The royal wedding, in which Meghan Markle will marry Prince Harry (in case you didn’t know!), is LIVE!. But TBH, the nuptials feel more like our best friend’s wedding than an international event—for months, the world has been obsessing over every detail, making wild predictions and mining past interviews the actress has given for every beauty and fitness tip she’s ever given. (If you’re curious, here’s how Meghan Markle is working out before the royal wedding).
But it’s not actually your best friend’s wedding after all—so why are you still so obsessed?
Well, psychologists call it “celebrity worship syndrome” and according to research, it’s not all that uncommon. In a study published in the British Journal of Psychology, researchers classified celebrity worship on a spectrum. At the lowest levels, it involves your basic behaviors of reading about a celeb, scrolling through their IG feed, or watching them (or their wedding) on TV. But at the highest levels, celebrity worship takes on a personal nature—you obsess over the details of their lives and identify with the celeb. You’re gratified by their successes and hurt for the celeb’s failures as if they were your own. In the case of Meghan Markle, it seems like the whole world has a serious case of celebrity worship syndrome.
According to psychologists, our collective obsession is likely due to a few things. “She symbolically represents a fantasy that most people have to be swept away by a Prince Charming,” explains Brandy Engler, Psy.D., a couples’ therapist in LA. Therapists often spend a lot of time helping you let go of these unrealistic fantasies so that you can see your partner as a real person—not as the magical solution to all of your worries and insecurities, she says. “In this case, Megan Markle achieves the wish fulfillment [of the Prince Charming fantasy] and we all get to witness it and live vicariously,” says Engler.
The fact that Meghan Markle seems like someone you actually would be friends with probably adds to the phenomenon. “Meghan was not born into wealth or privilege,” explains Rebecca Hendrix, a holistic psychotherapist in New York. “She is the epitome of the American dream in that she worked against the odds of race, gender, and economic class to achieve success.” She has a successful career, a track record of advocating for women’s empowerment and women’s health issues around the world. And she wears awesome, affordable shoes. (See: Where to Buy Meghan Markle’s Favorite White Sneakers) “Who wouldn’t root for her?” asks Hendrix. In your mind, rooting for someone with these attributes might feel a lot like you’re really rooting for yourself, she says.
Finally, there’s the idea that the future duchess is a symbol of hope and change—something you’re psychologically primed to be attracted to. “Because it might have been expected for Harry to marry someone closer to home on many levels, the public roots for this modern-day fairytale and a bi-racial couple even more as it gives us hope for change,” says Hendrix. This kind of underdog hope is more powerful than you might realize. “This is important to the American psyche—we need this,” says Engler. “It motivates us and it helps us to aspire to be our best selves—even if it is all a bit delusional.”