Creating a Generation of Narcissists

Narcissist. One of the many stereotypes associated with Millennials. And although I don’t believe in stereotypes especially negative ones that apply to my people, there might be some truth to the fact that Millennials appear to be narcissistic and I believe there are multiple factors that have caused this.

Social media is such a huge part of our lives, it is almost impossible to avoid getting your photo plastered on the internet. When I was 15 I joined a modelling agency, from that day forward I began worrying about my appearance more and more. Was I too fat? Too tall? Could everyone see my pimples? That experience made me hyper-aware of all things related to my appearance. At that time Instagram did not exist and Facebook was very new. So the only photos that were taken of me were the ones used in Giant Tiger ads. But now things are very different. Every occasion, people have their phones out and are taking photos to post on social media. This has increased the pressure to look good. Social media motivates people to look a certain way and has created an obsession with the selfie. How many pictures of yourself do you need to take in order to post one on Instagram? I’d say at least 20. I doubt there is anyone out there who has taken a single selfie shot and then immediately posted it anywhere. We are obsessed with recreating this perfect image we have imagined in our minds and that we think is the expectation. In the age of selfies people do seem to be obsessed with themselves and their appearance. Maybe you have to be a little bit narcissistic to think that people want to be scrolling through their Instagram feed and see a photo of your face, one that you have altered and filtered to be perfect. Or maybe it’s just good old positive reinforcement. Post picture, get likes and positive comments and feel a sense of affirmation. People innately want to be liked by others. The third pillar of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is “belongingness and love”. It is believed that we need to feel this before we can be self actualized, belongingness even comes before esteem. Many people have dismissed this theory as being too literal but there is still truth to the fact that we all feel the need to fit in with others. Social media has put a higher emphasis on beauty and appearance. But is this what causes Millennials to be narcissists?

Narcissism: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance; extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

The word comes from Greek mythology which tells the story of Narcissus, a very attractive hunter. He fell in love with his own reflection when he saw it in the water. He stared at himself until his death.

Aside from social media, there are other factors that might cause Millennials to appear to be narcissistic. We have been told from a very young age that we can achieve anything we set our mind too, with no realistic boundaries. I can count at least 5 guys I grew up with that thought they would be the next NHL superstar, they skipped university and held out for a contract. I can tell you that none of them ended up playing hockey and most are still slowly pecking away at a general arts degree from an average school. There never seemed to be a limit as to what we could achieve. Now I truly do believe that hard work pays off and if you set your mind to something you can achieve great things. But the problem is that Millennials lack follow through. We want to have our cake and eat it too. There is little to no work ethic instilled in us and mediocracy is constantly being rewarded. This has created an inflated sense of self in many Millennials which can of course be interpreted as narcissistic.

I don’t believe that all Millennials are narcissists. I do however think that our generation was dealt the short straw. Many factors in our lifetime have created the perfect storm of wanting more while doing less and being obsessed with the external appearance of things. I close by saying there is nothing wrong with confidence or ambition, I would even say it’s important to love yourself. This doesn’t make you a narcissist, just don’t get caught staring at your own reflection.

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