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The Difference Between Healthy Esteem and Idolization

There are many characteristics and traits that are worthy of gaining the respect of peers. Work ethic, tenacity, discipline, and integrity are just a few characteristics that make a person well-liked and respected. It puts the individual into a space of indirect mentorship for those who believe in and admire their talent/craft/discipline. Esteem and careful admiration are mentally healthy and gives onlookers goals that they can aspire to. There is a “can do” attitude that is encouraging to others and displays an example of beautiful possibilities even when faced with adversities.

On the other hand, idolization is dangerous to your mental health, physical health, and overall spiritual well-being. Idolizing another human being is not a healthy dose of respect, but it is worship of that individual. You become enslaved by their words, actions, and ideologies which begins to give them power over you, your thought processes, and even how you visualize yourself. This can lead to low self-esteem, compromised confidence, and perfectionism in creative individuals.

Statements of Healthy Esteem for Another Person

1) “I really admire their dedication to the task.”

2) “If they can do it, I can do it!”

3) “The work ethic that she has is great! It encourages me to be better.”

4) “I am inspired by watching this interview.”

5) “He is so talented. I love his work.”

Statements/Ideologies of Unhealthy Idolatry

1) “Everything that he does is flawless. I will never be able to accomplish those things!”

2) “I wish I could be more like her. Her work makes me feel incompetent.”

3) “My desire to work with them supersedes anything else in life.”

4) “I would to anything to meet them! They are so beautiful!”

5) “My work never measures up to him/her. They are just better than me.”

Self-defeating language is a strong indicator of idolatry in your life. We all have individuals that we look up to and their abilities, characteristics, and personality traits can propel us into aspirations that are manageable and obtainable. However, if you feel “less than” someone or obsessed with them you have moved into a state of idolatry of that individual. Some ways to remove yourself from idolatry are:

1) Never look at anyone as “perfect”. Perfection doesn’t exist among humans, no matter how good someone is at something.

2) Remember that we are now in the age of somewhat being plastic. Social media post, stories, and filters create a flawless narrative but is unrealistic.

3) Never feel as though you are “less than”. Just because you are not famous doesn’t mean that you are less talented.

4) Remember that you never know how a person truly obtained what they have.

5) Concern yourself with your craft by working on it, not measuring yourself up to others.

6) Understand that even the people that you honor the most are human beings. They have hopes, dreams, fears, and bad days just like anyone else. They also answer to a higher power just like everyone else does.

7) The scale should be the same for everyone regarding morality and conduct in your eyes. For example, if something is wrong it is wrong for everyone no matter who they are.

From a standpoint of faith, there are many religious writings that condemn idolatry and the results of it. From a Christian worldview, the bible states in Exodus 20:3 thou shall have no other gods before me and in Isaiah 46:5 to whom will ye liken me, and make me equal (KJV)? The lifting up of another individual to a place of untouchable stature is worship, and this is spiritually and mentally hazardous. God is the only one that belongs in that space in your mind and heart, and therefore you must be careful that you are not allowing anyone else into that sacred position. The more you remove yourself from idolatrous behaviors and mindsets, the more you free yourself to listen to your own creative processes.

Written by Angelia Williams, MS

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