Unless you manage to avoid the TV, radio and the press you can’t escape it: Our society is obsessed with the cult of celebrity. Has it always been this way? I think that it probably has. But with rolling news and the internet, we experience news, as it happens, like never before, including celebrity news.. Significantly, the modern celebrity doesn’t need to have done anything noteworthy to require celebrating. In particular, reality TV throws up ‘stars’ who have, as yet, shown no noteworthy skill or achievement. It’s now well know that in surveys children no longer want to grow up to be teachers and doctors, like they used to, but to be sports stars and pop stars. On talent shows you can regularly hear the same words tumble from the lips of gifted and dreadful singers alike: “It’s my dream”, “Singing’s my life”, “I really, really want this”. Is there really such a fine line between genius and delusion, or is there something more going on here?
We may not all desire to be celebrities, but many of us desire to be celebrated, and I think that at some level every one of us needs to know acceptance. The problem is that if my need drives me to seek acceptance, then the opinions of others or, worse still, my perception of their opinions will start to define me. I will be in danger of becoming lost to myself or, to put it another way, I won’t know who I am. If my sense of acceptance and self-worth is dependent on others then I will be blown about by fickle winds of their opinion and by their reception of my performance. For the celebrity this is catastrophic as those whose opinions matter neither care for the celebrity’s feelings nor realise that they might be wielding such influence.
I believe that the key to emotional health is to carry that sense of acceptance within. For most of us our parents taught us to either accept ourselves or to be self-rejecting. Those voices ring loud for us and are hard to silence. But the truth of the matter is that each of us is uniquely made and, as such, has a gift to offer to the world. There is no one quite like me and that’s a good thing! If I can grasp the significance of that then I won’t need to mimic anyone else and so reach for the prize that I have believed they have won. What others think of me will be their issue; it won’t affect my own sense of worth. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take criticism, but I need no longer be crushed by it.
One of my stories in the ‘The Animal Parables’ addresses this very issue. The Mynah Bird is a dull black creature who longs for significance. He finds that he can mimic the other creatures in the forest and so achieves celebrity amongst them. But he quickly finds himself imprisoned within a persona that isn’t him. Only once this realisation had dawned does a voice speak into his heart; “I have made you well. There is no one like you. You have a voice of your own.” He eventually discovers that he is far from just dull and black, he has in fact been twice-blessed and not only can he sing his own song, but he can fly too.
But how do I find what my unique spark is? Some people seem to know what they are about, but what about me? I believe that asking the following questions can help towards it:
• What was I like as a child; what caught my imagination? (before the forces in my life tried to squeeze me into their mould)
• What are the things that give me life, that energize me? (as opposed to what drains the life out of me)
Answer these questions for yourself and you will be well on the way.
So who would really want to be a celebrity if they listened to what they actually say? Many are so upended by public opinion that they fall foul of a variety of addictions, whilst others cannot watch their own work or read their own press. It’s better to know and like who you are than to long to be something you’re not.