April 16, 2013 at 08:11 PM · One's level of performing is quite often in direct proportion to one's level of narcissism. Discuss.

Replies (26)

April 16, 2013 at 09:17 PM · I hope this doesn't include practicing in front of a mirror!

April 16, 2013 at 10:39 PM · Greetings,

an interesting topic. It seems like one of those where a more precise definition than just 'something to do with spending too long in front of the mirror,' might be appropriate.

Thus I offer up the following list of characteristics for what it's worth.

Hotchkiss identified what she called the seven deadly sins of narcissism:

Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.

Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.

Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may reinflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.

Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person's ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.

Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an "awkward" or "difficult" person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.

Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.

Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.

My question is, if a narcissist cannot recognize their imperfections can they be self critical enough or self aware enough to actually reach the highest level of performance?

Or is this trait not generalizable across all activity?

Did remind me of some conducters though...

I wa salsa amused by th ename hotchkiss which is Japanese for ,',stapler' although that is not germane to the discussion.



April 16, 2013 at 10:39 PM ·

April 16, 2013 at 10:40 PM · Trevor lol!

Well, I love the classical solo violin rep much better than most classical orchestral rep. But if it's orchestral pop repertoire, I love it just as much as the solo violin repertoire (perhaps even more).

What does this means? I'm most competitive against myself than with others? I love to have group fun and home self torture (lol)?

We could discuss this until the cows come home :)

I think great performers are either so humble and simple or somehow narcissic (even more today where image is so exploited). Not often do we see just the right balance...

April 16, 2013 at 11:16 PM · Buri wrote: "My question is, if a narcissist cannot recognize their imperfections can they be self critical enough or self aware enough to actually reach the highest level of performance?

Or is this trait not generalizable across all activity?"

Great questions, Buri. Regarding the former, I wish the answer to be no. However, I have seen the remarkable feet accomplished somehow.

April 17, 2013 at 02:42 AM · narcissists are always great performers, at least to one member of the audience...

Actually, I don't really know what a narcissist is - its one of those words that creates a class of person by being the word, rather than the other way round. Perhaps Hitler fit the term, at least as painted he was totally convinced of his own infallibility and supremacy (but I did not know him to be sure). But who else does not have some self doubt? Its like the word 'black' we know what it is, but we can not really see it since our mind creates light in our head that we can not turn off...

I think we need at least one example of a violinist narcissist to make headway in this topic.... I know a lot that were not, at least if having self doubts excludes you...

April 17, 2013 at 01:59 PM · William,

Is there a scientific data to support your claim or you are just want to spark a discussion?

Narcissism can vary from more or less present personality trait to Narcissistic personality disorder.

Some of the interviews with famous musicians, as well as their close friends and the member of the audience do often describe a person with a strong ego. If one is to endure all the troubles and challenges as a soloist in this highly competitive field, a strong and balanced personality with efficient coping strategies is a "must have".

A small amount of self-love that will boost one's self-confidence is desired at certain age. On the other hand, too much narcissism will lead a violin player nowhere. Sooner or later, one's own (distorted) vision of self is checked against the feedback of the environment. A mirror on the wall may still stand, but one can not cheat the audience.

April 17, 2013 at 02:45 PM · I think one's level of performing is quite often in direct proportion to one's dedication (hard work), passion for music and the violin, and an ability to connect with one's audience.


April 17, 2013 at 06:20 PM · Rocky- sorry, I wasn't claiming anything. I thought it to be an interesting statement, and to me, there does seem to be some truth in it. I'm certainly no scientist. Thanks for your thoughts. :)

April 17, 2013 at 07:58 PM · I think top performers are all in love with music. But actually many people are in love with not so top performers, who actually promote themself more than the music (maybe those are narcissts). But to my ear, that are not the best performances if you listen closely.

Narcissts produce themself, not music. To me the discussion is interesting, but the statement clearly untrue.

Also keep in mind, that the best musicians are often great people too. Think about Oistrakh, Menuhin and Milstein, just for example.

April 17, 2013 at 10:40 PM · It can also be argued/stated that as Menuhin became more 'aware', his ability to perform (not to be confused with his mastery of the violin!!!) diminished.

