Would Rihanna's name be on any list we might make of celebrities whose self-esteem we thought was at risk of shattering?
After all, this is the skin-baring, selfie-snapping superstar who was photographed yesterday at an LA Clippers game groping her left breast through a flimsy top while wearing a huge "R" pendant and beaming broadly. ("Rihanna can't take her eyes off... herself," reads the caption for that photo in one newspaper.) Rihanna inhabits an income level that allows her to put one of her several houses on the market for $15 million. Her tweets to her over 35 million Twitter followers aren't exactly self-effacing, as evinced by this typical recent one --
"... I'm talking Rih ... I'm talking B ... [N-word] I'm talking me!"
But news broke this week that Rihanna has sought professional "confidence counseling" in an effort to combat "low self-esteem issues," according to the UK's Daily Mirror.
The star "enrolled for sessions with psychologist Natalie Thomas ahead of her performance at London’s Westfield Stratford City, for which she was paid a cool £500,000" -- about US$1 million, the DM reports.
"A source said: 'Rihanna was incredibly nervous ahead of her November 2012 Westfield gig because there was a lot of pressure on her. Her appearance fee had already been reported and she didn’t want to be a disappointment.
“She saw Natalie who advised her on how to cope and gave her a few techniques and tricks for dealing with that stress, and on building up her confidence. She helped restore Rihanna’s self-esteem and shed her inner critic.”
The singer described her struggles during an interview after the concert, which drew some 20,000 viewers.
"My way probably won't work for most people but the more I got naked the more comfortable I got," she said, according to the International Business Times.
"I just had to face my fear. You always find something wrong, you always find something you're uncomfortable with, and one thing turns into another and you get embarrassed and self-conscious about it – you feel like everybody can see what you see."
Then again, this is the same star who made a different type of headlines after being savagely beaten by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown in 2009.
After that shocking incident, Rihanna told interviewer Diane Sawyer that it was not the first beating and that it takes not just one but “eight or nine incidents of domestic violence before one leaves an abusive relationship."
Three years after the famous abuse case, Rihanna and Brown were a couple again. Rihanna accompanied Brown to a probation hearing, blowing kisses at him. Asked by a Rolling Stone interviewer why she had reunited with her abuser, she explained:
“I decided it was more important for me to be happy. ... Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake. ... I’d rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it.”
Could she? The pair aren't together today. But being paid £500,000 to perform for tens of thousands of strangers after having been beaten bloody by the man she told Oprah Winfrey was her "best friend" could be very conflicting indeed. As detailed in my new book Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself, all of us who struggle with low self-esteem tend to have issues around what we do and do not "deserve." And while some of us manage our self-loathing in public by draping ourselves in shapeless layers, others do exactly the opposite. Flaunting flesh -- and groping it for paparazzi -- could mean, "Look at me! I'm hot!"
But it could also mean, even when done by a multimillionaire superstar, "Look at me. Please tell me, because in spite of everything I really do not know: Am I hot???"