Narcissism Epidemic

From Merriam-Webster:

extremely self-centered with an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Does this sound familiar? It should do.

I have come to the conclusion that here, in western civilisation at least, we are seeing an increasingly narcissistic society where people are lost in their ballooning sense of self-importance. Entitlement is everywhere and a worrying number of people simply cannot deal with being denied something, or being informed that they are wrong.

Here’s the blunt truth: you are not important.

I am not important.

In fact, nobody is more important than anybody else.

Now, you may argue that the woman making crucial political decisions is more important than the man sitting on his arse at home, drinking beer in the middle of the day and sponging off the state but even this isn’t so. One role in society is more important than the other but the actual people in those roles? Nope. If you are talking about human life then neither person in that scenario is more important. After all, you can have all the money in the world and one of the highest positions in society, but you still take a shit in the same way. You can still contract a terminal illness such as cancer. And, in the end, we all die the same way.

Away from the crude and morbid analogies, my point is this: strip away the status and we are all just people. Yes, we are all individuals with different personalities, ideas and views on matters but nobody has the right to be considered more important than anybody else.

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[Image Source]
Narcissism doesn’t care about that though. Narcissism is most commonly linked with physical vanity and originates from the ancient Greek myth, where the young Narcissus looked into a pool and fell in love with his own reflection. That pool that Narcissus gazed into is still here today, only in the form of mirrors and self-facing smartphone camera lenses, rather than old-school water. But I would argue that selfies and the millions of photos plastered across social media of girls in their bedrooms showing off their make-up, outfits and even their bodies is only surface level narcissism. How many of those girls are showing off in front of the camera because they are genuinely in love with their physical self, do you think? I would wager that it is only a small percentage. This kind of behaviour is born of a need to compete and look pretty to live up to a set of standards that society and the media have cooked up in order to keep selling us products.

If you ask me, this isn’t narcissism because it stems from insecurity.

Narcissism operates on a sub-level. It’s the act of showing off to the world and subconsciously shouting for attention that is narcissistic, not the photographs themselves. We crave those Likes and positive comments on our pictures. We want our oh-so-dramatic status updates to pique the curiosity of others and get them asking questions or sending us their best wishes (if said status alludes to a bad experience). We want every piece of trivial, meaningless shit that we upload to social media profiles – amusing gifs, memes, reactions – to contribute towards wrenching the spotlight away from somebody else.

It makes us feel important.

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[Image Source]
It would be unfair to say that social media is the sole reason that we, as a society, have allowed our sense of self-importance to grow and swell until it dominates our decisions and thought processes, but it has a hell of a lot to answer for. The thing is, the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given anybody with access a platform to speak to the world and blurt out their opinions and rash reactions to events, seconds after they have occured. In ye olden days, if something really fucking offended your principles or seemed worth pushing back against, you’d have to get off your arse and organise a physical rally or protest march. It took effort and organisation. However, social media allows anybody to scream and bawl about anything at all that they perceive to be a wrong, an insult or a problem. Anybody can whinge about anything and when like-minded users begin to agree, an echo-chamber effect amplifies the loudest of voices and, suddenly, the original issue appears to be a huge thing. Massive, even.

Back in REAL life, you are unlikely to meet that many people – if anybody at all – who are talking about the latest cataclysmic outrage that is tearing the internet apart. Why? Because it isn’t actually a big deal at all. If you had to physically organise a meet-up or go out and do something about a perceived problem, how many people do you think would actually bother? How many of these “issues” do you think would even be worth discussing in public?

People’s self-inflated sense of importance gives them the idea that their opinions are important; that THEY are important. And neither is true. Many people can’t deal with somebody challenging their opinion either. The default response is to shout and scream back at the other person, insisting that they are right and that the other person is absolutely, categorically wrong. It’s the equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and shouting, “LA, LA, LA…I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

You’ve no doubt seen it before, first-hand. Look at the comments sections in Youtube or any sort of debate/discussion on social media or in the comments sections of news articles and there is a distinct pattern. Raging, never-ending back-and-forths where nobody is capable of listening to other viewpoints or taking onboard rational, critical counter-arguments. Sure, some people concede or admit that their viewpoint may be flawed, but this is the rare exception to a rotten rule. Usually, it’s all about repeating your opinion relentlessly, and any sensible discussion is more or less guaranteed to devolve into hurling insults.

It’s the final line of defence that sees our supposedly intelligent race regress to the level of apes and start flinging its own shit around.

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This happens because an exaggerated sense of self-importance also extends to one’s opinions. Narcissistic people simply cannot have their viewpoint threatened or challenged by another person. They don’t know how to deal with this and thus revert to a childish state where they ultimately throw a tantrum because they aren’t being allowed to have their own way.

