The Business of Show Biz: Balancing Friends and Success
Monday, July 22, 2013
By Velina Brown
Q: I always wanted to be an actress, but I was never considered pretty or anything. I guess I'm more quirky. In school I tried out for shows but wasn't cast because I didn't sing or dance well and, like I said, wasn't the cute girl. I'm more the weird girl. My two best friends and I used to always sit around talking about our disappointments and things that didn't work out. Anyway, lately being the weird girl has been okay. A couple of different directors now think I'm interesting and have been casting me in stuff. Now that some things have been working out for me, if I mention something good that has happened my friends just get quiet or change the subject. I was kind of hoping they'd say, "Cool. That's awesome! Congratulations!" One of them finally said, "I guess you'll need to buy a bigger hat to fit your swelled head." I am kind of new to success. How does it work? Does it mean I have to lose my friends?
| Actor and career consultant, Velina Brown.
A: A friend is someone who likes you and wants the very best for you. So if the folks you've been hanging out with aren't happy for you when you succeed, then perhaps they aren't really your friends.
However, I don't want to be too hasty. Maybe give them a chance to clean up their mess. Tell them that you've noticed some tension when you've shared good news. Let them know the swelled-head comment was hurtful. And ask them if something is bothering them. If they apologize and come clean about what's going on with them, perhaps you can still be friends. Maybe your new success has made them afraid that they are about to lose you. But if they still give you the cold shoulder or make snide remarks, it's probably time to move on.
But please don't try to stay small to keep your membership in the misery-loves-company club. That's too high a price to pay just so you can hang out with people who don't support your highest good.
The other thing I'm concerned about is the idea that your identity as a success or failure is dependent on something that's out of your control, such as whether or not someone casts you. It is a big breakthrough for you to go from being someone who's been sitting on the sidelines watching other people be cast but never being cast yourself to someone who is now being cast as well. It's an important transition that you've made. But remember, even the biggest stars don't get every role they want every time. You win some, you lose some. And it's very dangerous to attach your identity and self-worth to the ups and downs of the biz. When you hit an inevitable dry patch, that doesn't suddenly make you a failure and deserving of reentry into the misery-loves-company club. Wouldn't it be disgusting if those friends suddenly showed up being all nicey-nice again after they'd heard you didn't get a part you really wanted? Yick.
I just recently heard a fascinating interview with Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way). She said, "Some friends like it when you are little and become threatened when you start to get big. What you want are friends who are comfortable when you are small and also comfortable when you get big." It is possible that the friends you had that were perfect for commiserating when things didn't turn out are not the ones with whom you can celebrate success.
You've heard of fair-weather friends? Well, there are also foul-weather friends who like you best when you are broke, hung over and jilted, because it makes them feel just a tiny bit superior in comparison. Stay away from these people.
When you decide to take your dreams and desires seriously and go for them, certain actions will follow. How you spend your time, how you spend your money, who you hang out with will change. Old habits will fall away, new habits will take their place. The ones who ask, "Who do you think you are?"; the ones who worry about your alleged swelled head; the ones who say, "People like us don't do things like that"; the ones who give you the cold shoulder instead of the warm hug when you share good news—those people will fall away. On your new path you will meet new fellow travelers and make new friends, friends who will support you in being as big as you are destined to be.
"Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose." —Tennessee Williams
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.