Justin Bieber: The Crushing Power Of Fame

ImageRecently Justin Bieber was charged with drinking and driving, resisting arrest and drag racing in the streets of Miami. He was also accused of illegal drug use. These are just the latest of his recent antics that seem to show the pop star spiraling out of control.

“He’s only just turned 19 and he’s still learning to cope with the pressures of fame. But it’s worrying.” His grandmother Kathy Bieber has been quoted saying in a past interview.

There is a lot of pressure of fame that not everyone knows how to handle, especially a 19 year old that’s been pretty much raised his whole life to not only think that he is special, but that he is somehow above the rules and laws that “normal” people have to abide by.

This is something that happens with lots of celebrities as they feel the stress and pressure of the spotlight and began to think of themselves as “special” and begin to lose their sense of self-awareness.

There is a tremendous amount of stress that comes along with fame, when people are always watching you and expecting you to be in character every time you are in public. Fame can turn into a lonely, isolating and mistrustful place where losing yourself happens very quickly.

The people these celebrities typically surround themselves with are usually so eager to be close to fame that when they should be telling these people “You need to slow down. You need to watch what you are doing.”, they typically don’t. Instead, they become “yes” men and women. We’ve seen this over and over again with celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

Psychologist Robert Millman created a theory called “acquired situational narcissism” to try to explain what happens when people acquire fame.

The theory basically states that when the world and the people closes to the famous person start to over praise that person and do not accurately reflect reality back to them, the celebrity stops knowing how to be in the world with other people because they are so used to being looked at that the celebrity stops learning how to be in the world with other people. They are used to everybody looking at them that they forget how to be in relationship and share equal responsibility. They become disconnected from reality, a form of narcissism where they believe they are extra “special”.

When you are surrounded by people who are willing to give you any and everything you want and not say “no” to you, it’s hard to learn how to restrain yourself. And when you have dozens if not more people around you everyday telling you how special you are, it’s hard to not start believing that. The constant praise and ability to get away with things creates a sense of entitlement that leads to worse and more extreme behaviors as these celebrities push the envelope to see just how “special” they really are.

These celebrities also tend to surround themselves with bad influences. “Yes” people who won’t tell them to stop, but will encourage their bad behavior. It is rumored that Justin Biebers dad helped block off the street in Miami so his son could drag race. If this is the case, his dad, wanting to share in the fame and fortune of his son is not likely to truly be a great parental influence out of fear that his son would push him away, which means instead of giving good fatherly advice, he is more likely to go with the flow even if the flow is against the law.

Some have asked if Justin Bieber is committing career suicide. I would say no to that. As long as he is rich and famous there are going to be fans who want to see him, even when he is doing outrageous antics. However, I’m more worried about Justin Bieber as a person. If he doesn’t start taking responsibility for himself and surrounding himself with people who aren’t afraid to reflect reality accurately back to him, he could end up in rehab, behind bars for a long time or worse.

He can definitely end up being the male version of Linsday Lohan and Britney Spears. At 19, he’s young enough to turn this whole thing around or throw it all away. I just hope out of his entire entourage there are at least some people who are grounded enough to be honest with him and that he is not too conceited or out of touch to actually listen and want to make the changes necessary to save not only his career, but his life.



Urban Outfitters Pulls “Depression” Shirt

depression-teeUrban Outfitters came under fire after it began selling this shirt that has “depression” written all over it as if depression was something to be advertised. For Urban Outfitters to initially not see anything wrong with this (they have since pulled the shirt after public outcry), shows how much society has not only minimized mental illness, but even romanticized it. Granted, Depression is the name of the clothing company out of Singapore, but Urban Outfitters no doubt knew that they were pushing the envelope when they decided to sale the shirts in their stores.

This isn’t the first time urban Outfitters has come under fire for tasteless shirts. In 2010 they had a shirt that read “Eat Less” which seemed to make light of eating disorders, and another one that read “Syringe Shot Shooters” which addiction organizations protested.

The problem with shirts like this is that they minimize and make light of serious disorders and addictions. They also make it seem “cool” to have these issues.