April 17, 2013 at 10:48 PM · To OP: Are you talking about one's level of performance on stage or on

To Elise: You confuse Nazism with Narcissism. They may sound the same if you stutter.

You know you are a narcissist when you post on and then come back to read your post again...come on admit it.

April 17, 2013 at 11:31 PM · Remember what happened to the original, mythological Narcissus: he fell so deeply in love with his own reflection in a pool of water that he dove in to join what he saw...and drowned in pursuit of himself.

Narcissus was, however inadvertently, inevitably self-destructive, and I wouldn't be surprised if that were not true for performers, too, because it's SO far beyond any healthy level of ego involvement that it's an entirely different country.

April 17, 2013 at 11:46 PM · I don't think, that a narcissist (is this now right in english?) would like to play the Beethoven Violinconcerto before the Mendelssohn. That was the case with the young Menuhin. In my opinion there is also a quite fine line between narcissism and healthy self-confidence. In some cases a bit of the worse can actually help you to (not) get along with certain situations/people.

Also I don't think that self reflection is narcissistic (I am totally confused about the word now). In the opposite narcisstic people can listen to oneself but don't criticise. listening to oneself, or reading his/her own writings is not a problem at all. Responding to oneself could possibly be problematic.

April 18, 2013 at 12:23 AM · I definitely agree that self-reflection is not narcissistic. :)

April 18, 2013 at 12:53 AM · @ Eric. I think you have a very dry sense of humour.

April 18, 2013 at 12:54 AM · @ Eric. I guess so but at least I won't drown in it.

April 18, 2013 at 02:23 AM ·

I like to think in three's, it gives me clarity.


1)Bold type(narcissist): showoff,arrogant,orders.

2)Confident type: showmanship, listens, leads

3)shy type: stage fright, accepts, follows

I would put a narcissist with personality type 1. I wouldn't be able to work with them unless I got paid really well, which I have done in the past, but less likely to do in the future.

April 18, 2013 at 02:39 AM · Greetings,

I've read somewhere that thinking in threes is

1) narcissistic

2) reflective

3) anthropomorphic.

Gotta stop reading my own posts.



April 18, 2013 at 01:20 PM · Perhaps performers with humility love instruments, whereas narcissists love themselves playing instruments.

April 18, 2013 at 02:45 PM · A few thoughs to the already very interesting ones...

Sometimes, it's not the performer who is narcissic but his parents or one of his parents. How often do we see a parent (maybe thinking their kid is an extension or reflexion of themselves) putting their excellent kid on youtube with a video presentation as if they were the next Heifetz etc. I think some parent may ruin their kid by pushing them too hard or act arrogantly with their kid's performances!

As for the idea that some excellent performers could be narcissic, the very formal (sometimes even snooty) attitude of the classical music world certainly doesn't help. More and more musicians understand this and want to change the image of classical music (sometimes taking things a little too far in this direction too...)


Having attend both (community concerts full of passionated amateurs and very serious symphonic concerts), I can tell that "average Joe... by this I mean anyone who likes music but knows nothing about it like often far better the friendlier community concerts where there is greater interaction between musicians and audience as well as a repertoire that everyone likes.

Anyway I agree very much with Rocky that the best performers I saw often have a very strong ego (or are very humble but very stuburn to compensate for their little ego :) (My impression...)

April 19, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Interesting topic! Narcissim is bandied about a lot casually, but it goes beyond a strong ego and and high self-image. Every solo performer needs - besides various musical and technical qualifications - a lot of guts and a strong ego. They need to feel that there is a very good reason why they're up there on the stage. Some have a seemingly self-effacing style, but don't believe it too much!

Buri's material hit the nail on the head. I know an out and out narcissist who is a violinist - I'll call him "L". In many ways he's really quite good and in other ways, limited. (Who isn't?) But to hear him talk, he's the best thing to put bow to string since Oistrakh and Kogan, and he seems to think that he inherited their mantel. It's only human nature to enjoy a compliment and, once in a while, to share an especially nice remark with some friends. But this guy collects compliments the way other people collect stamps. You can't talk to him for 5 minutes (if you must talk to him at all) w.o. hearing "You know what so and so said to me? He said 'L., you are the best! No one has sound like you today! You even better than Oistrakh!'" And he twists and exaggerates people's remarks to the point of outright mendacity. It got back to me from a mutual acquaitnace that "L" said that I told him he was a great violinist. I never said that. Even if I thought it, I wouldn't give him the satisfaction! Great violinist though he thinks he is, we suspect that he got kicked out of an orchestra that he claims to have quitted, and his career now consists mainly of calling people and 'treating' them to telephone recitals, whether they want them or not!

