How to Not Let Fame Go to Your Head
By Greg T. Greenwood, Ph.D., MBA
Celebrities seem to have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. In this article I will lay out some of the reasons for this phenomenon, but just as importantly, what steps you can take to avoid these problems. I hope this advice gives you a perspective that will spare you the problems others have encountered.
Celebrity problems come in many forms: self-destructive behaviors, financial problems, fraud by unscrupulous people, and harassment by fans. What is common to all of these is the power of celebrity status and the flattery that it brings. Celebrities are real people with feelings, thoughts, emotions, and desires. Yet in the public eye, celebrity is exalted and worshipped and so celebrities get special treatment. There are the lavish parties, the table that is always available at the restaurant, private travel in limousines and personal jets, and a set of different social rules.
Daniel Ariely is a Duke economist who has examined how emotions affect our life choices and lead to bad outcomes. His findings show that decisions made at a time of high emotions are markedly different than decisions made in a stable mood. Law-abiding citizens who would never attack the police will do so when their emotions run high or are unleashed by intoxicating substances. Women who would normally show discretion with their sexual partners, may forget their principles when they are in a high state of arousal. In short, when our emotions are strong we are prone to acting differently than when we are calm.
Celebrity can bring on a prolonged state of high emotions. During this time, there is adrenaline coursing through the body, bringing on elation and euphoria. Just like drugs that produce the same chemical reaction, the celebrity "high" clouds your judgment and leads to choices you would never thought you would make in your normal state of mind.
Problems take time to develop. They are insidious and so they are hard to detect in the beginning. As one's celebrity grows and increasingly large protective bubble develops with advisors, handlers, lawyers, and managers. These types of individuals are important and usually necessary, however they do represent a layer of staff that keeps the celebrity from having to be directly available to handle personal matters. In addition to the protection these people provide, they are likely to portray problems or unpleasant situations in a minimized way. Things just get "handled".
In non-celebrity situations, this negative feedback is important in shaping one's identity and dealing with the world in realistic manners. If money gets tight, one cuts back. If you are arrested for DUI, you go to court. If you strike another person, you will be charged with battery, and so forth. By insulating celebrities from negative consequences, it is easy for the celebrity to develop a sense that the rules just don't apply to them.
So how does one avoid becoming another "casualty of celebrity life"? It helps to have come from a sound family with personal values that allow one to keep a perspective on one's true self and remain modest. Of course, you can't choose your parents, but it helps if you had a good start. Next, surround yourself with experienced advisors. Sure, the people you grew up with are trusted confidantes, but do they have the legal, business, and personal skills to professionally manage your career? Are they willing to risk a friendship to steer you to better personal choices? Are they financially capable of walking away from your destructive career path, or do they hang on to the bitter end because they have no other options?
People who have managed their celebrity status best have always kept a balanced perspective between their work in the performing arts, and their personal life. They have gravitated to long-term and stable relationships. Substance use has been moderated or absent. In addition, the successful celebrities have taken their fame and fortune to help others less fortunate. Paul Newman started his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang summer camps for children, Bob Hope toured with the USO bringing his show to GI's stationed around the world for holiday cheer, and Jerry Lewis created the annual Telethon for the March of Dimes.
The advice is this, pick experienced advisors, maintain a sense of humility, give back to others who are less fortunate, and always pay your taxes!
About the Author: Dr. Greenwood is President and Chief Executive Officer at Human Capital Specialists, Inc., a national management consulting firm based in San Diego, that specializes in the healthcare industry and advocates for improvements within the system. Additionally, Dr. Greenwood serves on the Board of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.hcspecialists.com
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