There is low self-esteem and people who critically analyze everything wrong with them.
There are people who naturally work a room with their heads held up high and their confidence glowing.
Then, there are narcissists.
What is narcissism? According to the DSM, narcissism embodies a tremendous need for approval and admiration with little to no regard for others. Greek legend has it that Narcissus died as a result of gazing at his own reflection.
So, while most of us often scrutinize the tiny flaws about us that nobody else seems to notice, narcissists are often manipulative, look down on other people, and believe they should be valued at the highest regard.
Various theories about narcissism stem from experiences in early life. Explanations vary from problems with harsh, rejecting parents, early abuse, lack of nurture. Other theories propose overcompensation in childhood, in that parents or guardians went overboard with compliments or feedback to their children.
Around 1% of adults meet the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
But, is narcissism on the rise? In the US, we have the highest rates of narcissism. Why? Few reasons.
Our society highly values individualization, meaning that you work hard and achieve great things to benefit and promote yourself. We also emphasize competitiveness, in all walks of life, from organized sports to college admissions to the corporate job world. A combination of hard work + high praise may generate feelings of “being the best” or being “unstoppable,” similar to that of narcissism. Moreover, competitiveness often shifts the focus on the individual, therefore devaluing the opponents, possibly making for a hostile environment. Hence, the lack of regard for others.
So, is our society invariably promoting narcissism? Social media outlets allow us to update the world with our locations, pictures, videos, thoughts, and rants. Yes, social networking allows us to connect with others and build relationships, but something else is clearly happening. We are essentially given free permission to brag about ourselves and wait for a consequential stream of “likes” and compliments. Think about it. Would you feel slightly ridiculous bragging about your “bomb” lunch to a friend in the middle of a conversation? But, online, people have few qualms about not only bragging about the lunch, but also attaching a picture, linking a restaurant website, and even offering a personalized review.
And, remember Myspace? Those hours you spent taking pictures of yourself to secure a flawless pose?
What about our obsession with appearance? Plastic surgery hassoaredin recent years, and not just among celebrities or the highly elite. Americans are known for having materialistic desires. From owning the largest house to the fastest car, “showing off” is often a major drive for finding a high-paying career.
Reality TV? There are shows featuring aspiring musicians, athletes, dancers, models, chefs, designers, comedians! There are shows about “ordinary people” building houses, living in mansions, trying to lose weight, undergoing pregnancy, planning weddings, selling items, etc. And we gobble it right up! Reality television provides a chance for people to exhibit their “authentic” selves to mainstream society. Is this really healthy for us to watch?
DSM-IV-TR: Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Abnormal Psychology 7th Edition: Ronald J. Comer, apa.org