Growing up, I was all Broadway, all the time. Not only did I have an addiction to performing in any play or musical that would cast me, but I also made a point to attend every production within driving distance of Kansas City.
Some of my favorite memories come from seeing small scale shows in tiny theatres. These low-key settings often allowed for my favorite part of the whole experience – getting to meet and talk with the actors in the show. I was obsessed with learning everything that I could about the life of being in show business, and would talk to anyone that was willing about their experiences and tips for the trade.
Most interactions were great and I can honestly say that I learned more in those short stage door chats than I did a majority of my educational career. However, not everyone was as thrilled with the lifestyle as I was.
For instance, after one particular production of Little Shop of Horrors, I remember overhearing the lead actresses’ dad talking to another audience member. They were discussing how it was so great to see that particular girl up onstage, but her dad met the other man’s comment with “Well, it’s a narcissistic career at best”.
A narcissistic career at best.
I was taken back. I couldn’t understand why someone would say something so hurtful about a wonderful actress, let alone their own daughter. The comment dismissed the hard work and countless hours that went into the production, and wrote it off as some petty way to get attention.
While that comment still makes me shudder, over the years I have grown to understand a different side to that slam.
Being in the arts is a social game. You have to make people want to hear you, and you have to make them want to stay around long enough to listen. Artists need an audience. However, what we see as business, others tend to see as a scheme to gain applause or followers.
What people don’t realize is that artists are their own business. We have to invest in ourselves in order to gain success. If we don’t have confidence in ourselves, than like any business, we fail.
So, yes, an artistically driven career may be seen as narcissistic to the untrained eye, but even the world’s most powerful CEOs are kidding themselves if they think their careers are free from narcissism.
We all have the tendency to be self-absorbed. What’s important is how we use that trait to better ourselves, our businesses, and the world.
Do you agree? Give my song about the tough subject of narcissism a listen here.