Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

Envy and the Glamorous Life: The Academy Awards Are Here!

Be mindful of social comparison theory while watching the Oscars.

Watching the academy awards can be great fun if you love movies and the lives of Hollywood celebrities but we all should be cautious that we don’t engage in upward social comparison and the resulting envy and depression that goes along with it.

Oscar time can certainly be a lot of fun. Cheering for your favorite films and Hollywood celebrities, checking out what the glamorous gals are wearing on the red carpet, and hearing about all of the fabulous award preparations and after parties can be engrossing for sure. Plus, what a great distraction in the middle of a cold and dark winter.

Yet, we also must be mindful that all of the Oscar hoopla doesn’t turn into comparing these glamorous lives with our own. Social comparison theory informs us that we all have a tendency to observe the lives of others and then make ongoing judgments about the quality of our lives based on upward or downward social comparison. Focusing on the lives and lifestyles of the Hollywood stars can make us feel pretty depressed about our own. They have so much more beauty, money, fame, and attention than any of us will ever see. On the surface they have lives that are the envy of just about everyone. This is one of the reasons why so many people enjoy good Hollywood gossip so much. It tends to humanize the stars and suggests that even with all of their beauty, fame, critical acclaim, money, and success these celebrities have big problems and major stressors too…just like us! The troubles that celebrities find themselves in (e.g., Lindsay Lohan) underscore the notion that happiness isn’t a by-product of money, fame, and success. This can be reassuring for us regular folks making our own lives look pretty good afterall.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

So enjoy the academy awards but don’t compare your life to those featured on the big (or small) screen. If you count your blessings, are grateful for your own life, and embrace the good in it even if you don’t win an academy award you’ll be a star for sure!

So, what do you think?

Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

more...

Subscribe to Do the Right Thing

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?