The Ego Epidemic: Narcissism Is On the Rise
There’s an interesting article on the rise of narcissism at the Mail Online, “The ego epidemic: How more and more of us women have an inflated sense of our own fabulousness. The author, Lucy Taylor, cites research by Jean M. Twenge, PhD and W. Keith Campbell, PhD in their book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. W. Keith Campbell, PhD has also researched and written about narcissism as it pertains to social media platforms. His work is cited in the post, Social Media Platforms, Narcissists, Borderlines and Histrionics: The Lure of Blogs, Facebook and MySpace.
In the Mail’s article, Ms Taylor shares the following research from Twenge and Campbell:
According to the American research, there has been a 67 per cent increase in it over the past two decades, mainly among women.
An estimated ten per cent of the population suffers from narcissism as a full-blown personality disorder.
The symptoms include: a grandiose sense of self-importance; the belief that he or she is special or unique and in some way better – either intellectually or physically – than others; a requirement for excessive admiration; a sense of entitlement, whether to fame, fortune, success and happiness or simply to special treatment; enviousness of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her; an inability to empathise; an inability to admit a mistake; and haughty behaviour or attitude.
What researchers have also identified, and are far more worried about, is what has been described as ‘normal’ narcissism – a cultural shift that has seen even non-narcissistic people seduced by the emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance and celebrity worship.
The researchers believe our culture brings out narcissistic behaviour in almost all of us.
They blame the internet (where ‘fame’ is a click away), reality television (where the lure of fame without talent is most prevalent), easy credit (which enables people to buy far beyond their ability to pay), celebrity worship, our highly consumerist, competitive and individualistic society, and a generation of indulgent parents who have raised their children to think they’re special, amazing and perfect.
According to Twenge, this focus on self-admiration has caused a cultural flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy.
We have phony rich people (who actually have massive mortgages and piles of debt), phony beauty (via plastic surgery), phony celebrities (via reality TV and YouTube), phony genius students (with grade inflation) and phony friends (with the social networking explosion).
Attention is a powerful reinforcement for individuals with narcissistic traits and/or anyone who craves validation and recognition. Many don’t seem to care if the attention they receive is for good or bad behavior or, worse yet, are unable to see how destructive and out of whack the behaviors for which they receive attention are. Attention is attention; it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s good or bad attention to these individuals. Often the most entitled and/or dysfunctional voices dominate.
Ms Taylor further explores the rise of narcissism and its effect on dating. Women with narcissistic traits often have an over-inflated sense of themselves that has very little to do with how attractive or successful they are in reality. Ms Taylor goes on to interview Margaret Medhurt who owns and runs a dating service in the UK. Ms Medhurt has noticed the increase of narcissism in female clients over the last 30 years and discusses how it impacts her business:
‘It used to be that most women who joined a dating agency had a pretty good idea of where they stood in the eligibility stakes,’ she said. ‘But in the past few years, I’ve noticed that there are a significant number of women who don’t.
‘They tend to be in their 30s, and there is a wide discrepancy between how they perceive themselves and how others see them.
‘They are often very plain, but see themselves as being absolutely fabulous, exceptional people.
‘They invariably reject every guy’s profile I send them. But if a guy rejects their profile, there is all hell to pay. There is disbelief. They are really saying: “I’m so fabulous. How dare he turn me down?”
‘In the past few years, I’ve noticed a real sense of entitlement among this small group of women. The idea that a guy might not find them as amazing as they find themselves doesn’t enter their head.
‘They often become indignant and angry towards me, demanding to know why a guy dared to turn them down. Most people simply accept the facts of the dating game: some people will find you attractive and others won’t, in the same way that you’ll be drawn to some but not others.
‘These women, however, are unable to get their heads around the fact that the rest of the world might not share the distorted, inflated view they have of themselves.’
Ms Taylor also interviews, David Baxter, a 40-year old management consultant who recently re-entered the dating pool after being married for 9 years. He states:
‘I’ve had three successive dates recently with ladies in the late 30s to early 40s age bracket that have left me dumbfounded.’
‘I’ve never come across such massive egos, such arrogance and lack of basic courtesy.
‘It was as if these particular dates were a forum for them to tell me how exceptional they were. One told me repeatedly how many young guys at the gym asked her out; another was very artificial.
‘You sensed that they absolutely worshipped themselves, though none of them was drop-dead gorgeous or had amazing personalities, jobs or anything else to set them apart and elevate themselves into some superior position.
‘I also thought it was quite telling that none of them had ever been married, engaged or had recently – or perhaps ever – been in a long-term relationship.
‘I got the feeling that these women were living in a Sex And The City-inspired fantasy world. I also sensed that nobody would ever be good enough for them.
For those who are familiar with these issues, the material discussed in the article is no big surprise. However, it’s worth the read and also worth noting when mainstream publications acknowledge these issues. Thanks to the reader who sent the link to the article.
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