In a previous post entitled, ‘You know nothing (and that’s okay)‘, I went into how it’s healthy to be open to the fact that you could be wrong. It’s an attitude that keeps your mind open and allows you to learn. It doesn’t mean that the criticism and opposing views of others are right, but you should be prepared to shut your mouth, listen and analyse what you’re hearing. There might be flaws in your view(s) that you have overlooked or you might actually be wrong. You also need to be able to question yourself at all times and, ultimately, you have to be big enough to accept that you were incorrect and that somebody else’s input was actually useful.

This mindset appears to be being driven to extinction however. It isn’t (as I said earlier) all the fault of the social media though. The other major catalyst responsible for this narcissism epidemic is rampant entitlement. So many people feel that they are owed something by society and life in general. They feel that they deserve all the good things in life without actually doing anything to earn them. And when they don’t get them, narcissism strikes again and they can’t cope with not receiving what they believe they are owed.

I’m sure that there are a multitude of reasons for this ugly and utterly flawed way of approaching life but I will try to keep it brief here because, after all, I’m no expert in psychology or social history. First of all, entitlement seems to have crept into western society over a period of decades. The most obvious reason is that multiple generations of people have grown up in peacetime with no wars to threaten their existence. As a result, millions of people haven’t had to learn the hard way that they are lucky to be alive and leading the rich lives that they are living. Growing up and living a long time with access to healthcare that can fix most problems is taken for granted, as is state assistance.

In short, people grow into adults surrounded by safety nets and help. They don’t learn the value of hard work like their grandparents and great grandparents did. Instead, they benefit from their immediate ancestors’ relative wealth. Those previous generations lived through a time where wages were more competitive and they were able to completely pay off mortagages and amass savings. As such, their children were able to benefit from the security and stability.

A lot of people grew up with everything they wanted and increasingly-lax parents that failed to instil any form of discipline or meaningful teachings into their children. Suffering (an incredibly valuable tool for positive growth) was kept to a minimum and a lot of children developed into adults with a resulting sense of self-importance.

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To share a personal example, I remember being at school in the early-mid 2000’s and being surrounded by 11-15 year-olds decked out in designer-branded clothes and £100+ trainers. They had the latest mobile phones as soon as they came to market; all the latest videogame consoles and games, no matter the amount it must have set their parents back. I didn’t have anything of the sort and made do with old, outdated handed-down mobile phones and cheap, affordable off-brand clothes/trainers. When everybody else was raving about the latest Playstation 2 games, I was still using an original, handed-down Playstation and replaying games I’d finished countless times before! But to the other kids, having all of this stuff was viewed as normal – expected, even. I was the odd one out – unable to join in with discussing the latest videogames or mobile phones – and I can’t deny that I felt jealous back then. But now, as an adult, I appreciate the way my parents raised me (a post for another time), and I can see that many others in my school year were already riddled with entitlement.

So people became entitled and now, when life doesn’t treat them the same as their parents and hand them everything on a silver plate, they can’t handle it. Suddenly, their “suffering” (it really isn’t) is the fault of everybody else: society, the government, wealthy people…anybody else’s fault but their own. You’ve no doubt heard people saying, “why is this happening to me?”, acting like a victim. They can’t understand why every little thing isn’t going their way and they falsely believe that they are suffering terribly.

And now, this monstrous sense of self-importance is coming to the fore in mainstream media. Anybody with an agenda is shouting loudly and protesting – be it LGBT rights, #metoo, Extinction Rebellion, etc. – because they absolutely must be heard. Their opinion and cause is incredibly important and everybody must stand up and take notice. And don’t you dare disagree with what they want. Their right to take offence at opposing viewpoints is more important than anything else, including your opinion. They are important people, after all.

I’m not saying that everybody has fallen into this narcissism trap but it seems to be a problem that grows worse with each successive generation and I can’t see it going away anytime soon with social media’s influence now an integral part of our lives. The people who may as well be screaming, “look at meeeeee!” on Facebook are having children of their own and, to those children, this sort of behaviour will be imprinted upon them and become second nature.

There are actually some very worrying theories online from psychology experts and historians who believe that this is all building up to war, the collapse of society and rapidly degrading IQ levels across western society. There’s historical evidence and patterns that back up the theories too.

Worrying times.

 

You don’t deserve anything

Recently I have made a lot of posts about things such as books and cars, subjects I do intend to continue covering (because this blog is a free-for-all as far as what I feel like talking about is concerned) but now it’s time to return to some of that real talk.

Or at least my attempts to make “real” talk. I could always be wrong but being wrong is another topic for another post.

So: you don’t deserve anything. I don’t deserve anything. Nobody deserves anything.

