There are a lot of bright and capable people who are not happy with their lives. Quite often it’s because they have not figured out what is valuable in life that will make them happy. In the article on happiness I discussed what Aristotle thought was worth pursuing for the sake of Eudaimonia.
One of the things people mistakenly think that is worth pursuing is the admiration of others in their community or becoming famous throughout the world. I say it’s mistaken belief because the costs for the admiration or wanting to be famous far outweigh the benefits. Why is there this need by almost everyone to seek admiration or fame? Is it because in the past there was an evolutionary survival benefit for being famous or admired ? and if there was a benefit does it matter in this day and age ?
Let’s see what are the costs of becoming a prominent individual or to be famous. When we seek social status, we give other people power over us. We do things calculated to make others admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavour. We make it our goal to please others and we are no longer free to please ourselves, we enslave ourselves. This situation is particularly troublesome when we are trying to seek approval of people whose values we reject because they are different from our own. This situation is not uncommon. It am reminded of my friend who was a MLA, she said she quite often had to curry favour with whose opinion she did not share or respected, just to get things done in a bureaucracy. She did not enjoy these situations and always felt the loss of her power. This sense of power loss I think came from her endorsing others notion of what was right and not being true to herself. She also give them power to annoy and upset her if they did not reciprocate when it was their turn to do so.
If we can become indifferent to what other people’s opinions are of us our quality of life will improve. We have no power over other to stop them from sneering at us, so it is foolish to either stop them or spend time worrying about them. We should instead spend this time on something we have complete control over, that is to cultivate ourselves; practice compassion and loving kindness towards all humankind.
It so happens that sometimes, one becomes famous even when there were no intentions of doing so. In this situation use the popularity to promote goals that would enhance humankind’s well-being and continue to be indifferent to what other people think of you. Your life will be infused with sense of freedom and well-being.
A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine