At a media interaction at the Hindustan Times office, actor Aamir Khan memorably recounted his experience of achieving overnight fame after the success of his debut movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT). “I used to play cricket in the building, and would always get yelled at by the watchman, who would tell me that the other residents didn’t want their cars damaged,” said the superstar. “But after QSQT released, those same residents would instruct that watchman that if I wanted to play cricket, they would move their cars so that I could play in peace.”
Khan’s anecdote provides just one insight of how life can change for people once they achieve fame. But while there are many books on how to handle failure, success can also bring with it an equal number of challenges – which need to be dealt with.
The Insecurity Files
Experts agree that it can be equally important and difficult to handle success. Says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Seema Hingorrany, “Even successful people come in for therapy.”
According to Dr Kersi Chavda, consulting psychiatrist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, a sudden burst of fame is often accompanied by insecurity. “There is this near constant paranoia about whether their friends and people close to them are with them because they really like them or because they want something from them. That is what often brings them in for therapy,” he adds.
Hingorrany also feels that one of the problems successful people face is that once the desired goal is achieved, it tends to go to their head. “It is important to keep your arrogance levels down,” she explains. According to her, while people are pursuing their dream, they are very driven, and can lose many friends as they cannot compartmentalise their life. “Once success is achieved, the person’s tone, manners, clothes change, and that can cause friction,” says Chavda. At such a time, the successful person must remember that they need to show discretion and wisdom, and in effect always take a few steps forward first. “You must say ‘good morning’ first,” adds Hingorrany.
Illustration: Tejas Modak
Singer Meiyang Chang, who first shot to fame when he attained the fifth spot in Indian Idol 3 in 2007, acknowledges that staying grounded is very necessary.
“It’s easy to get carried away when people flatter you,” says the TV host and actor. “I was determined not to let anything change me, but a little bit of corruption did seep in. However, you have to keep monitoring yourself, since no one else will do that for you. The other day, on the sets of a show, I threw a fit about something, but in retrospect, I thought how childish I had been and was sorry about it.”
It’s the support of friends and family that many famous people come to count on. Says Chang, “I’m lucky to have my family and friends, and also I tend to undervalue myself. It’s not a defeatist attitude, but it does stop me from building castles in the air.”
Pooja Dhingra, the owner of Mumbai-based French patisserie Le15, says that it is very easy to be consumed by success. “When I started Le15 two years ago,” she says, “I worked 365/7, and came close to burning out. I then realised that it was important to achieve a balance, and have learned to take a step back, and delegate responsibilities sooner than later.”
Dealing with envy
Along with the hard work came some envy. “There were people who would say that all the success was a fluke,” says Dhingra. “They would say – we’ve been working for 20 years and she has just been working for two. My strategy is to work harder and ignore them.”
Dr Hingorrany says that successful people need to recognise why people are jealous and not get affected by it.
“Even a person’s family and spouse are not immune from such feelings,” she reveals. “They see you changing – and that is not acceptable to many. This can drain a successful person, but the important thing is to recognise that jealousy is natural and give them time.”
According to Hingorrany, the saying that it’s lonely at the top is too true. “Since successful people are always in the limelight, people take them for granted,” she explains.
Keep wanting more
Both Chang and Dhingra say that one way to deal with success is to “stay a little hungry,” as Chang puts it. “You must hanker for more creative satisfaction,” he explains. According to Dhingra, if you get complacent, “You will get stagnant.” You need to set new goals, she adds.
How to stop being used
One side effect of your success is that you may get into a situation where family and friends begin to take advantage of you. This is actually a very common problem, says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Seema Hingorrany.
“It is hard for people to maintain a balance, especially if in the first flush of having money, they have bought expensive gifts for people close to them. The secret is to not be afraid to put your foot down if a person become too demanding.”
From HT Brunch, March 4
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