You don’t know how many young girls I’ve worked with who are “cutters” and while most of them had some mental instability behind their self-mutilating behaviors, at least some of them did it for attention and because it made them seem complexed. The same is true with some of the depressed teens I worked with. Some of them were indeed truly depressed, but some of them carried around the bleakness and darkness like a badge of honor.

It also, in my opinion, takes some of the responsibility away from people who have these issues and then broadcast it with these types of shirts. The type of people who would wear these shirts aren’t saying “I’m depressed and I am fighting it with all my might”, but “I am depressed so excuse my darkness”.

People who truly suffer from these disorders and addictions don’t advertise it. Teens I see who seriously self-mutilate attempt to hide it, cutting in places you wouldn’t even think of and wearing excessive clothing to cover their scars. People I’ve worked with who suffer from eating disorders hate the disorder and the fact that they have to fight it everyday or risk dying or causing other serious medical issues to themselves. How are these people supposed to feel when their condition is being advertised and sold on a t-shirt? How is it supposed to make society take their condition seriously?2010-06-03-Screenshot20100603at8_24_13AM

While these shirts may seem harmless, they are not. They are sending some hidden and unhidden messages to the public which can be dangerous. Shirts that say “Alcoholic”, “Crack Head” and “Suicidal” may seem harmless and even amusing to some, but for people who actually suffer, know or worse, have lost someone to those conditions, it is not funny.

Watch the documentary The Bridge which is a film about suicides committed by people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. You won’t see anyone who jumped to their death wearing a shirt advertising their pain or issues. Mental illness is nothing to glamorise. It is not something that can be fixed by giving someone a little more attention, but instead it takes hard work and dedication by both the person suffering from it and those that love them, including professional help and sometimes medication.

The best thing that I’ve seen come from this situation is the public outcry, for society to say that in the face of all the recent tragedies that have been linked to mental illness, we will not make light of it and forced Urban Outfitters to remove the shirts. Now only if Urban Outfitters and other companies that sale similar shirts would think about humanity more than profitability.

Study Links Shows Like 16 And Pregnant To A Drop in Teenage Pregnancy

Unhappy Baby and MotherThere have been times I’ve been critical of shows like 16 and Pregnant because I thought that they glamorize teenage pregnancy by exploiting the teenage girls on the show and even making celebrities out of some of them.

Having worked in a high school in the past with a fairly high rate of teenage pregnancy, I knew that teenage pregnancy wasn’t glamorise at all. All of the girls I worked with in the high school who became pregnant eventually dropped out. Some dropped out only to have another kid a year later.

In my article Young, Poor and Pregnant I discuss some of the downsides of programming like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, but a new study called “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing” which was written by Melissa S. Kearny of the University of Maryland and Phillip B. Levine from Wellesley College, found that 18 months after the shows introduction, teen birth rates actually dropped 5.7 percent in 2010. According the New York Times, that 5.7 drop is an estimated 20,000 teenage births prevented.

The study also showed that using Neilson ratings, in areas where the show was highly popular, the rates of teenage pregnancies declined the fastest.

During their study, the authors found that search engine searches and tweets about  birth control and abortion grew significantly after the show was introduced. While I have written about some of the negatives of the show, I was surprised and happy to see that it had benefits that show that teenage girls aren’t as brainwashed and reality TV obsessed as some of us adults like to think. In fact, the study shows that many teenage girls can look at shows like this and not glamorize it, but recognize that they don’t want their lives to be as complicated, crazy or hard as most of the teenage moms on the shows.

One of the benefits of shows about teenage mothers is that they discuss an issue that is often shied away from and more accurately show the true effects of being a teenage mom, better than any sex education class or most lectures could. No one is totally crediting shows about teenage moms as the sole reason for the decline in teenage pregnancy. The rate of teenage pregnancy has been on the decline over the last 20 years and things such as the recession also bring the birth rate down.

