It hasn’t happened overnight, but I believe that we are currently at the apex of the era of the narcissist – the era of the self-important – the era of hyper self-esteem – the era of the all important ME!
I can’t help but notice that many people have a strange way of speaking about themselves. They openly and comfortably go into detailed self descriptions of their own style, mannerisms, and personalities. Maybe I’m getting too old, or maybe my upbringing was a bit old fashioned, but I was always under the impression that a person should be only marginally aware of his/her own personality. I always hated those job interviews where I was asked to describe my personality. I don’t know! Ask the people who deal with me on a consistent basis. That’s a question best asked of others; especially if an honest assessment is the goal of the question.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear people describing themselves in the following ways:
- I have a great personality.
- I’m fun to be around.
- I’m hot.
- I’m beautiful.
- I’m compassionate.
- I’m smart.
- I’m cool.
- I’m a great friend, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, father, mother, son, daughter…or just plain great.
Although this embarrassing and annoying phenomenon now seems to be widespread across all demographics, it seems to be more intense and in your face coming from the younger (13-25) population. Recently my wife was walking by a local high school where she overheard the following conversation between three female teenagers:
With the insane self-esteem curriculum being taught throughout the public and private education system, this type of conversation shouldn’t come as a shock. Everyone is great, everyone is beautiful, everyone is smart, and finally, everyone is equal!
I believe that people need to have others in their life who will tell them the truth. Just watch an early episode of American Idol and you’ll understand what I mean. How can a person who is totally tone deaf deeply believe that he can win a singing contest? How can a woman who is 300 lbs. leave the house wearing clothes that would be too skimpy for a super-model? How can a man with ugly hairy feet and dirty crusty toenails get on a rush-hour subway with open-toe sandals or flip-flops? Is there no such thing as honest self assessment anymore? Is there no such thing as humility? Is there no such thing as shame?
This morning I saw a segment on Fox and Friends where the conversation turned to the lagging academic rankings of American schoolchildren compared to the rest of the world. Predictably, our kids ranked way behind other nations in math and science, but ranked first in self-esteem.
While I strongly believe that confidence is a necessary attribute for a successful person, I also believe in knowing and understanding your own limitations. As Harry Callahan once said: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
No person is perfect, so the only way to improve is to recognize that you have weaknesses. You can then focus on strengthening your weaknesses, or work around them. If you’re foolish, naive, or narcissistic enough to believe that you’re perfect, you’re probably in for a long life of disappointment.