Forget Will Smith, we’re the stars of our own lives
What it would mean to share our own stories
I’ve been fascinated by the swell of public commentary about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars and how this event overtook news headlines for a whole week.
I’m not going to talk about what Will Smith should or shouldn’t have done and what the Slap reveals about our society.
I’m more interested in why the public is so interested in the first place.
When I moved back to the US after being abroad for eight years, I was struck by how common it was for people to talk about celebrities as if we know them personally. I've since realized how much easier it is to dissect celebrities’ inner thoughts and motives than it is to voluntarily share our own.
The Slap captured our attention because, at some basic level, we can all relate. We have most likely witnessed someone we love be hurt by someone else, forcing us to decide how to respond.
In a way, we can safely reveal our opinions by commenting on the actions of celebrities. We project ourselves in their situations and ask: what would I have done?
Ask Yourself: How often do you bring up the misunderstandings you’ve experienced or the mistakes you’ve made with others? Have you shared it to get advice? Or just when you needed someone to listen to you? Have you ever shared in hopes you’d hear a different perspective or interpretation?
Celebrities don't have the luxury of hiding their mess-ups.
We witnessed Smith go from rage to denial to depression to acceptance and shame in a matter of days. The public scrutiny forced Smith to process his emotions faster and perhaps apologize sooner to Chris Rock instead of nursing his hurt emotions.
Celebrities have to contend with public scrutiny of their actions. Part of the reason why it’s hard for us ordinary people to process our mistakes is that we are often too embarrassed to talk about them. Or because we think people will give us advice we don’t really want or need, especially if we feel misunderstood. Moreover, a lot of people don’t know how to share their perspectives without also giving advice.
When you invite different people to comment on something you did, you’ll increase your own self-awareness and it will force you to process your emotions faster.
Recently, I made some major missteps preparing for and then giving a presentation of my work. Not surprisingly, some audience members reacted negatively. I recounted what happened with friends, making it clear that I was sharing what I learned, not just looking for advice, and that I wanted to hear their take.
Their reactions and interpretations varied and all added insights I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Some even shared their own vulnerable, related experiences. Their stories help me reflect deeper and see things I hadn’t before. My self-awareness grew. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t invited them in.
Revealing our mistakes is the first step. Asking others to become our audience and provide public scrutiny is the next step.
We don't need to discuss what celebrities should or shouldn't do as a proxy for our own feelings. We can use our own experiences as examples.
We are the stars of our own lives.