Obviously, the word “deserve”, its deriatives and the situations in which it is applied can cover a wide variety of scenarios and – as with pretty much everything on this mudball – there are exceptions. In this case, these exceptions are applications of the word “deserve” that I see as fair game and therefore exempt from what this post is about. Correct uses of deserving if you will. The two main exceptions that I want to define before I continue are:

  1. Saying that somebody got “what they deserved” after acting like an arsehole, being a criminal or choosing to be reckless in the face of all warnings. I don’t believe in karma or some sort of cosmic scales but I do believe in statistical odds and the fact that nobody can get away unscathed forever. Plus there is that added human satisfaction of seeing a corrupt celebrity behind bars or a car-jacker ran over by the very vehicle he was attempting to steal – that sort of thing.
  2. Saying that somebody deserves something more than another. The point of this post is for me to explain that nobody deserves anything but IF something fortunate or extremely positive WAS to happen to somebody then I see nothing wrong with judging who is more deserving of being the benficiary of that luck. Example: a struggling, honest working-class family is more deserving of a freak lottery win over a millionaire who still buys tickets because they still aren’t satisfied with their needlessly bloated bank balance.

What I actually want to address are all the whiny moaners with first-world problems, banging the woe-is-me drum and telling people that they “don’t deserve this” or that they DO in fact “deserve this to happen”. I should know because I used to be a whiny, entitled moaner myself before waking up a little bit more and realising some harsh truths.

It’s a problem born of negative mindsets such as entitlement, jealousy and pure ignorance. We’ve all heard people proclaiming that they deserve things and if you stop to consider their words then you may conclude that they are really fucking irritating “look at me” people who believe that their life is shit and perpetually swirling around in a shit-stained toilet bowl, destined for an appointment with the Sewer God. You may well have already reached this conclusion and elected to minimise your time around these people to try and limit the amount of unhelpful negativity that can – and will – rub off on you. We all know people like this.

There’s the unlucky-in-love guy that mopes around saying “I really deserve a girlfriend by now”

There’s the work-shy woman who does nothing to get a better job or stop blowing so much money on rubbish, all the while telling her friends that she deserves to have more money.

There’s that person we all know who is completely blind to what they DO have in their lives and eternally bleats on about how “nothing good ever happens” to them. These people also tend to come out with the old classic, “it’s about time I had some good luck”.

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There are a few harsh truths and points that I’d like to make to anybody who thinks like this, some of which helped me. I’m not saying that I’m a successful or “reborn” person at all. Fucking far from it. I consider myself to still be at the beginning of my own journey of development but I do feel that I have at least woken up to these truths and driven off a lot of those unattractive, entitled misconceptions.

  1. If you want something, you have to go out and get it. Obviously, putting this into practice is a completely different thing but the first step is to accept this truth. Yes, there is such a thing as freak luck but sitting around waiting for the chaotic element of life’s fabric to randomly toss you a bone is a fool’s game. If you want more money then you have to go and earn it. If you want to be better at flirting with girls or have more success getting laid then you have to practice, practice, practice. If you want to overcome an obstacle then you have to be prepared to tackle it.
  2. Shit happens. Sometimes it feels like shit is happening to you more than it is to your friend or that cocky mofo at work but shit happens to everybody. The difference is that those who seem to be able to dodge the brown bullets probably aren’t walking around moaning all the time. It’s okay to feel shit or to acknowledge that something that happened to you was crappy but dwelling on it for too long, over-analysing or – worst of all – believing that life is out to trip you up at every corner really won’t help.
  3. You are not special. What gives you the right to state that you deserve something? What have you done to earn that something? You need to realise that there is no universal force that sees an individual injustice and decides to step in and console the person with a reward for suffering it. It would be fantastic if such a thing were true but it isn’t.

The absolute worst people in my mind are those who believe their life is terrible when others, looking in from the outside, can see different. Most of us here in the western world have a roof over our heads, jobs to go to (regardless of how ‘good’ they are) and easy access to food/water. A lot of us get up every morning without fail and aren’t afflicted with diseases or horrible conditions and yet still we moan, moan, moan. I had a brief moment of relapse last week where I thought something along the lines of “my job is shit and I’ve had enough”. Then I saw a homeless man sitting in the doorway of a shop with a handmade sign telling passers by that he used to serve the country in the armed forces. I gave myself a metaphorical slap and reminded myself that there is absolutely nothing for me to be complaining about. I can only imagine what a homeless person’s reaction would be to the whining of a middle-class person with a home, car, family and job. It must sound utterly disgusting and hellishly ignorant.

The bottom line is that nobody deserves anything. Yes, there are people amongst us who deserve nice things more than others but the reality is that there are no free handouts. Complaining won’t change a thing and you will be forever miserable unless you start acknowledging the things that you do have and start working to get to where you want to be.

It’s time to wake up.