Tab Hunter was right when he said, “I don’t care whether people like me or dislike me. I’m not on earth to win a popularity contest. I’m here to be the best human being I possibly can be.” Popularity, and the opinions of others, are toxic and sadly some people, even powerful ones, are addicted to popularity and approval. All too often, the pursuit of being popular leads us away from our goal, being the best human we can possibly be.
You’ve met popularity-addicted people before. Their primary concern in life is how many people applaud their efforts, how many followers and friends they have, how large the crowd is, or how many pats on the back they get. What they never tell you is that regardless of their popularity no amount of praise or popularity will ever be enough. Ecclesiastes 1:7 speaks of this kind of ego-driven agenda, “All the rivers flow to the sea, but the sea is never full.”
Inside the egotist’s soul is a missing love, a message of acceptance and worth that eluded them – for whatever reason – during childhood or at some key juncture in their spiritual, social, or psychological development. And the consequences are devastating. Worse than their popularity-addiction is the formation of easily bruised ego and ultra-sensitivity to criticism. The smallest slight – real or imagined – sends them into a loud, diffuse, aimless rage leading them to lash out. No one is safe from their wrath. Their only loyalty is to their self-perception. At root, the egotist needs to believe you think they’re great, in the hopes that they will think they are good. They think little of themselves and want you to tell them that they’re wrong.
The true pity of the popularity-addicted is that their every action is a scream to be accepted. The tragedy is that neither me nor you are capable of giving them what that need. Because we can’t, their behavior becomes more erratic and extreme as they search to fulfill a need they refuse to admit they have, yet is driving their words and actions. In it’s worst form, the approval-driven will hurt the weak and vulnerable in the hopes that folks they perceive as powerful and meaningful will shower them with acclaim.
Thinking of someone? Maybe the popularity-addicted person you know isn’t a distant friend or family member. Maybe it’s you. So what can you do to break your popularity addiction?
First, you need to come to terms with the fact that no human can give you want you crave. Others just aren’t capable of giving you what you need. We aren’t equipped to make up for the love you’re missing. More than one marriage has devolved because one partner demanded a kind of love and attention no human has the power to give another.
Second, orient your life around God, the only One who can give you what you need. People will let you down, even when they don’t want to. The love you missed doesn’t have to be missed forever, but no one, save God, can provide it. Anything less is looking for love in all the wrong places. Until you start here, life will serve you nothing but heartbreak. Other people can’t tell you your true worth. Don’t ask them to.