Our Youth Ambassador Vicky Kavanagh writes about our celebrity-obsessed culture providing us with some negative role models and the importance of not making comparisons with those you’re a fan of.
The definition of an idol is “A person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered”. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, idols come in many shapes and forms – from US Politicians such as Hilary Clinton to pop singer Beyonce.
Generally, we choose idols because they possess qualities we admire or wish we had. But idols, like a human being, are not perfect. So what effect does it have on us when our idols fall short of greater expectations?
Take for example, pop-star Rihanna. She has fame, fortune and millions of worldwide fans. She also has a boyfriend who previously assaulted her, however, they re-united in late 2012. The world gasped in horror, including myself, and found it difficult to understand her decision to reconcile with a man who had inflicted such violence upon her.
Difficult decisions to accept
Not being a particular fan of her myself, her decision prompted interest in me rather than conflict. I would imagine that for a fan of hers, it’s quite difficult to accept such a decision from an idol. One of my own idols, Marilyn Monroe, is somebody who made decisions I personally would not make.
Shaping your behaviour
But sometimes, even our role models and idols fall off the pedestal we’ve mentally put them on. It’s important for yourself not to shape your own behaviour based on the decisions of a celebrity. For example, to not rationalise that it’s okay to stay in an abusive relationship because a pop star took back her previously violent boyfriend and he apparently is reformed.
Just because you admire many things about someone – famous or not – doesn’t mean you have to follow in their every exact footstep; especially if those footsteps turn down a dangerous path.
Inspiration from those you admire
It’s equally as important not to compare yourself against the people you admire. Sure, it’s good to look to other people for inspiration. It can be a driving force for us as individuals and inspire us to achieve goals that seem difficult to reach.
Nellie Bly was a journalist in the early 20th century who went undercover in a mental institution in America so she could expose the abuse occurring at the place. Ms Bly is one of the sources of inspiration in my job as a journalist; to strive to find the truth, no matter the difficult circumstances involved. In that way, she acts as a positive influence in my ambition.
But I don’t compare myself to her. I don’t look at the things she had achieved by my age and mentally give myself a hard time if I fall short of her achievements. I don’t analyse what weight she was – which I genuinely don’t know – and compare my own body, planning the changes I would unhealthily make in order to look like her.
While our 21st century celebrity culture can have a positive influence in our lives by demonstrating how nothing is unachievable; it also has a dark side. It has prompted “thinspiration” websites as Hollywood starlets starve themselves into near invisibility and young girls around the world choose this aspect of their lives to emulate; perhaps over the hard work they put into becoming a star in the first place or the mitigating factors which are affecting their figure – they need to be a certain weight for a part/they’re paid for their appearance, etc.
Be your own person
The quote at the beginning of this article said the definition of an idol is “a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved or revered.” There is no problem in admiring a celebrity, but there is an issue if you’re comparing yourself and your life to theirs. Idols are not without their faults, just make sure you don’t inherit those faults; admire a celebrity for who they are, but be your own person at the end of the day.