Comparing yourself to others is never a healthy habit – at best, you’re cruelly boosting your own self-esteem at others’ expense, and at worse, you’re damaging your own self-esteem. But this habit is particularly dangerous when we compare ourselves to…
Comparing yourself to others is never a healthy habit – at best, you’re cruelly boosting your own self-esteem at others’ expense, and at worse, you’re damaging your own self-esteem. But this habit is particularly dangerous when we compare ourselves to the rich and the famous. When we choose celebrities as standards to measure ourselves by, we tend to decide that we come up short. We aren’t as beautiful as celebrities, we think, or as rich, or as popular. These are self-defeating thoughts, and they’re rooted in flawed thinking. The images that celebrities project aren’t who they really are: when we compare ourselves to celebrities, we’re really comparing ourselves to fiction.
A life out of reach
When we pick up magazines or watch movies, we see celebrities at their most impossibly beautiful. And I do mean impossibly – because in reality, celebrities don’t look like that all of the time.
It’s easy to imagine that celebrities are better-looking than us – they often are! It’s also easy to imagine that celebrities stay better-looking because they have advantages over us. They can afford plastic surgery and expensive jewelry from the finest jewelers in New York, London, and Paris. They have lots of free time between their high-paying gigs, so they can always be working out or heading to the spa or skin care center. They have the highest-paid stylists and the best clothes. And surely some of this is true.
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But even with all of these advantages, celebrities don’t look beautiful all the time – they’re just careful to look beautiful when we can see them.
The camera adds ten personal assistants
Yes, celebrities have personal trainers and fine jewelry. But when you look at a magazine cover, you’re not seeing the results of those things. That’s not really his muscle tone alone – it’s his hard work at the gym plus a little hard work from the photo retouching team. And that’s not her dress or her jewelry – it belongs to the magazine or the photographer, and they’ve used all sorts of tricks to make it fit perfectly (fashion photo shoots look very different from behind – those tight fits are perfected with binder clips all over the back of the dress or shirt).
Similar things are true of the movies and the awards shows. These aren’t celebrities at their most normal – they’re celebrities with the added boost of tons of personal assistants, stylists, and other professionals. Even if you had all the money and all of the free time to work out that celebrities do, you wouldn’t look like them in the movies unless you had a team of experts to determine the perfect lighting and lenses. Celebrities don’t look like they do on screen in their day-to-day life – they’re beautiful, sure, but they’re not gods.
Public images aren’t people
That’s the danger of comparing yourself to a celebrity: you are not comparing yourself to a person at all. The person behind the celebrity is the one who gets photographed in those awful low-quality shots that tabloids love; the thing on the magazine cover is the celebrity plus a lot of other things designed to make him or her look more attractive. Comparing ourselves to others is always dangerous and never healthy, but it’s particularly dangerous when we choose to compare ourselves only one side of a person – and a celebrity’s public image is only one very small side of who they are and what they look, feel, and act like.