Categorized | Letters

I Heart Me

[nora]I am the smartest person at MSU. I am the most beautiful girl in all of my classes. I have the best hair within my group of friends. I have a body that is toned and in shape – a body every girl wants. At least, those are the things my mom tells me.
As much as I\’d like to believe the above statements, there is evidence to the contrary. According to a study done by San Diego State University (SDSU), college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than students 25 years ago. In a similar study by the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, more than 16,000 students were surveyed nationally. The students, mainly freshman and sophomores, were asked to respond to such statements as \”I think I am a special person,\” \”If I ruled the world, it would be a better place\” and \”I like to be the center of attention.\” The study showed two-thirds of students scored \”above average\” on the survey, a 30 percent increase since 1982, when the study began. Narcissism is defined as an inappropriate or excessive fascination with oneself; so, at MSU, do many college students truly fit this mold?
When the results of the survey sank in, I concluded I do think my peers have very self-centered tendencies. The common nickname for our generation is, after all, the \”me\” generation; and the fact there has been a 30 percent increase since 1982 is too great to be just written off. A few additional questions were raised. Are women more narcissistic than men, men more than women, or is there an equal level of narcissism? Society pressures women to be narcissistic in the areas of appearance (just watch America\’s Next Top Model, Miss USA pageants and Extreme Makeover) and men are socialiazed to be more narcissistic when it comes to money and job performances (The Apprentice and The Bachelor.)
[selfish] The NPI study claims narcissists are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth and tend to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty and violent behaviors. Jean Twenge of SDSU, the head of the study, said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.
However, the rise in self-centeredness and vanity among college students is not entirely our fault; the blame also lies with the advances of technology. The popular Web sites Myspace.com and Facebook.com make it easier than ever to fish for compliments. Students can easily upload pictures of themselves for all of their friends (and even strangers) to see. Often, the results of these picture posts are positive comments regarding how attractive one is, feeding into the cycle of narcissism via the Internet. In addition, these sites have started a new trend of taking self pictures, all in the search to find that one flattering angle (you know the one!).
Outside of technology\’s pull, parents often perpetuate an overly positive image of their kids, constantly telling them how great they are and how other people are lucky to know them.
So now it\’s more than parents showering down with compliments. \”I just think parents tell you how special and smart they think you are to comfort you and show that they care,\” kinesiology sophomore Sarah Comai said. \”In a way, I think that it is a parental instinct.\”
While instinct is certainly a reason for parents to continuously praise their kids, mothers and fathers should learn to keep it in check. Parents continue to remove any feeling of rejection from their child\’s life and often fight their child\’s battles for them. Having an overly positive self-image can have bad results. If a student assumes she is one of the smartest kids out there and then receives a rejection letter from her college of choice, this is a huge blow to her ego, and she could consequently question her abilities. If a guy has the self-confident thought he is extremely attractive, this could lead to an attitude of cockiness. A rejection from his crush could then bring up emotions that he had been sheltered from his whole life, thanks, in part, to his parents.
While it has been shown many college students do have narcissistic tendencies, many students also have accomplished great things in the world that seem to be overlooked by the media. The media often ignores events such as student activist groups fighting for animal rights or voicing their opinions on civil rights and legislative issues, because these stories violate the stereotypical image of a college student\’s attitude: \”I don\’t care about anyone but myself.\” The trend of college students becoming more narcissistic as time passes can be attributed to that exact narcissistic image being shown to young children. When these kids see these selfish images of college students, they think that is how they are supposed to act as well, and it becomes part of their lives and viewpoints as well. Narcissism becomes expected.
[katrin]However, there are instances in which an inflated ego is beneficial. Job interviews could be very rocky unless students have the belief they are the best people for the job – there are no more qualified or well-rounded people out there. The same principle applies to meeting people: while an excess of confidence can drive people away, just the right amount can make for a very rewarding social life.
As long as Web sites such as Facebook.com allow us to fawn over ourselves instead of finishing our accounting homework (due tomorrow), an increase in levels of selfishness is inevitable. The \”me\” generation has already fallen victim to such narcissistic tendencies, and in order to end, or at least reduce, self-centered tendencies in the generations to come, we need to stop guarding children from rejection. Instead of smothering endless layers of praise onto children, parents should be there to explain why it happened and how to change it next time. These kids will be appreciative later in life, when they are thriving in the real world, while their peers will be mourning \”the end of the world\” because they didn\’t get hired for those internships they were just perfect for.

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