I’ve been fascinated by the recent sensationalized stories in the media about “Balloon Boy,” the White House party crashers, and the various alleged mistresses of Tiger Woods coming out to tell their tales. While it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of these stories, to blame the insatiable appetite of the twenty four hour news cycle, or to judge the particular people involved; the deeper issue is that some people seem willing to do just about anything to get their fifteen minutes of fame – even if it involves selling out on themselves and those close to them or causing pain, fear, or public humiliation for them or others. What is this really all about?
While most of us assume we wouldn’t go to the same lengths these people did in order to get attention and not all of us have a secret fantasy to be the star of our own reality TV show, there does seem to be a collective belief in our culture that becoming famous and well-known is an important goal and a key element to being successful and fulfilled in life. No matter how many big examples we’ve seen over the years to the contrary, many of us still get caught up in the elusive and ego-driven chase of fame. And, even though some of us have no specific desire to be “famous,” most of us think that if we had that (more money, greater influence, better body, perfect relationship, enhance ability, more exposure, etc.) then we’d be happy or feel like we’d made it.
When I look at this issue for myself, I notice that the driving force behind my own desire for “fame” (or any of the other external achievements I erroneously think will make me feel accomplished or successful) is a fear that who I am and what I’m doing isn’t quite good enough. When we tell the truth to ourselves, most of us have some version of this fear and a deep-seeded belief that we’re fundamentally flawed. This isn’t something we usually bring up at cocktail parties or even admit to the people close to us (or to ourselves). However, when we’re really honest about it, our own feelings of inadequacy are what drive a lot of our behaviors, particularly the most debilitating, inauthentic, and destructive ones.
What if, instead of standing back in self-righteous judgment, we used these recent examples (and the many that will inevitably follow) of fame chasing in the media to give us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, get in touch with what truly matters to us, and practice being more of our authentic selves in life – instead of chasing attention or acknowledgement. Standing in judgment of other people (those in the media or those in our lives), while easy to do and encouraged by our culture, doesn’t really serve us or give us any real value. Relating to people, situations, and circumstances as reflections of our personal and collective consciousness (both light and dark) and choosing to learn from them, gives us the opportunity to change and grow all the time.
Here are three things we can practice, based on the wonderful examples of these recent media stories:
1) Tell the truth about your own secret desire and motivation for fame and attention – Most of us have some secret (or not so secret) desire to be “famous” or at least to get more attention than we’re currently getting. We may want to be on TV, to get more recognition at work, to have more friends on Facebook, or something else that we think will make us feel more “important.” And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with us wanting to be acknowledged in some public way, the issue for most of us has to do with our motivation (it will make me happy or make me feel like I’m “somebody”) and what we may be willing to do in order to gain this attention (sell out on ourselves or those around us, be selfish and hurtful to others, or even lie, cheat, and steal). However this shows up in your life, the more willing you are to admit it and own it, the less negative impact it will have on you and those around you. As Sigmund Freud said, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.”
2) Focus on what you really want – Underneath our desire for fame and attention are usually some deeper and more meaningful desires. Maybe we want to make a difference for other people in a profound way, we want to experience a deep sense of appreciation, or we want to be bold and really step out in life. We often allow our egos to hijack our pure desires and turn them into superficial fantasies and erroneous notions. However, when we take a closer look at what we really want and what’s beneath our chase for “fame,” we can uncover what we really want and in most cases realize that these desires have nothing to do with gaining the attention of others. This can be incredibly liberating, empowering, and exciting.
3) Have compassion for yourself and others – As you notice yourself and others getting caught up in the insatiable desire for more attention or for fame itself, see if you can have a deep sense of compassion. It doesn’t mean any of us are “bad” for having these thoughts, feelings, or desires. Given the nature of today’s media culture and our own feelings of inadequacy, it makes perfect sense that we have some version of this obsession. However, when these things show up within us or around us, having compassion will allow us to more deeply understand ourselves and others, and give us the opportunity to be more authentic. When we go beneath our superficial desire for attention, it can allow us focus on what we’re really after – which is usually a sense of real appreciation for ourselves, others, and life and for what truly matters.
What secret desires do you have about being famous or “important?” How can you be honest about these desires in a way that is liberating? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.