As illustrated in the parable that also informs its etymology, the primary factor that distinguishes narcissism from confidence is a behavioral one. There’s nothing objectionable about holding yourself in high-regard, so long as it isn’t expressed at the expense of other’s self-esteem.
According to a recent study published in the open-access scientific journal Plos One, Millennials and Gen Zers are the most self-absorbed generation by far and by their own admission. More compellingly even, the authors behind the report observed that true narcissists are concurrently proud of their association with the term and ashamed of what that implies about them.
There seem to be a few things contributing to egotism in young generations. The digital age appears to supply its users with a false sense of expertise as explored further here. More broadly, however, the trait most often corrects itself as time assigns folly to ventures well deserved, as demonstrated in a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The atrophy of “self-love”
“Our findings should bring comfort to those who are concerned that young people are problematically narcissistic,” explained study’s co-leader Brent Roberts, who is also a psychology professor at the University of Illinois. “With time, it seems most people turn away from their earlier narcissistic tendencies.”
The analysis began with a pool of 237 participants, each of which had various traits assessed when they were young doe-eyed college freshman of 18 and then once more as seasoned cautionary tales of41. Over the course of 23 years, only 3% maintained the degree of entitlement evidenced in their youth, while the vast majority saw this feature of their personality decline considerably. The way in which a person exercised their narcissism carried a parabolic association.
Those who were vain in their youth experienced a larger number of failed relationships but were generally of better health than the other respondents. Those that felt like good things were innately owed to them when they were 18 reported the lowest degree of life satisfaction by the time they reached middle-age. The inverse appeared to decree the symmetry. Those that married and had children saw a sharper decrease in vanity than those that did not or did quite as successfully. Narcissus’ curse seemed only to apply psychologically, as the more narcissistic the freshman, the more impressive the career down the pike.
“Narcissistic young adults were more likely to end up in supervisory jobs 23 years later, suggesting that selfish, arrogant individuals are rewarded with more powerful organizational roles,” the study’s other co-lead Emily Grijalva who is an organizational behavior professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Interestingly enough though, more times than not, positions that made individuals accountable for a team of subordinates tended to curb self-congratulatory ideations. Years wrought of failures, successes and diverse responsibilities urges self-love from the cocoon of self-appreciation.