The girls play with Hannah Montana when they're eight, and by 16 they're on MySpace, pouting at the camera in their underwear and watching the friend requests pour in. In a recent survey of high school kids, 51 percent said their ultimate goal was to become famous.
Obviously part of the reason is the perception that anybody can get famous these days--reality TV and YouTube have proven that you can become a celebrity for doing not a goddamned thing.
Experts say where you find kids who desperately want to be famous, you find a history of neglect at home.
If you're saying that your parents were awesome and that fame still looks pretty freaking cool, well, we're not done. Studies show nothing is more stressful for a human than when their goals are tied to the approval of others.
China is turning into a great object lesson in this, as their economy explodes and incomes skyrocket, but levels of happiness and personal satisfaction are dropping at the same rapid rate.
There's a couple of reasons for it. your brain adjusts feelings of happiness downward after you've reached some goal or other. It regulates the good feelings, presumably so that you have motivation to reach the next goal instead of just lounging by the pool for the rest of your days. The second one is that as social creatures, we compare ourselves to our neighbors. Once you start hanging around the other high earners, you'll want all the stuff they have or more than what they have.
You know how when the hot girl at the bar tells an unfunny joke, all the guys laugh anyway? Or when the office stud makes a mistake, the female boss laughs it off?
Attractive people live in a world where most feedback they get is bullshit.
That's why studies show they tend to dismiss the genuine compliments they get in other areas (their work, personality, sense of humor, creativity) because it gets lumped in with the same counterfeit flattery they've been getting their whole lives.
We're using the broader definition of the word "genius" here, meaning anyone with an extraordinary talent or skill. So for instance Dennis Rodman was a genius when it came to rebounding basketballs, but was probably not a genius in the way that Einstein was.
Want to know what it's like to live life as a genius? All you have to do is go hang around with the stupidest, most incompetent people you know. Cringe at their stupid jokes, feel the frustration as they fumble even the easiest tasks and fail to grasp the simplest concepts.
If your genius lies in some kind of creative field, then there's a good chance you have actual mental illness to deal with. While only one percent of the population suffers from bipolar disorder, it is claimed that 50 percent of poets, 38 percent of musicians and 20 percent of painters have it. It's just part of the package.
Power is what everything else on this list is about. Fame is about having power in the relationship with the fans. Beauty is about gaining power through others' sexual desire and jealousy. Genius means society needs your skills more than you need its approval. Money . . . well, money and power are conjoined twins.
So what will make me happy
Experts have figured out that the brain has no ability to actually predict your emotional reaction to life changes that haven't happened yet. In other words, you physically do not know what you want. The act of sitting around pondering it is apparently what fucks you up.
This may be why studies show friendships, altruism and religious practices bring happiness. It may be that taking the focus off your own happiness is what makes happiness possible.
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