3 Reasons Not To Idolize And What To Do Instead

reasons-not-to-idolizeIt’s time to admit it. We all idolize something, but it’s not always such a great idea. Let me rephrase that.. 99% of the time, it’s a pretty darn terrible idea.

Sure, idolization is great in one way, because it can be a driving force that enables you to improve. But the fact is that you rarely get to see the whole picture. And what you end up following, is a projected version of the idol, a version that you created in your own mind.

It Can Lead You Astray

While there are a variety of people that inspire me to be better, I find it more beneficial to keep it as such, a variety. Never singling out anyone that I particularly aspire to be like. When you try to force yourself to fit within the confines of the character of your interpretation of your idol, weird things can happen. You can end up forcing yourself down a path you have no real interest in, blinded by the life that you think your idol leads.

It doesn’t really have to be a particular person either. You can idolize a concept, or a lifestyle. A few years back, I had gotten tired of my awkward, over-analyzing ways and decided to make myself into a stereotypical douchebag. I started working out, getting drunk several times a week, but it never clicked. I never managed to be as carefree as I had imagined them to be. Then, to my surprise, some of the douchier friends I made during the process, seemed to actually share some of the concerns and troubles I had had all along. Leaving me to wonder whether there really was such a thing as a carefree douchebag, short of a complete egomaniac, and so I moved on.

While not exactly the story of following a great idol, it’s an example of how it can be hard to predict whether or not the lifestyle you idolize is actually something you would enjoy. Some successful actors and musicians have been known to express their distaste for many aspects of their life of fame.. and many a newlywed is surprised at what their lives actually entail as time goes on.

It Can Make You Overlook What You’re Doing Right

Idolization can not only lead you astray, and have you doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, you can end up missing the things that you’re actually doing right.

It’s easy to get so hung up on the idea of how you think things should be, that you ignore the things that are actually working great for you. A great example of this is people that are living far beyond their means, because they’ve idolized that lifestyle, and think that it’s their only way to happiness.. when in fact, keeping their expenses low and living in the smaller apartment, was actually what could have helped lead to a better life down the road.

My idolization of the “making money online” lifestyle, was a large reason for why I quit my first job, although in fact it probably put me further off achieving my main goal, which was traveling the world next year.

It Can Keep You From Learning

Perhaps the worst side-effect, is that it makes it hard to keep an open mind. When people speak out against what you idolize, it is incredibly easy to just brush aside as “hate”, and just keep on going. And while sometimes, people will offer criticism for no particular reason, and definitely not with your best interests in mind, sometimes that’s not the case. Depending on how far you’re along in your journey, separating helpful criticism from bullshit is an important skill to have, because it can change your perspective in a way that allows you to get to where you want to be faster.

What To Do Instead:

Now that you’ve managed to let go of your idolizing ways, you’re more than halfway there. But that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down just yet.

Follow Your Goals, But Keep An Open Mind
Don’t be afraid to make changes to your approach when you face concerns about what you are currently doing. Of course the worst thing to do, is never really focusing, always jumping from one idea to the other, but the second worst is blindly following a path into oblivion.

Forget Idols, Get Mentors
And I don’t mean someone you don’t really know or care about that you pay to tell you what to do. I mean someone you know and admire, someone who obviously knows more about what you want to achieve than you do, and can offer not only insight but hands-on guidance when you most need it.

If you’re not quite sure what you want to pursue yet, don’t worry. You don’t have to choose a mentor in a specific field, sometimes the most interesting and invaluable information a mentor can give you, is about the approach, processes and the mindset.. not the subject at hand.

Find Like-Minded Peers
While the drive idolization can give you is good, it’s nowhere near a substitute for the support of like-minded friends. Times where an idol would have led you down to a dead-end with no way out, such friends can provide you with the support you need to claw your way out of difficult situations, and even avoid them.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that while the support can keep you going when things get tough.. it is important to know when things are going nowhere. Depending on your friends, they might tell you of their own volition, or you might have to ask for their honest opinion. Although major decisions might be better to confer with your mentor about.

