The Psychological Impact of Being in the Spotlight

Posted on October 01, 2010 by CJ Article Team

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The experience of being a highly visible person such as television/movie stars, professional athletes, and high ranking officials, has been researched and investigated for many years. I will refer to all of those within these categories as Celebrities. Despite the research, little has been written about what the psychological impact actually means for the Celebrity. While it is true that in relation to the Celebrity themselves, being famous often leads to a total loss of privacy, a strong sense of entitlement, often unreasonable or demanding expectations, gratification of their ego, and a sense of immortality. Reasons for which, most people are unable to comprehend.

For most Celebrities, being famous leads to wealth, unbridled access to people, place and things, tremendous temptations, as well as fear and concern about the effect on their families. As to the psychological impact, my years of experience in working closely with Celebrities has divulged feelings of isolation, mistrust and paranoia, a tremendous fear of losing their fame, and often a skewed or confused sense of self. This skewed or confused sense of self is often created and magnified by the perceptions of the public and the media. The impact of such perceptions permeates the Celebrity’s psyche both in their public and their private lives. And so their identity begins to take on a new dimension and their personality begins to “shift.”

David Giles in Illusions of Immortality: A Psychology of Fame and Celebrity, (2000), writes about his research taken from interviews and surveys, to answer questions about the rise of stardom, the motivation to become famous, and the psychological impact of sudden popularity. Giles sees the Celebrity as arising out of the tradition in Western culture of placing importance on the “individual self.” He argues that fame should be seen as a process, rather than a state of being, because of the variety of changes a celebrity goes through when becoming a star. I would add that the public reinforces what I call a “personality shift” because it is the public’s consistent acknowledgement of the Celebrity as well as the public’s celebration of the Celebrity that drives the transformation. Couple this with a weaker ego, and the perfect storm is created for a life of grandiose behavior and heightened paranoia.

While most of the public can fantasize about what appears to be a perfect and charmed life, and quite often it is, there is a dark and lonely side that few in the general public can truly understand. At least until some tragedy occurs, such as the deaths of Brittany Murphy, Chris Farley, and Michael Jackson, which expose the inner struggles they faced during stardom. Compassion is rarely a word or feeling a Celebrity encounters by others. Too often, the charmed life perception leaves little room for empathy or sympathy. Walking a mile in one’s shoes might very well be the moral of this article for anyone who feels dismayed by a Celebrity’s complaint about their life or the tragedy they encounter. For better or worse, there is a clear and distinct psychological shift from being overly exposed to the media spotlight.

Posted by CJ Article Team
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