Vanity and success, a common combination and not always a happy one. We could see it again recently, when the transgressive behavior of presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk was made public. What does success do to people and how does it relate to vanity? How important is vanity to success? And when do vanity and success become condoning of transgressive behavior?
A truly vain person can convince himself that his opinion is so important that it pushes all other opinions and all other persons into the background. That his opinion is so important that crossing boundaries is justified or not even perceived. And so it becomes possible, without remembering it oneself, to belittle another, for the honor and glory of one's own goals and ego.
A truly vain person can convince himself that his opinion is so important that it pushes all other opinions and all other persons into the background
Contrary to what a vain person might think, vanity can make people ugly. A vain person wants to be seen, sometimes so much that they try to put others in their shadow. A vain person draws the light to himself. In the long run, when success comes along with it, all self-reflection disappears and gives way to self-centeredness and complacency. Then we quickly approach narcissism, a personality disorder.
What about artists? There are plenty of examples of vain, self-centered and self-absorbed, successful or less successful, artists. We know the recent examples and there are plenty of examples in the past as well. Does this vanity and complacency follow success or does vanity create a great need for recognition and a strong one that makes success an almost logical consequence? Do particularly vain artists become successful because they know how to shamelessly put themselves in the spotlight?
When do you cross the line, when does vanity get the better of you?
An artist may need a minimal form of vanity anyway to be able and willing to bring his work to the attention of others with conviction. Here it seems to me there is a healthy amount of vanity. But when do you cross the line, when does vanity get the better of you? And when that vanity crosses the line and furthers your success, should you stop and can you stop?
What if gradually success becomes more important to you than normal manners?
From a young age, we are bombarded and sometimes indoctrinated with the mantra that having success is important. Many of us believe that. For them, a life that doesn't seem so successful may be hard to accept. Success then is the holy grail and much if not everything may give way to that. Glorifying success gives room for extreme vanity, with all its consequences. Perhaps it is time to redefine and revalue success. Perhaps then healthy vanity can run its course and not explode, and no longer go hand in hand with self-centeredness and self-aggrandizement.