Not Your Mother’s Narcissism


By Sarah Stanley

It’s no wonder that being in your twenties makes you more likely to be self-centered. It’s the time of self-discovery, self-development, and ultimately using these progressions to place yourself in the grander scheme of society.

Old folks like to complain that Generation Y is more narcissistic with their selfie-sticks and hourly status updates, but this simply isn’t the case. That being said, narcissism today is certainly different from the narcissism of old, and it’s not all Twitter’s fault.


Overpraising Average Work

Adulthood can be disappointing. Exiting the energy-packed high school years and entering the nine-to-five grind feels like losing your free trial of Netflix. Parents don’t tell their children about the mundane working life that awaits. Kids are told that they can do anything, even become the next president, if they want to.

Overpraising children leads to unrealistic ideas of self-achievement and therefore unrealistic expectations of rewards.

“I feel like my parents may have fed into my narcissism a bit when I was younger by always bragging about my test scores and things like that to their friends,” says Graylin Wotipka, sophomore physics major at Florida Institute of Technology.

While making your child feel good about their performance is beneficial in moderation, too much can make your tyke feel like a titan.

On the other hand, some praise can help children to feel better about themselves while giving them a better sense of place in society.

“My father always praising me for good grades and sports performance made it feel like less of an individual achievement, and him being there made it feel like ‘we’ did it,” says Wesley Shelnut, University of Florida graduate.

Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, LPC at Northern Illinois University, says parents mistake improving self-esteem with implementing narcissism.

“I sometimes joke with my faculty by reminding them that ‘not everybody gets a pony,’” says Degges-White.

She says that making sure children feel loved and happy is important but that it doesn’t help them, or society, to believe that they are the center of attention even if they didn’t earn it.


Reimagining Support Structures

Another influence over this generation’s perceived narcissism is the new family dynamic. At this crossroads in life, millennials are waiting to magically poof into adulthood like our parents did. But instead of pushing the next generation out of the nest, some parents are keeping their precious babies at home longer.

“For some parents, the millennial generation allows them to continue to feel needed,” says Degges-White. “They also are able to put off their own sense of aging if they still have ‘kids’ in the house.”

However, this generation is lacking support from other family members. This article from Psychodynamic Practice says, “The extended family where advice, encouragement and support passed through generations is largely extinct.”

To millennials, people are viewed as “connections” to commodities such as jobs and better deals on various expenses. Losing the extended family not only means the loss of warmth and comfort but also the loss of connections to make this journey through a rocky point in life easier.

As society moves farther and farther from the long-standing family model, young people must find their own way without as many truly caring people set in place to help them through. This translates to increased self-reliance, which is scary as without “adult” know-how.

Sometimes, amplifying your strengths in your own mind can be a helpful coping mechanism.

“Especially as a college student, I feel like taking some time to think about how awesome you are can help fight off some of the anxiety of transitioning into being a full-blown adult,” says FIT student Wotipka.

Narcissism has become a necessity.


Advancing Technology

Throughout all of this, technology is remodeling society in huge ways. Though every generation has lived through the production of new technology, this time the advancements are more frequent, and Generation X is not liking the change. It’s easy to see why they think this generation is so entitled. We have all of these powerful new toys, and we still ask for more.

“They are late adapting to the new stage of technology that our generation has been given since birth and in turn they believe we have it easier than them,” recent UF alumni Shelnut adds.

Undoubtedly, parents who are less adapted to the new technology seem to think it’s much easier for this generation and that we are just reveling in this luxurious new world. 

So what do we do in the meantime? Pretend to be as glamorous as possible. With social media, the fellow mopping the floor at Wendy’s can be a cartoonist or give fashion advice on the internet.

“I don’t know if Millennials are the ‘first generation’ to experience a sense of entitlement and ‘specialness,’ but they are the first generation to be totally immersed in social media from such a young age,” Degges-White explains. “Even if you’re creating a Google+ or LinkedIn page for career purposes, you are still creating a constructed identity that is designed to attract attention from others.”

In a world where praise is harder-earned than it was during childhood, we look to glorify our lives and syphon compliments from others.

“Having a personal ‘space’ or ‘page’ gives individuals a place to feel that what they do matters and has greater import than it might,” says Degges-White.

As a result, Millennials have been encouraged to believe that their feelings and their experiences matter more to others than they probably should, she says.

Although older generations may accuse millennials of being more narcissistic or self-absorbed than they were, they often forget how they behaved when they were that age–and the impact social media and technology have had on our society.

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