Growing up as a socially awkward teenager who could barely utter a word without stammering over my speech, I was the quintessential self-conscious adolescent who was painfully inflamed with blistering spots and riddled with withering insecurities.

I wasn’t able to walk past a mirror without intensely loathing my reflection, and the fact that I was internally struggling with the dismissive matter of my lingering doubts and uncertainty over my sexuality meant that I was always in a heightened state of intensified loathing and dejection.

I was painfully shy, lacked friends and spent the entirety of my PE lessons forging sick notes as the frightening prospect of getting changed in front of the other boys in school crippled me with a weird combination of fear and lust that left my teenage hormones aimlessly scattered all over the place in a frenzy of testosterone. But despite living a pretty melancholy existence during my secondary school days, there was a shining beacon of light in-between the lack of self-confidence and the constant feeling of apprehension… celebrities.

Celebrities, those outer-worldly beings equipped with unequivocal fame and talent who seemed so unparalleled and immaculate compared to us mere inconsequential mortals who lived mundane and uneventful lives. Famous people lived extraordinary lives, and this is what made them so alluring and captivating as an easily influenced teenager looking for escapism and a role model to gaze upon and blindly adore.

Celebrities were wondrous specimens with unblemished skin who lived inconceivable lives that someone like me at the age of fifteen could only dream about. And dream I did as I devoutly browsed through the pages of Top of the Pops magazine and buried my head deep into the latest issue of Smash Hits with starry-eyed admiration – gazing over posters of my favourite popstars whilst I dreamt of being as ferociously confident and bold as my favourite band at the time – the Spice Girls.

Geri Halliwell was always the Spice Girl that I gravitated towards, and she was everything that I wanted to be. She was confident, witty and intelligent and as a young person lacking any of those qualities, she was the perfect role model. This was 1998 and the concept of social media and Instagram would have been a conception an inhibited teenager with severe mental health issues could never have fathomed. Yet here I was, blindly following the words of these exceptional and godly popstars that I had placed on a pedestal and worshipped upon the altar of celebrity, just as millennials and the youth of generation-z do today – swiftly swiping down on their iPhones while vigorously gazing upon their favourite social media influencer or chiselled Love Island star as if Gandhi or Mother Teresa had miraculously been resurrected before their eyes.

I, like many others who were caught up in the cult of celebrity, worshipped those in the public eye as if they were knowledgeable gurus offering us insightful truths and wisdom when in reality all they were good at were singing, dancing and acting while pretending to be someone else, all while internally dealing with their own uneasiness and instability just like the rest of us. And despite my younger self thinking that Geri was flawless, this was a young woman, who at the age of 25 had just abruptly left the biggest selling girl group of all time, and was battling with her own set of insecurities and demons.

How could someone seemingly so blazingly confident be as insecure I thought to myself, as I gazed in admiration at the iconic Ginger Spice who had confidently strutted on stage at the Brit Awards a year earlier. But behind the union jack dress, Geri was suffering from a crippling eating disorder and was deeply affected by bulimia during her time in the band. She was also struggling with loneliness and insecurity in pursuing a solo career as was documented by director Molly Dineen in the 1999 documentary ‘Geri’ in which the nervous and often at times insecure singer was seen being candid and revealing about her own personal mental health and vulnerability.

Celebrities were not perfect but were smothered with insecurities and meekness just like the rest of us. Looking up to the likes of Britney Spears and hanging on to her every word as if they were strands of insightful philosophy, only for her to have a catastrophic public breakdown and shave off all her hair in a frenzied rage during her infamous 2007 ‘breakdown’ made me question that maybe celebrities were not the best source of inspiration for an impressionable young person.

But it wasn’t just younger pop stars like Geri and Britney who were perhaps not in the best position to part their younger fan base with the knowledge of life, as even those of an elder disposition within the celebrity circle were perhaps also not best equipped to address their convictions and ideology onto the open-mouthed masses.

Listening to Madonna speak about possessing the ‘tools of the universe’ as she talked about studying Kabbalah, an ancient method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism was like learning from a wise woman who had grasped the meaning of life. However, the singer, then in her late forty’s, would end up being the recipient of a very public divorce from her second husband, film director Guy Ritchie, and embark on what many observers described as a ‘midlife crisis’ that involved a chaotic whirlwind of dating much younger men then herself and demonstrating ‘erratic’ behaviour that would have been a moment of embarrassment from the spiritually enlightened queen of pop only a few years prior in her heyday of Kabbalah prosperity.

So much for those ‘mystical tools of life,’ I thought to myself, as ‘Madge’ frequently became photographed leaving nightclubs looking every bit the worst for wear. Now tragically struggling with the inevitable process of ageing - airbrushing her conveniently positioned selfies beyond anything resembling a human on Instagram and desperately clinging on to her faded youth.

It was during moments like this that I soon realized that those in the public eye were just as fallacious as those who had to deal with everyday daily struggles like going to work and paying the bills. And in recent times, while it has become the norm to listen to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio talk about the perils of climate change while casually relaxing on luxury yachts that spew carbon dioxide, or Miley Cyrus lecturing youths on whom they should vote for in presidential elections, all while also reeling from a very public divorce from ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, discovering that those in the public eye are neither virtuous nor intellectually politically profound helped me realise that celebrities are not as sanctimonious as they or I had been lead to believe.

As I got older, I tore down the posters on my bedroom walls and I stopped clinging to everything celebrities said as if it was the gospel. And I realised that despite the fame and the accolade that came with being in the public eye – once you had stripped back the hair extensions, overly expensive make-up team and legions of adoring fans, these were just regular people like you and me who were as psychologically damaged and self-conscious as the awkward teenager that I used to be.