A true narcissist has no real friends, but only satellites and supposed admirers. Many other people aren't completely real to him, but more like props. Their needs don't matter and indeed a narcissit can hardly concieve of someone else having any other needs other than supporting him. A true sense of empathy is foreign to them. In short, if you meet one, run as fast as you can in the other direction!

Now, everyone leave me alone while I read and re-read my brilliant post!

April 19, 2013 at 01:08 PM · Here;s more. It helped me to understand what I was dealing with:

Are You Involved With a Narcissistic Person?

by Thomas J. Schumacher, Psy.D., R-CSW

More About Thomas...

According to the American Psychological Association, people with narcissistic personality disorder display a chronic and pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. The Greek myth has it that Narcissus died enraptured by the beauty of his own reflection in a pool and feel forever in love with his own reflection. The Narcissist displays an operating style that involves extreme self-involvement, and a grandiose sense of self- importance. They exaggerate their achievements and talents, expecting others to recognize them as superior and often appearing arrogant and extremely self absorbed.

Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or beauty, they require the constant attention and admiration of those around them, although they are very choosy about the people and institutions they will associate closely with. They often admit to being snobs and are actually proud of it. They also believe that their problems are unique and can be appreciated only by other “special” high - status people. Despite their charm, the favorable first impression they make, and their wide circle of notable acquaintances, people with this disorder are rarely able to maintain a stable, long-term relationship. With their boastful and pretentious manner, narcissistic persons are seldom receptive to the feelings of others. They show a general lack of empathy, an inability or unwillingness to recognize and identify with your thoughts and needs. Many are often successful, impressively knowledgeable, and articulate, yet bored and doubt ridden as well.

Conversely, healthy narcissism is essential for emotional well-being. We need narcissism to feel confident in ourselves, and to give adequate consideration to others. NOTE: The healthy narcissist does not focus exclusively on themselves, demanding that the world reflect back their false manufactured sense of self and an image of idealized perfection.

If you encounter this personality type, a grasp of the underlying psychology can help you cope more effectively. Lets explore the genesis of the narcissistic personality. As stated above, people with this personality disorder must constantly seek outside support and approval. If they get that support and approval, they feel complete and powerful. Without that support and approval, they feel deprived, exposed, vulnerable, angry, and lonely.

KEY: Early childhood conditioning also plays a part. The child’s real or authentic self has generally been ignored, or the child’s self may have been attacked and assaulted while the parents placed demands on the child to be “perfect.” When that occurs, the type of behavior we associate with a narcissistic disorder is overindulged. Fiercely driven to achieve, children never develop the capacity to consider others’ needs. Enter adulthood, and the same traits naturally carry over.

What To Watch Out For

Most people with this disorder advertise themselves… They seek to be the center of attention. In search of constant approval and praise to reinforce their false grandiose sense of self, they’re “on- stage,” dominating the conversation, often exaggerating their importance.

They lack empathy for others and have an inflated sense of entitlement, requiring others to respond to their demands and grant favors. They need everything for themselves and are envious of others’ accomplishments and possessions.

Criticism or disapproval takes them back to their difficult childhoods, sending them into a defensive fury, since any flaw or mistake means they’re not perfect. Also, when things go wrong, they cannot acknowledge the imperfections implicit in accepting responsibility.

Appearance matters more than substance. Power, wealth and beauty bolster their fragmented self-image.

They may be extremely driven because the “narcissistic fuel” of outside approval is so essential. Many are workaholics. Warning: this personality disorder may not be immediately obvious. The subtle ones won’t show their true colors until “deprived.” Caution: Others may actually pursue and cater to you, if you have something they want, such as looks, money, or status.

