Teen Loneliness, Low Self-Esteem and the Desire for Fame

Teen loneliness, low self-esteem and the desire for fame

Teen loneliness, low self-esteem and the desire for fame

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to share the findings of a study which reveals the link between teenage low self-esteem, loneliness, lack of appreciation and the desire to become famous above every other goal.

First a quick update:

“Can a father teach his daughter femininity?”
Does that sound absurd? Actress Jennifer Anniston says men are unnecessary – women can have children and be mothers without a man. However, Aaron Huey, Co-founder and President of Fire Mountain Programs, says a woman can’t teach a boy masculinity in the same way that a man can’t teach a girl femininity. Listen to the controversial interview we recorded about rites of passage, masculinity and manhood.

Now, let’s talk about the findings of a study which reveals the link between teenage low self-esteem, loneliness, lack of appreciation and the desire to become famous above every other goal

If you have a teenage child or friend and were to ask him/her the following question, what do you think the answer would be?

“If you could press a magic button that would make you either stronger, smarter, more famous, more beautiful or no change at all, which one would you pick?”

And do you think the answers would differ greatly between boys and girls?

Jake Halpern and Professor Carol M. Liebler of Syracuse University surveyed 653 students in 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade with 32 questions related to fame and pop culture. (Jake Halpern is author of  “Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction.”)

How did those children surveyed respond to the above question?

The boys picked fame as often as intelligence and girls picked fame above everything else.

In other words, the survey reveals that teens would prefer to be famous over being smart.

Here are some other powerful revelations from the study:

Girls would prefer to have dinner with Jennifer Lopez over Jesus, Albert Einstein, the US President, Shaquille O’Neil, 50 Cent or Paris Hilton.

Boys who described themselves as lonely chose 50 Cent for dinner over Jesus while boys who were not lonely chose Jesus. Girls who described themselves as underappreciated by their parents, friends and teachers chose dinner with Paris Hilton over Jesus.

Girls would prefer to serve a celebrity than run a corporation or be a Navy Seal
Girls chose “the personal assistant to a very famous singer or movie star” above being a Navy Seal, Chief of a major corporation or a US Senator. And students with low self-esteem seek to bask in the glory of others – students who are unpopular or have low grades opted at a higher percentage to become assistants to celebrities.

Black kids are even more desperate for fame
African American kids opted at twice the rate of white kids to choose fame over being smarter, stronger, or more beautiful. And 44% of African Americans (versus 27% of white students) said that their families would love them more if they became famous

Teens who watch celeb TV and “glam mags” want and expect fame the most
Teenagers who regularly watch celebrity-focused TV shows or read celebrity focused magazines are more likely to believe that they themselves will become famous. And the more TV teens watch, the more they opted for fame as their desire: 15% of boys and 17% of girls who watched one hour or less of TV a day opted for fame. But of the teens who watched five hours or more a day of TV – 29% of the boys and 37% of the girls opted for fame. And the more they read or watched TV about celebrities, the more they felt that they could and would become famous.

Heavy TV-watchers believe that fame will improve their lives
The more TV they watch, the more teens believe that fame will improve their lives and make them happier. Teens who watch five hours of television or more a day are also twice as likely as those who watch an hour or less to believe that their family will love them more if they become a celebrity.

Lonely and depressed kids believe fame will solve their problems
Children who described themselves as lonely, depressed, and under-appreciated are more likely to seek fame in the hopes that this will make them happier, better liked or have a positive impact on their lives. Lonely boys were more likely to reply that fame would simply make them “happy,” whereas lonely girls were more likely to answer that fame would make them better liked by kids at school.

“If you suddenly became a celebrity – like a movie star or a rock star – what would be the best thing about being famous?” The answer for a number of teens was simply companionship and more friends.

Lonely kids are also more likely to follow the lives of celebrities
Boys who described themselves as lonely were twice as likely as those who said they weren’t lonely to endorse the statement: “My favorite celebrity just helps me feel good and forget about all of my troubles.” Girls who described themselves as lonely were three times as likely as those who said they weren’t lonely to endorse that statement. Note that these are children who have no interaction with celebrities other than a one-way relationship – reading about them, following them on Twitter and so forth.

There are various critical conclusions that can be drawn from this study.

First, the study was conducted in 2007 and almost 6 years later, the problem has most likely worsened with more technology and a greater saturation by the media promoting the celebrity culture along with reality TV which fools people into thinking they can become the next star and the center of attention. Today’s teens harbor delusional beliefs about their own potential to become famous.

Second the celebrity world has three subcultures (aspiring child stars, celebrity entourages, and die-hard fans.)

Third, the desire by teens to standout and `be someone special’ is not simply driven by ego but rather by a desire to fill the void of loneliness, depression, isolation, lack of appreciation, guidance, direction, meaning and purpose.

Fourth, narcissism is becoming rampant amongst teens. In the 1950s, a US study revealed that 12% of children believe they are important. In 1989, the same study revealed 80% of children believe they are important. But important for no reason, no contribution and with tendencies to entitlement. And a recent study reveals that college girls are even more narcissistic than boys.

All of these problems begin with or are the result of poor parenting. For example, if you teach your child that he/she is innately important then you are also teaching them that they don’t have to do, achieve or contribute anything. If, however, you tell them that their talent, skills and gifts are important and can help people, then you are teaching them to adopt an important mission in life.

Here are some tips for parents:

  1. Is it okay for a child to idolize a celebrity? Yes, but teach your child to idolize his art, achievements, contribution or merits not his/her fame or power.
  2. Seek a mentor, role model or positive idol for your child – not a TV personality who contributes nothing to the world
  3. Stop your child from reading celebrity magazines or watching exploitive TV; instead encourage them to read books and magazines that will add to their lives and career goals
  4. The less TV your child watches and the more he reads, the more educated and successful he will become. Dr. Ben Carson, director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, and a 2008 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was invited to give the speech at The National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C where he told his story of being raised by an illiterate mother who stopped him from watching TV and made him read books.
  5. Give your children more time: children now spend twice as much time in front of a screen as they do in school; one and a half times more time in front of a screen than they do with their parents
  6. Give your children attention; stop and take time to ask questions, show interest in him/her and listen attentively
  7. Talk to your children to help them cultivate their dreams and aspirations; stop focusing on placing all of your time in your career only to get a newer or larger TV or car; your children need you and your love not your gifts of gadgetry
  8. Have dinner as a family; studies reveal that the more often your family dines together, the less chances there are that your children will do drugs
  9. Children need to belong to something – a community, a family, a group. Enroll them in a group or club.
  10. Teenage girls have lost their focus on what is real and what is significant; spend time with your children teaching them values in life. Beware of “bread and circuses” – the push by the media and corporations to gratify people with superficial and shallow desires; it will leave your children as extremely unhappy and unfulfilled adults.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

Facebook Comments
5 replies
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    Daniela says:

    Role models are a way to insert in our children’s lives values that we, as parents, cherish. I’m compelled to insert in my child’s life a manly reference, but that shall not be the only one. Heterossexual and masculine is not the only way to be – and it’s up to each one to choose the path they are more compelled to take. That’s the message I want to pass to my child.

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