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What is the Link Between Fame and Happiness?

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Is there an optimal level of success and peace? The past two days we've focused on the relationships between economic success and happiness, job title and happiness, and today we're exploring fame and happiness based on the idea of the American Dream (a white picket fence, a well-paying job and high social status).

Fame and happiness

Fame is deeply attractive because it brings significant benefits like access to places and people, however fame comes at a cost. When examining the link between fame and happiness, I thought a good starting point would be to look at the personality types of the average famous person. A study form USC showed famous people tend to be more narcissitic than the general population.

Thomas Aquinas wrote in the 13th century, “Happiness is in the happy. But honor is not in the honored.” Whether the chicken or the egg came first isn't clear, but what is clear is that famous people can face problems like close interpersonal relationships which are necessary for longevity and release seratonin in the brain.

So famous people are more likely to be narcissitic, does this mean they're less likely to be happy? Not necessarily. Some old school theorists claim narcissism is associated with unhappiness (e.g. Kernberg, 1975, Lasch, 1979, Reich, 1954) but there is more recent research on Personality and Individual Diferences from the University of Buffalo suggesting only some narcissists, covert narcissists*, are unhappy.

*"Covert narcissism (also known as vulnerable narcissism) is the more introverted side of Narcisstic Personality Disorder (NPD). A covert narcissist experiences the same insecurities as an overt narcissist, but internalizes their self-importance, often while hyper-focusing on their need for attention." (Cleaveland Clinic) - if you want to know more about NPD head to Dr. Ramani Durvasula's channel on YouTube

What is optimal?

I don't think there's a clear optimal point of success and fulfilment, but maybe we can look back to Western culture where most everyone else is doing well relative to the rest of the world to pinpoint problems and pitfalls so you can avoid them.

I think the question has shifted from "What is optimal?", to "What is definetly not optimal?"

My fingers are tired now though, so we’ll be doing that tomorrow. Make sure you follow me and sign up for my email list if you want to know the answers I find.

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