Adulation Is Poison

I don’t have cable or even antenna TV for that matter. All of what I watch is comprised of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. So the only time I hear about celebrities is when someone mentions them on Facebook and most of my Facebook friends care about celebrities about as much as I do.

Which is almost zero.

So the only reason I know a name like Justin Bieber is because someone is making fun of him or some kid I know happens to like him and insists if I just hear this song, surely, surely, I’ll like him too. (Nope.)

And speaking of the Bieber, he showed up in my Facebook feed lately because to no one’s surprise it turns out he’s a ginormous doof and they caught it on tape. Giving a deposition because of something a security guard did or something (I didn’t care enough to find out why), you get to see this class act showing us all how classy he can be.

I rolled my eyes like most people, but at the same time I found myself pondering on the negative effects of fame. Bieber isn’t the first kid celebrity to turn into a total doof or weirdo and he probably won’t be the last either.

I’m sure most of you recall Miley Cyrus and her much sensationalized twerking stunt with some singer whose music most of us wouldn’t have bothered with in the first place. I felt bad then, too, that Miley thought the best option for her career was resorting to something like that. You may disagree with me, and that’s fine, but I’m not too thrilled when anyone, male or female, has to resort to prostituting themselves for success.

This brings me back to where this post really came from in the first place. I heard The Climb on the radio on the way back from work and thought this might work great as a karaoke song. So when I looked it up I realized it was sung by Miley Cyrus. It was almost shocking to see the difference between Wrecking Ball Miley and The Climb Miley.

miley before and after

And it made me a little sad for The Climb Miley, as though she’d cast aside all that potential and in some ways purity for more fame. Maybe she was always a fame glut, I don’t know. But the comparison was stark, and the words of a faith leader I follow stuck out prominently in my mind:

Adulation is poison.

What does this have to do with anything? Some of us may come into wild success with our writing or whatever other hobbies we’re pursuing. It can even be something as simple as having a huge blog following. And as people continue to tell us how wonderful they think we are, the adulation will overwhelm and poison us, if we let it.

I asked myself: Would you sacrifice your character for fame and fortune? Your integrity? Your honor? Just a little here. No big deal. Besides, everyone approves.

Personally, I don’t want to sacrifice anything. But it would be foolish of me not to believe the same thing that happens to many people can’t happen to me.


I think the most important thing is holding onto your roots. Remembering where you came from and who you are is key, not just in fighting against adulation poisoning, but in life. Sometimes I feel little tugs of arrogance creeping in when I’m around less experienced authors. And the moment I do I remind myself it wasn’t long ago when I was in those same shoes and to be grateful, not arrogant, for how far I’ve come.

Gratitude, as well, I think is a great antidote to the adulation poisoning. Gratitude for the fans or followers who’ve helped make you the success you are. Gratitude for everything you’ve gone through to get where you are and the humility to accept that there’s always more to be learned. Maybe to remind oneself the success came because one worked hard.

Giving back as well helps stave off the arrogance that can come with success. I’ve noticed I’ve had a lot more success with my writing when I’m not just focused on me, but on the success of others as well. There’s enough room in this world for all of us to have success and none of us are diminished by the success of others. It is only if we allow pride to destroy us that any diminishing occurs. C.S. Lewis once said something like, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man…”

I for one intend to gain pleasure out of any success I have, be it big or small, be it more or less than the next person. And I fully intend to celebrate with those around me who have success, whether or not I am as successful myself. I truly believe in karma and the more positive we send out, the more positive comes back to us.

What do you think? What do you do to stave off pride or negative affects of adulation? Anything you would add to keeping yourself true to your roots? Any other advice?


19 thoughts on “Adulation Is Poison

  1. Yup, this is very true. Read a book called Mindset, that’s the focus of it. Essentially adulation leads to people not actually trying anymore and not wanting to work. They stop trying to get better. People who get too much of this can’t handle criticism very well. That’s a good self test, how well do you handle criticism, if you don’t handle it very well then you seek praise too much and need to analyze things better.

    (Pretty much the journey should be the goal and not the destination type of thing we hear about).

    • I really like what Matthew McConaughey said at the Oscars, having someone to chase or that his hero is himself 10 years from where he is. Always striving to outdo ourselves.

      And great point on criticism! Definitely a good test. Thanks for mentioning Mindset. I’ll have to check it out.

  2. It definitely seems easy to fall when you rise to high. Every time I see the ‘crashing celebrity’ stories, I think of Icarus. It really proves that we can be our own downfall if we aren’t careful.

  3. I’m afraid you are only too right. Another possible reason for these stupid acts is shock value. These kids have already climbed a long way. They might be leveling out, so the only way to get more media attention is shock. Our culture is already pretty much shock-proof, so they have to go way, way, way over the top.

    • I guess it’s never enough for them and they’ve forgotten what it was like to be the kid hoping that they might even get a song on the radio, let alone become uber famous. Too sad. 😦

  4. Ugh, I couldn’t even finish watching that because I wanted to punch his face. You make a fabulous point about this, though. It is a little bit sad looking at those two images of Miley.

  5. I think as writers, at least, we have a bit more control of where we want our paths to take us, rather than young celebrities who are handled every step of the way until/unless they are able to stand up and decide for themselves what path they want to take. For instance, I don’t know that Miley Cyrus decided to switch her image like that all on her own; I wonder how much of that was the people in charge of her career telling her, “this is what you are going to do if you want to stay relevant.” Not saying that makes it better…

    But I definitely think remembering your roots is the best way to stay grounded. That and hanging around people who will remind you when your head starts to get too big. 😉

    • I wonder if they get so used to being told what to do they just do it. The praise of their popularity is probably highly addictive, so they do whatever to keep it. I think that’s another good tip though, to keep people around who will tell you when you’ve become a doof.

  6. I think the problem with celebrities who skyrocketed at a young age is they have a combination of young adult/teenage rebellion and the need for the next popularity high. There are also many adults saying, “Yes” to them, and little room for self-control.
    Similar to what you said, I believe the best way to prevent our heads expanding until they explode from sudden success (if we are so fortunate) is to give back. By helping others, and remembering the sweat and heartache which led a successful person to where they are, they can be grounded.

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