As hard as it is for people with faces that aren’t widely recognizable to figure out who their real friends are, the fact that you’re a high-profile athlete means you need to be even more careful than they do about who you invite into your circle of friends.  Let’s look together at why.  It’s all very simple and natural, really.  First of all, almost everyone (including you and probably everyone you know) likes to spend some of their time with people they admire.  If you think about it, it’s easy to see that we all just want some of that successful person’s “magic” to rub off on us.  Then if you add a bit of celebrity status to the successful person’s admirable qualities, that person becomes an even more powerful magnet, drawing in people who want to be admired in their own right.  This makes lots of sense also; in much the same way that spending time with lawyers, doctors, salespeople, or other professionals is a smart move for people who want to enter one of those professions. 

Unfortunately for athletes like you, however, the added element of celebrity status disproportionately complicates the emotional aspect of your relationships with your admirers.  Probably the most visible expression of those complications is the “groupie” phenomenon.  Groupies are celebrity admirers who freely offer themselves as pleasure tools to celebrities they follow around.  Be very careful in your dealings with groupies.  Often it may appear that they aren’t asking for anything in exchange for their pleasure fulfillment services.  However, beneath their seemingly selfless acts of self-sacrifice, they actually want you to pay the highest possible price: they secretly want you to love them.

Groupies aren’t just drawn to you because of your athletic abilities.  They also want the spotlight, sometimes even more than you do.  And because they desperately want to join your inner circle and be rich and famous like you, they read up on every scrap of information they can dig up about you.  Since nobody’s perfect, groupies will inevitably uncover some sort of information about you that they could potentially use to tarnish your public image.

 The bottom line is this: groupies can’t be your true friends, because that type of relationship starts out too unequally.  So how do you make new friends after you’ve become recognizable and all kinds of people are coming out of the woodwork to get at you, hoping you’ll drop some cash or connections on them. 

There’s definitely no easy answer to this question.  There are some guidelines that you can follow, though, to help you protect your heart from the barrage of fame-seekers that feel drawn to you for whatever reason.

Here’s a quick list for you to ponder and apply: 

  • Always make being happy with yourself your highest priority.  By sustaining that focus, you’ll be able to bypass a lot of the loneliness that ironically comes with being famous.  Many celebrities have a hard time making connections with people who “get” them.
  • Force yourself to monitor the extent to which your ego is suckered by flattery.
  • Be cautious (slow) about sharing information about your personal life with people who haven’t yet proven (over time) their trustworthiness to you. 
  • Stay on the lookout for signs that your new “friend” is in your life because of your celebrity status or because of a genuine connection with you.  The most accurate way to apply this is guideline is to study your friend’s character deeply with an open and accepting heart, and be completely honest with yourself about what you see.
  • Actively work on learning how to read people like a book.  Be careful not to approach this activity as if it were a series of techniques, however.  It isn’t.  Reading people accurately is really a matter of putting your ego aside enough so that you can face observing your own imperfections, as well as your friend’s. 

Just like the sport you play so well, understanding people and skillfully building relationships with them requires championship level commitment and diligent practice.  So please feel free to consult with me about the fine points of developing the skills that’ll make you a winner in this vital area of the game of life.