The Hidden Dangers In Admiration

What makes a person admirable?

Is it having 10K+ Instagram followers? A million dollars in the bank? A weekly column in The New York Times

Nah, those are vanity metrics. We know that. They tell you nothing about who a person is, what his or her heart is like.

Putting people on pedestals is a dangerous game. For it is always your projection of a person, not the person himself or herself, that you admire most. At some level, you believe the followers, dollars, and column have made the them great. Consciously, you know that can’t be true.

What you continue to forget is that, in the public media, they present their perfections, discarding their imperfections. If you take the highlight reel as representative of the whole, you’ll be duped into believing that your idols are superhuman. When in fact, they are just as human as you are.

You have no idea how much your idols are battling with the same issues as you - anxiety, depression, fear, obscurity. You don’t know how much they struggle with buckling down or balancing work and life. Whether they’re comfortable showing it or not, they are human.

The people I admire most are the ones that are openly human, if only to a degree. They don’t try to hide their idiosyncrasies or their shame. They are actively trying to combat the general public’s desire to admire them and to believe they are superheroes.

Justin Baldoni (actor, director, philanthropist, & social entrepreneur) is a great example. He talks openly about his struggles with masculinity, marriage, parenting, death, grief, just as much as he talks about the joys of living, directing, acting, and storytelling. His work—from The Skid Row Carnival of Love to My Last Days—impacts the world in a myriad of positive ways. 

Now, see, as I write the highlight reel. I can feel myself sculpting a perfect picture of a man I have only met once. That is the danger in admiration. He’s a human, not a list of accomplishments.  

We have a compulsion to admire others that are further on the path than we are. 

There is a hidden danger in admiration, even in the best of the best.

The danger is in dehumanizing them.

In beginning to believe the highlight reel is all they are.

In seeing only perfection, even in the imperfection.

And as a result, in thinking we are somehow less than.

Kate Ward