Narcissists Fight Back

In response to the American Freshman survey, which continues to show an increasing trend of delusional narcissism among the youth, Jenna Goudreau of Forbes responds:

Okay. As a millennial myself, I can certainly attest that most members of this generation are in fact self-involved. However, as far as I can tell, most everyone in every generation is self-involved. But “deluded” and “narcissistic” (which until recently was considered a psychiatric disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)? Them’s fightin’ words.

Yeah, but Jenna never truly engages the fight as it is not about being self-involved.  It’s about being so self-involved that one becomes delusional.  For she neither addresses nor mentions that core problem:

  • while the Freshman Survey shows that students are increasingly likely to label themselves as gifted in writing ability, objective test scores indicate that actual writing ability has gone down since the 1960s.
  • And while in the late 1980s, almost half of students said they studied for six or more hours a week, the figure was little over a third by 2009 – a fact that sits rather oddly, given there has been a rise in students’ self-proclaimed drive to succeed during the same period.

If the objective test scores indicated that actual writing ability was the highest ever recorded and 75% of students said they studied for six or more hours a week, then there would not be a problem.  But that’s not reality.  Reality is that these students think they are incredibly gifted and incredibly driven when they are not.

Here’s a nice metaphor for the problem that might appeal to Goudreau’s level of thinking:

Goudreau continues:

 “It’s a shop-worn narrative that’s been circulating for years,” says Hannah Seligson, author of Mission: Adulthood: How the 20-Somethings of Today Are Transforming Work, Love, and Life. “In fact, there’s a whole counter-narrative: We are a socially conscious generation that cares about making an impact. Young people say they want to give back. Volunteer rates are up, and so are applications for service-oriented careers like Teach for America. We are also huge advancers of equality and tolerance, from gay to interracial marriage. So how does all of this square with the theory that we are all narcissists? It doesn’t.”

How does this square?  Two words comes to mind:

Lady Gaga

This highly over-rated celebrity is clearly one of today’s poster children for narcissism.  Yet she supposedly gives a lot to charity and is a “huge advancer of equality and tolerance.”  So it’s pretty clear being “socially conscious” can fit comfortably among all the nation’s narcissistic celebrities.  In fact, is Seligson oblivious to the fact that the celebrity media promotes the very “socially conscious” values and thus makes them “cool” and “hip.”  Young narcissists embrace those “socially conscious” values because it enhances their already bloated egos and makes them look even more hip on Facebook.

Goudreau then adds another line of defense:

So where does this navel-gazing narrative come from? Dr. Ablow attributes his diagnosis of millennial self-love to (1) malleable social media identities that allow users to craft their ideal selves and cultivate mass followings; (2) escapist gaming technology where players can pretend to be heroes and star athletes; and (3) A’s for effort and trophies just for participating.

Yet according to Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of upcoming Promote Yourself, they’re not alone.

Is this a joke?  To defend the narcissists against accusations of being narcissistic, she quotes some author who wrote a book, “Promote Yourself.”  This reminds me of the current Egyptian president who claimed he is not anti-Jewish and we only think that because he is the victim of the Jewish-run media.

But let’s hear Schawbel out:

“I would agree that there is some sense of entitlement and narcissism,” he says, “but it’s clearly rubbing off on older generations now that they are all on social networks posting pictures of themselves.”

My head hurts.  Is there any logic in this?  This narcissist thinks the way to defend his narcissism is by trumpeting how contagious it is?

Goudreau then asks:

Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder: When did it become a bad thing to want to succeed? To think of yourself as capable?

She can’t help but wonder this because she is so stupid.  It’s not bad to want to succeed.  It’s bad to delude yourself into thinking you are going to great lengths to succeed when you are not.  It’s not bad to think of yourself as capable as long as you truly are capable. Is this somehow hard to understand?

Finally we get to end with this gem:

“We shouldn’t conflate narcissism and self-confidence,” says Seligson. “As for the claim that we’ve all become self-deluded, thinking we are so talented and successful. Please. We’ve had to job search in the worst economy since the Great Depression.”

And alas, when the narcissists fail, they do what their narcissism leads them to do – blame some scapegoat.  Seligson actually thinks self-delusion is deserved because her generation is a generation of victims.

In summary, Goudreau’s article itself encapsulates the problem.  As a member of Forbes Staff, she is probably proud of this intellectual train wreck.  She probably thinks she answered the criticisms, complete with quotes from people whose expertise amounts to nothing more than writing books and articles promoting narcissistic values.  And here’s her argument in a nutshell:

1. Ignore the problem (delusional self-love) and recast it in straw man terms (mere self-love).

2. Deny there is a problem by raising a Red Herring.

3. Question if there is anything wrong with narcissism.

4. And if there is something wrong with narcissism, we can’t blame the narcissists.  It’s not their fault.

In other words, we’re looking at a level of intellectual sophistication that we might come to expect from the Gnu movement.  No wonder more young people are buying into Gnu propaganda.

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4 Responses to Narcissists Fight Back

  1. Tim Lambert says:

    Millennialists helped pave the way for interracial marriages?
    Talk about deluded narcissism.

  2. chunkdz says:

    I love myself way too much to ever become a narcissist.

  3. Crude says:

    The article seems to unintentionally become an example of narcissism in action. As Mike pointed out, just because you think you’re not successful in some way doesn’t mean you’re not a narcissist, especially if you blame your lack of success on a scapegoat. (“I’m a brilliant writer, but I’ve never finished a book much less had one published. There’s just no support out there for people like me, success is had by medium-talent people with connections!”)

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