Can you change them? Reality check: No. Even constructive criticism is experienced by them as an affront and is met with anger and a sense of betrayal. Placating only results in more demands, not a return of thoughtfulness and consideration. In fact, if you always excuse or rationalize self-absorption and give in to constant demands, you are actually supporting and reinforcing their narcissistic needs and wants.

Coping Tips

Here are some tips on how to cope with the person in your life who processes the narcissistic style. Sometimes the best way to deal with extreme narcissistic behavior is to end the relationship. But since this solution isn’t always possible, I can only offer you some survival techniques…

It is important to set boundaries. Decide which demands you can meet or how much approval you’re willing to give to this person, and then stick to your decision. Also, terminate a self-centered conversation if you can, or at least set a time limit on how long you’ll listen.

Support yourself. If your resistance to them draws their anger or blame, refuse to be emotionally blackmailed. Remember that your time and feelings are not important in this person’s eyes. This can help remove your guilt.

Use bargaining chips. If you have something they want, such as a special expertise or solutions to problems—share it sparingly to keep their worst behavior under control. Be aware that when you no longer satisfy them, their old ways will resurface.

Avoid anger. Any confrontation should be conducted quietly and with control. But even a tactful approach may be greeted with anger or sometimes-frightening rage. Very likely, you’ll hear that the difficult situation is your problem and there’s something wrong with you. Arguing will only make you feel like you will want to blow your brains out. Be careful not to expect accommodation from the other person, but do give yourself points for standing up for your rights.

Finally, know when to leave. Dealing with this personality disorder can undermine your own sense of self. Ask yourself some questions…Do I continually feel depressed, irritable, devalued and worthless? Does my anger and resentment carry over into other relationships? Have I stopped supporting myself in general, not treating myself well or allowing others to coerce me? Bottom line: If you find yourself answering yes too frequently, you must examine the pay-off or importance of your relationship with this person.

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April 19, 2013 at 03:07 PM · I've seen few, classical musicians who could be called "narcissistic."

However, the world of popular music is much different: in that world, narcissism seems to be a job requirement. If the pop musician doesn't start out to be a narcissist, he/she is often made into one by those factors lacking in classical music: vast, hysterical audiences and adoring fans, huge sums of money that "prove" the performer's talents, and a bubble of hangers-on and management that constantly tells the performer how fantastic he/she is.

These factors are rarely present in the classical world. And since the vast majority of classical musicians don't live in a bubble but are forced to interact and cooperate in orchestras, quartets, and in teaching, the pathological narcissists generally get filtered out because the career cannot reward narcissistic needs.

April 20, 2013 at 01:27 AM · I have a problem with psychology stuff being used to label "others". These descriptions could apply to anyone at various points in their lives and it is really a matter of degrees and of specific circumstance.

For instance: "people with this personality disorder must constantly seek outside support and approval. If they get that support and approval, they feel complete and powerful. Without that support and approval, they feel deprived, exposed, vulnerable, angry, and lonely."


"KEY: Early childhood conditioning also plays a part. The child’s real or authentic self has generally been ignored, or the child’s self may have been attacked and assaulted while the parents placed demands on the child to be “perfect.” .... Fiercely driven to achieve..."

...this sounds to me to be someone who was systematically neglected and abused for a long time, while vulnerable, but has had the strength to try to make something of themselves regardless. They deserve some compassion, understanding and empathy and yes even admiration.

Then we have:

"Dealing with this personality disorder can undermine your own sense of self. Ask yourself some questions…Do I continually feel depressed, irritable, devalued and worthless? Does my anger and resentment carry over into other relationships? Have I stopped supporting myself in general, not treating myself well or allowing others to coerce me? "

You could equally well label this person as "depressive, passive aggressive with low self esteem and self destructive tendencies".

April 20, 2013 at 02:56 AM · Not really. I don't believe that psychological classification is the answer to everything by any means. But the above is not 'psycho-babble'. A malignant narcissist is a real type, and if you knew one, those descriptions would make a lot of sense, and don't apply indiscriminently to any annoying personality. I have a friend who is a medical social worker with a lot of psychological training. When I first complained to her about this guy I describe above, before I got halfway into it she had him nailed. It's not just something that popped up on the internet.

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