One 2012 study found a high correlation between wanting fame and a stated desire for social recognition, financial success, and an attractive appearance, and to appear on reality television. According to a 2013 survey, people might want to be famous in order to be seen and valued, even by strangers; to have an elite, high-status lifestyle; or to be able to do good for others, such as by being a role model.
Even if a person’s motive for fame is to set a positive example, it mirrors the other, less flattering motives insofar as it depends on other people’s opinions. And therein lies the happiness problem. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the 13th century, “Happiness is in the happy. But honor is not in the honored.” In other words, fame is not found within ourselves but based on what scholars call extrinsic rewards, which research overwhelmingly shows bring less happiness than intrinsic rewards.