A Kenyan television personality was recently under fire for posting stolen photos on her Instagram page and implying that she took them herself and was sharing her life with her followers.
A year ago, it was a Nigerian actress in the hot seat – she had posted photos of an American celebrity’s puppies in a Range Rover and shared them as her own.
Sadly, this Kenyan celebrity is not alone — what she did is done by many, perhaps including some of those who shouted their judgment loudest.
People who want to identify themselves with a given social class, or who seek approval from the masses, or who desire excessive amounts of admiration — more than they would normally get — suffer from a narcissistic personality disorder and a low self-esteem.
There are no official diagnosis criteria for low self-esteem in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), which we psychologists use to diagnose disorders.
However, according to the Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas, low self-esteem generally presents itself in three ways: rebellion (not “giving a damn” what others think), victim-hood (self-pity to avoid the responsibility of changing a situation) and the imposter syndrome, which is what was displayed by this celebrity.
People suffering from the imposter syndrome use their accomplishments and false confidence to cover up insecurities. They fear that their flawed selves will be exposed if they fall.
They feel the need to be the best, fear failure, struggle with perfectionism, expect to be recognized as superior and are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
Low self-esteem is mostly rooted in childhood experiences. The absence of love, affirmation, guidance, protection and limits, which are all necessities in childhood, cause children to form identities of feeling bad about themselves. These identities, if not resolved, are carried through to adulthood.
The need to feel accepted and loved, and to uplift one’s self esteem, continues, and a person may then turn to social media to find followers — “friends” — who are not really friends in real life. They form a lifestyle that does not exist. Bullying, insults, failing, and job loss are factors that can aggravate this.
It shocked us all that such a well put together celebrity, one whom many women wanted to emulate, and one who had, in fact, started a movement to inspire girls, felt the need to fake her lifestyle. What she did was not right.
But we are all different. People have had different upbringings in varied environments. You cannot tell, from a person’s face or social media posts, if he or she was traumatised physically, sexually or emotionally as a child, or if he or she is still healing or has not fully healed from the effects which manifest in “shocking” or “surprising” behaviour, as those from the outside looking in may refer to it.
Rather than judge, we should use our various capacities to help these people. They are suffering to fit in a society and to them, proof of success is the approval of others.
If we know the root cause(s) of their issues, we should help them restructure their perceptions about themselves by showing them that the negative messages or responses they got in childhood should not put them down, or were triggered by the circumstances that the person was in and have no part in determining who they really are and how far they can get in life.
If you are suffering from the imposter syndrome, please release your desire for approval. At the end of the day, nobody really cares that much how successful you are.
Just like they will soon forget about this celebrity’s slip, they will not keep your new car or posh salad, be it real or fake, in their minds for long.
Accept who and where you are, what is attainable, and what you can accomplish. Recognize and accept your actual abilities and potential, so that you can tolerate and learn from criticism and failure.
Assess yourself, and focus on what drives you to compete with others and to despise yourself and people. Above all, seek help from a therapist. It will do you a world of good.
Ms Nanzala is a psychologist and a mental health writer at WriteMotive