minds of others. This “syndrome” is indeed some sick shit.
The point I’m attempting to make here is that so much of society’s identities and self-worth are attached to the craving for attention. There is an insidious and relentless fear that if people don’t pay attention to us, then we’ll somehow cease being valuable. The fear is that unless we have the inordinate amount of attention required to feel like a worthy human being, then our living is in vain. Celebrity Syndrome is when we we believe that we are lacking the proper attention that we crave incessantly, then the deficits of our souls intensifies, causing us to become completely irrational in our thinking. This is no way to live.
NO ONE WANTS TO BE IGNORED. But, it is also true that no one should spend unreasonable and inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to superimpose any particular narrative of themselves onto others, especially if/when it requires all forms of dishonesty and deceit. The destructive nature of The Celebrity Syndrome is sure to end in much shame, embarrassment, and absolute humiliation, and in some cases even death. Again, this is no way to live.
The key to treating The Celebrity Syndrome is Self-Awareness. Meditation is the art and science of being still, calming the mind, acknowledging fears, and remains one of the most valuable tools in human existence. Realizing that every thing that you effectively need for your personal well-being and success is already “in the house.” WE are what we are looking for. That which we find inside of ourselves is all the equipment that we’ll ever need. Concocting schemes in order to get love, romance, money, power, and fame may get you invited to the party, but without a truly refined sense of self and well-being, eventually people will discover how fraudulent you are. Why chase what you already inherently possess?? Relax, and learn how to be content as you are in this moment. Reputation is what other people think you are, but Character is the internal work you’ve done on yourself when no one else was around that results in Integrity being your greatest asset.