What is your worth, and how would you assess that?
Would you look at what you mean to others? Or would you look at what you do for a living? How much money you make? Would you look at how many followers you have on Twitter or Instagram? How many friends you have on Facebook? Would you count someone with more followers than you as “more valuable”?
And if you have fame, do you hold the greatest worth? Are you listened to the most eagerly? Are you given the most opportunities? Are you seen as the most desirable?
And why would that be?
It's unclear when we swung the pendulum that way, to where someone’s worth was middling at best unless some spotlight was shown on them, some local or national news piece focused upon them, some reality show appearance was managed, or some threshold number of followers was achieved.
There’s a panic, a rush to this “achievement” of fame; there’s also the ambivalence of fame, the love of it and the hatred of it. We sometimes hate the famous, while at the same time straining to achieve fame oneself.
Get the think newsletter.
Reality programming and social media make the game board bigger; they increase the number of runners on the track, each lunging at the finish line to be the first chest to hit the tape.
Somewhere along the way, we made it unpopular to value oneself outside the structure of fame. We created these new categories, even — reality stars, YouTube stars, Instagram-famous, Twitter-famous — when we enlarged the fame game board, to allow new valuations within the fame structure to accommodate as many people as possible.
We’ve latched onto the popular marketing tactic, started years ago, wherein everyone can “feel like a VIP.” We crave it, we fear being excluded from it. So, we have made sure that we can live like the famous. We can have a “personal driver” when we call Uber or Lyft. We can have an “assistant” buy our groceries when we call Instacart. We can have a “personal secretary” run our errands when we call TaskRabbit. We can skip the TSA line at the airport when we get “Pre-Check.”
We hunger for “status” — the status we witness accorded to the famous, the status we can now approximate with a multitude of services and apps.
But fame — that “pinnacle of human worth” — isn’t real at all. It’s something we made up in society in order to ensure there was some position that held the ultimate worth, a position that any one of us could actually, someday, some way, maybe achieve. We did that.
We made up fame and, in doing that, we supplanted the real worth we each hold as individuals. In fact, we supplant individualism itself when we endeavor to seek fame above all else, when we pine for it and we resent it being bestowed on others. Because to pursue fame above all else means to deny your own individuality, perhaps to reject your own basket of skills and talents in favor of whatever you think would be most popular with others. Pursuing fame is the ultimate in people-pleasing and the ultimate betrayal of self.
It’s not easy to ignore the cacophony of attention-seeking — the willingness to die, even — for the pursuit of fame. We've seen the willingness to be maimed or killed for the "perfect" Instagram photo to show our followers, the willingness to lose one’s job by posting a joke that we’re sure our Twitter followers are going to love, the willingness to forfeit our personal concert-going experience so we can hold our phones above your heads and record the band just to post it to Facebook to maintain our “brands.”
We’re in this washing machine that pours panic on us as we tumble around and around, giving us the illusion of motion, when really, it’s just another cycle.
What are you good at? What’s in your basket of skills and talents? You know the answer. It may not be something that will ever make you famous, but hopefully you don’t care. You can’t care, because the more that you care about getting famous, or “managing your brand” or increasing your followers, the further and further away you will get from being your true self until, one day, you won’t know who you are, you won’t know what you like and you won’t know what you really want anymore.
You’re stronger than this. You see the washing machine of fame-seeking for what it is: That cycle of panic. You know that you can instead leap-frog right to a feeling of great worth. You know that you don’t have to achieve fame, or have so many people as possible notice what you had for lunch, or get a thousand comments on a selfie you may or may not have really felt like taking.
Your skills and talents have worth. You never have to gain even one social media follower for your own basket of skills to have real worth. You can grab hold of those skills and talents and work at them and develop them in a way that no one else can. And that is of great worth.
Let us see what you’ve got.