Trust Your Gut
Sometimes, when all else fails, your gut saves the day. It’s not easy to understand, or explain, but the important thing here is to not confuse rationalization with an actual gut feeling. When you’re getting tired, and you just want to quit, it’s easy to think it’s a gut feeling and just give in. I’ve made that mistake several times, and it’s not always easy to spot, but it gets easier with time.

Trusting yourself and trusting others doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, just make sure you surround yourself with the right people.

If you have something on your mind, share it in a comment, and if you enjoyed the post/found it useful feel free to share.

The picture is of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. I ended up visiting the temple 3 times, once when I first came to Kyoto, which is when I took this particular picture. Once with a few friends on a sightseeing spree, and the last time when my family came to visit.

8 Responses

  1. jamie flexman November 5, 2013 / 8:19 am

    Hi Ragnar, I enjoyed this quite a bit because I recognised a lot of friends (and myself) here. One thing that made me chuckle was the part about living beyond your means. I had a flatmate who was, what I would call, a ’30k millionaire’.

    He had a decent income and a fair few credit cards and he would always hit the clubs, buy bottle service, spend £250 a night and all because he wanted to act like the guys on Entourage.

    Personally, I do idolise the idea of freedom. Earning money online while I am free to move around the world. Time will tell if that will damage me in the long term.

    • ragnar November 5, 2013 / 8:32 am

      Yeah man, I know exactly where you’re coming from. One of my friends straight out BOUGHT an expensive Mercedes after he graduated… now he has to wait like 10 extra years before he can buy an apartment.

  2. SJ Scott November 5, 2013 / 1:57 pm


    Great point. On one hand there is a few good thing to get from idolization; when you treat it more as a role model or even better as a mentor. But as you pointed out, this can be a slippery slope and it is far better to use others as an aspiration but find your own actual means of reaching what you desire.

    Even when the thing or person you idolize really is as good as it seems we are all individuals and everyone needs to find their own way -building on their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

  3. cj November 6, 2013 / 2:31 am

    Ragnar!!! Another fine post, my man. As a musician, it would be a simple thing to get too tied up with Bach or Beethoven or Bartok, but there are so many greats that learning from only one makes no sense. My compositions reflect my listening to and emulating many composers, and in the process, making my own sinister and sickening style.

  4. richmiraclefiles November 13, 2013 / 12:00 pm

    Hi Ragnar,
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    Idolising is in no way uplifting for a progressive individual.
    Let me explain why:-
    1.when you idolise you suspend your own thinking.
    2.You depend on the idol to please you.
    3.You stop growing for the duration when you’re deep in “idolism”.
    4.it is denigrating to your own self worth and personal dignity ,when you blindly idolise someone,anyone.

    Here,i caution,I’m not against admiration.Admiration and appreciation is positive.It speaks of encouragement,and acknowledgement.It has the potential of inspiration and emulation.All of this leads to growth,progress,and evolution for yourself.
    But idolsim,no growth.A lot of stagnation,and mesmerised shallowness.

  5. Steve November 14, 2013 / 9:38 pm

    Hi Ragnar, you make really great points. Idolizing can have some pretty negative drawbacks to it. We can get caught up in a person/lifestyle/idea or whatever and see things for how we think they are rather than what they really are. While I don’t think it’s bad to idolize something, you have to balance it out and take a realistic approach to those things. Otherwise, it can throw you off balance.

    You mention the “making money online” lifestyle as an example. I think that’s perfect because I know way too many people who take unrealistic views of what they think it’s all about. Almost always, they’re wrong. And when they try it out for themselves, they hit reality and it can hurt.

  6. Randy November 15, 2013 / 1:41 am

    Hi Ragnar…Great post! No fluff, straight to the point and so fact-filled it’s hard to comment without repeating the point you’ve already made.

    Good stuff!


    • ragnar November 16, 2013 / 4:46 pm

      I don’t know about being fact-filled but I feel like a lot of what I write taps into common sense, thanks for stopping by Randy!

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