However, what the show does do is make it more real so that teens can see that real teenage motherhood may not be the fairytale that they may imagine it will be (“now he will stay with me”, “I’ll feel more loved and supported”, etc.).  These shows alone aren’t enough to continue to prevent teenage pregnancy. There still needs to be good sex education and parental guidance. One potential negative of the show is that in the study there was a trend for teenage girls who watched the show heavily to perceive the teenage mothers as having easier lives and still have time to be a kid, which usually isn’t the reality. For the most part,  the one thing we can take away from this study is that teenage girls are more capable of learning from other teenagers mistakes than we may have given them credit for in the face of so much reality TV where the bad girls are celebrated and consequences seem few and far between.

Relationship Beliefs: Destiny Belief Versus Growth Belief

Tools-happy-couple-istockWhen it comes to relationships, what we believe about relationships and how they should be plays a major role in how we perceive and behave in them.

We all have preexisting beliefs about how we think relationships should ideally form. Some of those ideals can be very rigid, to the point that they keep us from entering and appreciating otherwise great people because they do not fit into our idealized image.

For example, many people look for that “special someone”, but that “special someone” has to almost perfectly fit into their preexisting beliefs. Maybe he has to be exactly six feett, six inches tall, or she has to have perfect blonde hair or has never been intimate with anyone else.

Even the ideal about the way we meet that “special someone” can influence us.

In college, there were many people I knew who expected to meet their “ideal partner” in school and most didn’t. Many tried hard to make relationships that weren’t compatible work, simply because of their beliefs. Many others left college disappointed, thinking that they will never find true love if it didn’t happen the way they thought it should have, in college so many relationships they entered after school they did so half heartedly and didn’t make much effort in sustaining them, at least initially.

Most of these people subscribed to what is called a destiny belief when it comes to relationships, meaning that they thought people were either meant for each other or not. I too believe in this to some extent, but some people believe in this so much that they believe little to no work has to be done in a relationship because if it were destined to happen, then it would magically just work.

People who have been in successful long term relationships and marriages can tell you that successful relationships take work. They don’t just magically happen. It takes compromising, understanding, negotiating, letting go, determination, love and a host of other tools to make a relationship work.

Most people who understand this and are in happy, long term relationships believe more in a growth belief where relationships have to be cultivated and developed through mutual experiences, which may include conflict. They understand that not everything is always going to be perfect, but even then there are opportunities to communicate, learn and grow with their partner, in their relationship and within themselves.

People who believe more in the destiny belief generally go out of their way to make a good impression during the initial stages of a relationship, and are constantly on the look out for signs that this person may not be “the one” so that they can move on to someone else. This sensitivity to signs that a relationship may not work out very early on can be helpful, but it can also be very detrimental as they often quickly rule out potentially great partners over the smallest of perceived slights or flaws.

For instance, a woman whose ideal mate is always well-kempt, is in a new, promising relationship with someone who is “perfect” so far, notices one day that he has dirty finger nails, may see that as a sign that he is not  the man for her and may end the relationship. They belief it is one “perfect” person out there for them and will reject any other partners that are even slightly flawed.

On the other hand, people who believe in growth belief place less emphasize on initial interactions and feelings, but want to develop understanding and closeness overtime to see how compatible they are with an individual. Even when faced with flaws, they will continue to see if they can live with those flaws as the relationship evolves through challenges, difficulties and resolutions.

For example, an argument might break up a couple if both of the individuals are heavily vested in destiny belief, while if both individuals are heavily vested in growth belief, the same argument can help them grow closer.

Both growth belief and destiny belief are viewed on a scale. People can be either high or low on that scale and I am not saying either belief is better. I for one used to be very high on the destiny belief scale, but as I have grown and had different experiences, I am much higher on the growth belief scale with a little destiny belief still in my heart.

I definitely believe in destiny and that some people and relationships are meant to be for one reason or another, but I also believe that without the willingness to work at and grow in a relationship, it most likely will not work. I do not go into a relationship thinking that this person is “perfect” and I don’t have to do anything to make our relationship successful. I go into a relationship thinking, this person seems worth investing my time and energy in (flaws and all)and if it’s destined, we will work out.

How do you feel when it comes to relationships? Are you more on the destiny side or the growth side, and if so, how high or low are you on those scales?