The Emotional Difficulties of Being Famous

Magazine racks and online sites are full of images and tales of celebrities acting out, including, but not limited to: sex scandals; cosmetic surgeries gone awry; spectacular instances of bad taste, and stunningly poor judgment. Add in the frequent wardrobe malfunctions, relationship problems, and wayward family members, and the complications and emotional difficulties that come with being famous begin to outweigh the incredible benefits. Although many of these all-too-public private foibles can be chalked up as simply examples of spoilt or selfish behaviour, sometimes the personal, professional, and emotional problems of celebrities are truly shocking or deeply sad.

It can be hard to look at these garish displays of emotional shallowness or instability, but even harder to look away. After all, famous people have garnered more than a fair share of attention already. Indeed, it is their unusual charisma and extraordinary attractiveness that draws us to them in the first place. It is also what keeps us fascinated with them when they reveal their very ordinary weaknesses and their everyday fragility. With talent, beauty, fame, wealth, and access to all the goodies these gifts-of-the-gods provide, why, we wonder, do they sometimes seem intent on throwing it away with both hands? Why, in the world do they act the way they do?

Would becoming famous make you happier?

There is no reason for us to think that celebrities should be any happier or more emotionally stable than the rest of the non-famous world. Whatever their great fortune, even the famous, at some point, experience life’s abundance of disappointments, failures, illnesses and tragedies – just like everyone else. Emotional pain is an equal opportunity affliction – there is no escape from it no matter how fabulous one is. It may be too that their “artistic temperaments” may represent two sides of the same coin – with their innate talents and sensitivity giving them great insights while leaving them more vulnerable to the pain of the human condition and less equipped to cope with it.

In fact, it is often the misalignment of expectation and reality at the root of the emotional difficulties that go along with fame. With the many ways in which we celebrate fame and success in this society, who then would blame celebrities – and their fans – for assuming that constant adoration, almost limitless funds, and the freedom to pursue creative and romantic impulses, would make life “perfect”.

What are the difficulties?

The challenges, however, brought on by the intense and constant scrutiny of the public, and the complete lack of privacy that accompanies being forever in the spotlight, are more difficult than most people would hope to face, or imagine.
It is called the spotlight for a reason: The glare is harsh and it is difficult to find shelter.

On the other hand, it is the fading stars who are often the most poignant. The loss of attention, fame, and wealth can be devastating to one’s emotional balance. The sense of unwelcome anonymity after so much attention – which, to be honest, they did initially seek in the first place – presents a new set of difficulties as life takes a different turn. After all, just as no one really can realistically prepare themselves for fame – short of practicing their award acceptance speech or signing their autograph – no one can really be ready when it comes to an end. Friendships may wither and relationships crumble when the trappings of fame are removed. The loss of identity and purpose in one’s life is another emotional hazard of being famous.

For celebrities who have mental health issues, the unrelenting pressure of fame and the ceaseless attention they receive can contribute to a sense of paranoia. As a result of the need or desire to limit one’s exposure, incredible isolation only makes daily life feel more threatening.

Why should we be concerned?

As a society, we invest billions of dollars and countless hours in our worship of the famous. We love those who are famous when they are pleasing us, but we are very quick to pull them down when they do not, or when we have grown bored. It may say something very unpleasant about us when we fail to recognize that what we have given so abundantly we can take away so carelessly. Celebrities themselves can be all too aware of that. Though they may seem to be outside of life’s everyday problems and struggles, it is their humanity that attracted us in the first place and it is a troubling sign when we forget that even the most golden among us cannot escape the emotional difficulties of life.

Images on Creative Commons license courtesy of herrylawford, Luiz Fernando / Sonia Maria,


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