We are fast becoming a nation of narcissists, at least according to a recent study by psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. In their book “Living in the Age of Entitlement,” the two present findings from a survey of more than 37,000 college students showing that narcissistic personality traits rose as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present.
The driving force behind narcissistic behavior is an individual’s belief that he or she is unique or exceptional in some way.
The origins of this attitude can often be traced to adult caretakers providing a child continuous positive feedback without the boundaries and discipline necessary for learning their own and others’ limits.
Sometimes an individual’s history of exclusion, rejection, and/or illness can create a belief in his or her own exceptionality – in other words, the individual is exceptional by the virtue of having experienced challenging circumstances. These individuals’ public self-confidence masks private self-doubt; however, their negative feelings may be so deeply buried that they are inaccessible.
Although some criticize Twenge and Campbell’s study as little more than kids-these-days moralizing, just the thought of an influx of arrogant, self-promoting members of generations Y (Millennials) and Z (Digital Natives) keeps many managers and HR practitioners up at night.
But what if narcissism wasn’t necessarily a bad thing? To find out more, download our ebook The Upside of Narcissism in the Workplace.