Fame And Self-Love
We have written about the desire for fame as a symptom of narcissism, and this is certainly true for many people, but there is another reason why many wish to become famous that’s much less nefarious, a reason that’s actually quite tragic and evokes empathy rather than spite.
This reason is the unconscious, secret hope that recognition and love in the public sphere will make up for the lack of recognition and love in the family of origin, thereby filling up that painful hole where self-love and self-esteem should be. People feel worthless and unlovable for a reason. The reason usually has less to do with actual personality traits than it does with having suffered through abuse, abandonment, trauma, etc. at the hands of primary caregivers. They were made to feel worthless and unlovable as children and this feeling has persisted into adulthood. People feel worthy and lovable for a reason too. The reason usually has less to do with actual personality traits than it does with having always felt loved for who they were as people, not anything they did or didn’t do. They were made to feel worthy and lovable as children and this feeling has persisted into adulthood.
So what’s the thought process for those who secretly feel worthless and unlovable and seek fame as a way to alleviate this painful state of affairs? “If millions of people all believe I’m worthy and lovable then it will prove that my primary caregivers were wrong about me. More importantly, it will prove that I’m wrong about myself.”
The outcome is tragic whether fame is acquired or not though. If it’s not acquired then a life is spent desperately seeking approval that never comes rather than focusing on growth and self-actualization, indefinitely repeating a harmful cycle that started in childhood. If it is acquired then the painful truth of fame is discovered firsthand. Famous people aren’t loved for who they are, they’re loved for what they represent. Fans treat them not as unique, complicated, fallible, lovable individuals but as one-dimensional godlike figures whose purpose is to make up for felt deficits. And therefore fans are fickle. Famous people are ripped down from their pedestals just as quickly as they were raised up.
The point? Self-love can’t come from out there. You’ve got to work on loving yourself for how you are in the world, a choice that is always up to you. All that energy exhausted on seeking fame can be redirected towards the primary goals of human life from our existential point of view, which are loving interpersonal relationships and creative work. Self-love will follow.