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Fame, Status, Success: Real or Imagined?

There is a corollary to money and power that I have seen people cling to as a way to security. It is the desire for fame, status or success as a bulwark against feelings of marginalization and lack of self-esteem. These people often feel that they are outside the rules that control the rest of society.

Special status bestowed by others is precarious because it is usually based upon the current popular culture.

Popular culture is not stable. There was a time when politicians had status; now they are thought of more as infamous than famous. There was a time when the bankers on Wall Street with million-dollar bonsues were looked upon with something akin to reverence; now it’s more like revulsion. The special people in a society can change overnight.

 When the winds shift and you’re not considered special anymore, your world can come crashing down. Just ask past-their-prime athletes, last year’s beautiful people, or former child-star actors relegated to third-rate reality shows.

I have known a few people who were famous because of their achievements or position. I have known far more people who assigned themselves their own special status. Often they considered themselves to be special and outside of the rules, not so much because of what they had but because of what they didn’t have.

This is not popularitity through the positive but notoriety through the negative.

Their special status was because “no one else has suffered like I have” or “I am owed because of what I’ve lacked in my life” or “because of what I’ve suffered I can’t be held responsible.” This attitude produces a sense of entitlement. Yet this sense of entitlement isn’t bestowed upon the person by popular consensus. Rather, it is that person who has elevated himself or herself to a special status.

When you have declared yourself special and demand special treatment because of it, you create a false sense of security. After all, you are in control because you have declared yourself the sole artiber of your specialness. The instability of this platform arises because others may not be of the same opinion. They may interpret your specialness as rude, aggressive, argumentative, insensitive, arrogant, or unrealistic. The more you loudly demand your specialness, the deeper their negative reaction is driven. The more you demand to live outside the rules, the more others may desire for you to simply live outside of their proximity.

It is seductive to want to live outside of the rules and the natural consequences of life. Rules so often have to do with limits and restrictions. Natural consequences can seem harsh and unfair. The Gotta Have It! of claiming a special status yells out, “That doesn’t apply to me!”

When we get to avoid the rules of others and make up our own rules, we feel a sense of control over our world. When we are in control, we feel more secure.

Source: Chapter 5, “Our Need for Security” in Gotta Have It! by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc
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