In 2011, we've watched Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Senator Andrew Weiner and Amy Winehouse (among others) turn fast-paced careers into train wrecks.
Winehouse's problems with drug and alcohol abuse, violence and other self-destructive behavior were regular tabloid fodder and the subject of public scorn until her death July 23, 2011.
I wonder if she would have died so young if her personal indiscretions didn’t become international news.
It pains me to see artists, who create perhaps the highest form of human expression through their craft, derail their careers and their ability to do what they do best. Their contributions serve the greater good of all in the form of beauty, entertainment and inspiration.
We don't realize that for many, the greater the success the more pressure there is to stay on top in everything done or said.
Such near perfection is an impossible achievement and it leaves very little room to grow or create — the very things that drive the human spirit. This is perhaps why once celebrities hit their peak, their encore is too often a relationship disaster, financial or legal problems or a health issue that could have easily been avoided.
To add insult to such personal injury the public loves to point fingers, ridicule and delight in the downfall of a high-profile person.
Like a line dance at a drunken wedding, we love to jump in on the Shadenfreude travesty. We laugh and strut like peacocks with the feeling of our own superiority.
After all, if those who have the multi-million dollar homes, wildly successful careers and dream relationships screw up their lives then we can feel better about ourselves, our life and competence.
Recently Sheen hosted the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, an event hosted for horror-rap duo Insane Clown Posse’s infamously rowdy fans. Audience members jeered and threw alls kinds of stuff at him during the festival. It’s interesting to me how these angry people don’t like the pissed off person in Sheen.
Celebrities aren't the only ones to self-sabotage. We all do from time to time in one way or another. We get in our own way. We miss or mismanage our opportunities. We make a woefully misguided decision that results in an awful outcome. And we get to behave this way in private.
TMZ is not interested in what someone who isn't newsworthy has to say or do. The public isn't interested either. We expect 'normal' people to screw up because we screw up.
Compassion, the recognition of a common denominator between people, is the key to mitigating self-sabotage on any level.
In a compassionate world there isn't a gut wrenching fear of not being good, worthy or talented enough. There's no self-fulfilling prophecy of being judged, criticized or shamed.
We recognize that each and every one of us is doing the best he or she can with the light we have to see. Yes, sometimes we forget to put batteries in our flashlight and we wander around in the dark, bumping into walls. We get bruised.
We share the experience of personal falls from grace. When we're flat on our back, embarrassed or ashamed we'd like others to show us some kindness and empathy. We'd like someone to come along and help us ease our suffering. Why, then, don't we offer the same humanity to celebrities? Are they not human? Can't they bleed? Remember, the word compassion is not synonymous with the word condone. Having empathy and a desire to alleviate any form of discomfort isn't the same thing and making allowances for or pardoning really bad acts.
Instead of focusing upon the differences between the "haves and the have less," let's mindfully recognize what we have in common. We all have self-defeating behaviors, automatic defense mechanisms, compulsions, addictions and bad habits.
On the positive side, we all need food and shelter. We want recognition and happiness. Most importantly we all need love and a sense of belonging and connection. When we express contemptuous laughter for someone it is our own insecurities that's doing the taunting.
Our ego becomes the bully in the schoolyard who kicks the child who's already fallen on the ground. One raging ego points the finger at another raging ego.
Instead of recognizing the differences between others and ourselves people let’s acknowledge what we have in common.
By helping others process their emotional pain we heal our own. The more we rise to the occasion to show compassion, achieve a higher level of emotional intelligence, the more we will all be able to transcend hidden or overt self-sabotage.
I look forward to the day, and what can be realized, when we applaud personal achievement at least as much as we deride human blunders.