It is part of human nature to look to others for guidance in how to behave and what is right or wrong for instance. And this is not good or bad; it is just how things are. What can turn it into something dysfunctional and unhealthy is when someone copy’s behaviours and ways of being that are destructive, abusive or dangerous.
During ones early years it is normal to look to others and this is because one is still forming their sense of self. This means they are constructing their identity and learning about what they like and don’t like.
And with the guidance of one’s caregivers, family and teachers for instance, one can come to form a healthy sense of self. When one doesn’t have this early support, it can lead to an over reliance on external guidance and to falling prey to ways that are harmful to oneself and others.
If this sense of self doesn’t exist, having an inner sense of what is right or wrong, often described as a moral compass, can also be missing. This person can be someone who is easily influenced, manipulated and controlled. So the childhood years are essential when it comes to the formation of a healthy sense of self.
But regardless of whether one has a strong sense of self or not, to some degree or another, other people will still be looked upon for guidance. And as time has passed, different people have been sought.
Many years ago it would have related to religious leaders and while this still happens today, it is not as common as it once was. If one went back even further, it would be philosophers who were look to for guidance.
As time went by, musicians and actors were gradually phased in and became the new idols for people to mimic. In today’s world, it has gone on to include all celebrities and these are not always singers or actors. A celebrity is can now be someone who is just famous because they are famous and not because they have contributed anything worthwhile.
Through social networking, it has allowed people to be in constant contact with celebrities. And only a few years ago, this would have been impossible. Now their exposure is much greater and so they have a bigger impact on their admirers and followers.
And as these celebrities can have so much influence over people, they are often criticised and condemned for what they share with their fans. This is especially true for musician’s whose fan base is made up of minors or people below a certain age.
These can be people who have not developed their sense of self yet due to their age or simply haven’t developed one at all and are therefore more vulnerable to what these celebrities say and do. So their followers can end up mimicking what they see, without questioning if it is healthy or not.
The New Gods
While these celebrities are only human beings, they are often seen as being godlike figures. And just because they are good singers or actors for instance, it doesn’t always mean that they are good examples in any other way.
However, as a result of the exposure that they have, people can look to them for all kinds of guidance; from how to talk to people, how to behave, how to dress and what will lead to happiness, amongst other things. In some cases these could be fine, but in others it could be far from functional or healthy.
The criticism of these celebrities is not going to go away any time soon and yet this is to be expected. If someone is in the public eye, they have a big responsibility. One can look at them and admire one aspect and then end up seeing them as being perfect in every way.
This is often described as the halo effect, where just because someone has one positive trait, the mind assumes that they have many others. And while this can be the case, it is not always so.
One approach is to use critical thinking and to question whether one should be looking towards someone for guidance or not. In some instances a celebrity will have many functional traits and in others, they may have one or maybe even two, but not a lot more.
This will often depend on how strong someone’s sense of self is and if they have the ability to think critically. If one only sees one example of how to be, there will be nothing to compare it with and to see if it is actually a moral way to be.
Sense Of Self
Another important element here will be to have a strong sense of self and will typically lead to having strong boundaries. This will allow one to have an idea of who they are and who they are not. So instead of following anyone or believing anything, they will have the ability to question if it fits with their own truth.
And as one grows and changes, who they admire and look to for guidance will often change. To have a role model doesn’t mean that one gives their power away and sees another as superior; one is simply inspired and mentally and emotionally nourished by them.
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.