By Jethro Wegener
You’re the best, but then, you already knew that. Narcissism appears to be one of our most prevalent fears at the moment. The term is thrown around a lot these days, and with the millions of selfies being taken right at this very moment, it isn’t hard to see why. The real question is, are we all really narcissists?
A reminder of what it is
Narcissism has been around almost as long human culture itself, and the origin of the word dates back to Ancient Greece. Legend tells of an Adonis-like Greek god called Narcissus, who rejected the love of a nymph named Echo, and instead fell in love with a reflection of himself in a river; he eventually drowned while staring at himself in its waters. If he had been born today, he would have fallen in love with his selfie-overloaded Instagram feed and wasted away to nothing while counting his followers.
In psychological terms, narcissism is generally thought of as an excess of self-love. Aspiring narcissists usually think that they deserve special treatment as they are better looking, smarter or more important than other people. Narcissism can be separated into two categories. Grandiose narcissism is characterised by extroversion, dominance and the need for attention (like a certain wig-wearing presidential candidate), while vulnerable narcissists are usually quiet and reserved, with a strong sense of entitlement (basically high maintenance drama queens).
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The problem is that people like this usually have a high level of satisfaction in their own lives, even while they go around destroying the lives of others. Studies have revealed that being so smug and self-satisfied usually leads to lower honesty and higher levels of aggression. In short, they’re usually not the nicest people to be around. So are the numbers rising?
Studies say yes. Just look around, at the number of selfies being taken, the number of ‘reality’ TV shows out there and even our celebrity culture. Kayne West, for example, seems poised to evolve right before our eyes into a meta-narcissist that might destroy the fabric of time and space, even while simultaneously embarrassing himself even more.
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Some people say social media is to blame, stating that Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat act as fuel to a narcissist’s fire. They give them a platform to share their ‘greatness’ with the world and obsessively count their ‘likes’ the way squirrels hoard their nuts. All these platforms encourage self-promotion, and there are few things narcissists like better than that.
Others blame the ‘self-esteem’ movement that has been gaining ground in recent years. Parental coddling, and their efforts to promote a healthy sense of self-esteem in their children by heaping praise upon them often for doing nothing more than being average, like breathing regularly, or riding a bus to school all by themselves, may be doing more harm than good. These parents could well be raising narcissists without even realising.
Can we deal with it?
The real reason this condition is on the rise could be due to one, or even a number, of factors. The only way to truly stop it is to make sure that you personally don’t become one. Rather than working to impress, work for yourself. Think about how much of a jerk you won’t look like, if you treat others like actual human being, regardless of whether they deserve it or not.
We dread to think what would happen if, in the near future, everyone was as bad as Kayne. In a world where everybody would say that they’re the greatest, who would truly be great?
If on the other hand you’re okay with narcissism, then you’re in good company with the likes of Hitler, Idi Amin and Jim Jones.
If you’re still worried, take this simple test to find out for yourself if you’re a narcissist or not: http://personality-testing.info/tests/NPI/.