Dear Rachel,

I hope you can help me with a problem I'm having. I work as a performer. In my business, there are a lot of people who look after their own interests and befriend people who will be able to promote them and help advance their careers. There's also a lot of insincere flattery and superficiality. It hurts me when people I get close to sever ties with me. I feel abandoned.

I'm ashamed to say I often subscribe to this behavior myself. Some of my friends complain that I always drop them if something better comes up. How do I stop attracting people who are narcissistic and self-interested, and more importantly, how do I stop being that way myself?

Warm in the Spotlight


Dear Warm,

Ethics of our Fathers tells us there are three cravings that can never be satisfied, and the more you feed them, the more they grow: lust, honor and money. We all want love; it's when we search for it in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons that we get stuck. There are many famous people who have died feeling unhappy and unloved because they were constantly seeking the transient love and approval of strangers.

Remember, all your talents are from G‑d. That should give you a sense of gratitude and humility. There is no need to try to shine a spotlight on yourself—G‑d already has. He is your Creator, your Divine Agent. He is the only one who can determine your success and your worth. It's with Him that you should try to "rub elbows," so to speak. If you want to succeed in anything, pray to G‑d for success, and know that it's ultimately and only in His hands.

That said, there is nothing wrong with trying to develop connections with people who can help you in your career. The problem is when these people use you, when their praise is self-serving and the friendship is fake. Try to keep a professional distance from people whom you recognize as insincere, falsely doting and fawning. You may have to work with them, but you don't have to become close with them. Surround yourself with people who are down to earth, genuine, loving and sincere, even those whom you feel will not be able to promote or advance your career. Imitate those qualities you see in others which are genuine and altruistic, and you will become that way too. Be loyal to your friends and they will be loyal to you.

The Rambam tells us that if we want to correct a flaw in our character, we have to go to the other extreme. So, for example, if you are always trying to be recognized and the center of attention, try and do something altruistic anonymously. Give a donation in cash, pay a stranger’s parking meter, send an unsigned letter of appreciation to a colleague, recommend a friend for a job—anything that will bring someone joy but won't be able to be traced back to you. Help someone who isn't in a position to reciprocate or even thank you. You'll find doing altruistic anonymous acts brings you gratification that a whole theater of applause cannot bring you. And acting this way will make you become this way.

Wishing you true success of the most meaningful kind.

Rachel