Living Vicariously Through Someone: The Good, Bad, & How to Stop It

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As a child, there were a few celebrities I imagined being. I could see myself performing on stage like Janet Jackson, especially after Rhythm Nation hit. I could see myself in one of Arnold Swarzenegger's action films mouthing off one-liners to match his. Many of us have had similar experiences.

We've all looked up to someone at some point in our lives whether it be a musician, actor, athlete, or even a family member, and thought to ourselves, “I want to be just like them.” In other words, it can be cool to escape into the surface fantasy we have of someone's life, as long as we don't go as far as to lose ourselves.

Sometimes, people take this admiration to an extreme and begin to live vicariously through someone else.

What is Living Vicariously?

Living vicariously through someone is the act of deriving pleasure from someone else's success or happiness. While it's perfectly normal to admire someone and aspire to be like them, there is a fine line between admiration and living vicariously.

The Bad

The latter is often done with a sense of jealousy or resentment and can be detrimental to both parties involved. It can prevent you from being happy for the other person's success and lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

In the case of celebrity worship, some people have gone as far as to commit crimes to feel closer to their idols. For example, a Jody Foster fan shot Ronald Reagan in an attempt to gain her attention, a fan of actress Rebecca Schaeffer murdered her after becoming obsessed with her.

Living vicariously can also be damaging to your relationship with the other person. If you're constantly living through their accomplishments, you may never develop your own identity or sense of self-worth. This can create a codependent relationship where you rely on the other person for your happiness.

When a proud parent crosses the line into living variously through their child, it can put a lot of pressure on the child to live up to their parent's expectations. This can lead to the child feeling like they're not good enough and result in them resenting their parents. Parents involved in child pageants and little league games often showcase this unhealthy dynamic.

The Good

On the other hand, living vicariously can also have its perks. It can motivate you to achieve your own goals and make you feel good in the process. It can also help you feel connected to someone and provide a sense of purpose.

Many poor and underprivileged people have used vicarious living as a way to escape their difficult reality. For instance, they may watch wealthy people on TV and imagine what it would be like to have a better life. This can provide them with hope and motivation to work towards a better future.

In some cases, vicarious living can even lead to positive real-life interactions. For example, if you're a fan of a particular band, you may go to their concerts and meet other people who share your interest. This can help you make new friends and connect with others.

Despite its potential benefits, living vicariously through someone is generally seen as a negative behavior. This is because it often leads to feelings of envy, jealousy, insecurity, and creepy obsession. It can also prevent you from focusing on your own life and achieving real goals. The reality is, we can never know the full true story of someone else's life.

So, if you are living vicariously through an idealized version of someone, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment.

9 Ways to Stop Living Vicariously Through Other People

If you find that you're living vicariously through someone, there are a few things you can do to stop.

1. Determine Why You're Doing It

The first step is to figure out why you're living vicariously through the other person.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are you jealous of their success?
  • Do you feel like you're not good enough?
  • Do you feel like you don't have a purpose in life?

If you can identify the root of your problem, you'll be one step closer to fixing it.

2. Work on Your Own Dreams and Goals

One of the best ways to stop living vicariously through someone is to focus on your dreams and goals. Start by making a list of things you want to accomplish in life.

Then, start taking small steps towards making these dreams a reality. For example, if you are a fan of someone because of their profession, then research how to get into that field.

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One of the best ways to stop living vicariously through someone is to focus on your dreams and goals.

Fame is fleeting. So if you truly want to be an actor, musician, or artist, then focus on working in those areas and less on the funhouse version of the lives we see on TV.

If you dream of working in film and TV, start taking acting classes, writing workshops, or voice lessons. If you admire performing artists but can't sing or dance, you could consider taking up an instrument or learning to DJ.

3. Find a New Role Model

While you can still admire famous people, it's important to have a more realistic role model in your life. This is someone you can look up to without feeling jealous or inferior. For example, you may admire their work ethic, morals, or values.

Start with your parents and close friends. If you don't have anyone in mind, look for someone who is doing something you want to do with your life. Check our local community for business leaders, politicians, or activists that you may be able to connect with in real life.

4. Spend Less Time on Social Media

In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in other people's lives thanks to social media. We are constantly bombarded with photos and videos of people living their best lives. But we have to remember that social media is only a highlight reel. It's not an accurate portrayal of someone's life.

If you find that you're living vicariously through someone's social media posts, it's important to take a step back. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media each day. And when you are on it, try not to compare your life to others.

You may want to consider a “social media detox” where you take a break from social media for a set period.

In addition to spending less time on social media, you can heavily curate how you use it. Social media can be a useful tool for research and learning instead of salivating over someone else's curated life.

For example, you can go on social media to read news stories or learn new skills and then log off. YouTube can be great for learning new languages and DIY skills. Twitter can keep you updated with current events. Instagram can be a great way to find new recipes or workout routines.

By using social media in a productive way, you can minimize the negative impact it has on your life. Instead of making you feel bad about yourself, social media can be a useful tool to improve your life.

5. Spend Time with People Who Appreciate You

One of the best ways to feel good about yourself is to spend time with people who appreciate you. If you're constantly around people who are always putting you down, it's going to be hard to feel good about yourself.

On the other hand, if you're around people who make you feel good, it will be easier to focus on your own life and goals. These people will be supportive and encourage you to follow your dreams.

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One of the best ways to feel good about yourself is to spend time with people who appreciate you.

Living a full life with real people can be more rewarding than keeping up with the lives of others. As you continue to create real memories and experiences, you'll find that it's easier to let go of living vicariously.

6. Help Others

One of the best ways to forget about your own problems is to help others. When you're focused on someone else, it's easy to forget about your own struggles.

Start by volunteering in your local community. You can also look for opportunities to help friends and family members. For example, you may offer to babysit so your friend can go out on a date night.

You can also help strangers. For example, you may hold the door open for someone or pick up something they dropped. Small acts of kindness can go a long way.

7. Practice Gratitude

A great way to stop living vicariously through someone is to focus on what you're grateful for in your own life. When you're feeling jealous or down, take a moment to think about all the things you have to be thankful for.

Start a gratitude journal where you write down one thing you're grateful for each day. You may be surprised at how much you have to be thankful for when you take the time to look.

Focusing on gratitude will help you see that you have a lot to offer the world. You don't need to live vicariously through someone else because you're already living an amazing life.

8. Live in the Moment

One of the best ways to stop living vicariously through someone is to focus on the present moment. When you're living in the past or future, it's easy to forget about what's happening right now.

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One of the best ways to stop living vicariously through someone is to focus on the present moment.

Practicing mindfulness can help you appreciate the present moment and let go of negative thoughts about the past or future.

There are many different ways to practice mindfulness, but some simple techniques include: 

  • Focusing on your breathing
  • Eating mindfully
  • Taking a nature walk
  • Listening to music
  • Doing a creative activity

By living in the moment, you can appreciate the life you have right now. You don't need to live vicariously through someone else because you're already living an amazing life.

9. Discover What Makes You Unique

Do you have a funny laugh that can stop the room and make others laugh from hearing it? Can you recite all 50 states in alphabetical order? Are you one of the rare people that can write with both hands equally well? Did you recover from a rare disease?

Take some time to make a list of things that make you unique. These could be physical traits, personality traits, skills, accomplishments, or anything else that makes you special.

One of the best ways to discover what makes you unique is to ask your friends and family members. They're likely to have many great things to say about you that you may not even be aware of.

Once you have a list of things that make you unique, take some time to appreciate them. These are the things that make you who you are and they're what make your life special.

You can also look for opportunities to share your unique talents with the world. For example, you may start a blog about your passion for snail farming or join a competitive eating team.

Final Thoughts About Living Vicariously Through Someone

Living vicariously through someone else is a common behavior, but it's not always a positive one. You can admire and fantasize about others without letting it take over your real life. If you find that you're living vicariously through someone, it's important to take steps to stop this behavior.

Try experimenting with different techniques to find what works best for you. The best way to start is to look within yourself and figure out who you really are. Once you know yourself better, it will be easier to let go of living vicariously through someone else. Practice admiring yourself and check out the article 8 Self Love Exercises to Elevate Your Mood.

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