Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I recently read some commentary addressing what the writer sees as a growing phenomenon, narcissism in the “me generation”. This is a generation characterized by narcissism and a sense of entitlement, where the interests and well-being of the individual come before those of the group. Impatience and a desire for instant gratification are also assigned to this generation, and reference was made to the book, Generation Me, by Jean Twinge, who describes young people as being more assertive, confident, entitled, and more miserable than ever before. When things go wrong in their life they tend to project the blame on others, which in turn results in frustration, anger, and eventual rudeness. The end result is increasing stress levels.

Not a very complimentary description of this generation (folks born between 1981 and 1999, according to Twinge). My skepticism evolved to anger and frustration when the writer disparagingly described parents raising their children to “feel special, be anything they wanted to be, and to believe in yourself”. Here was another example of someone taking the easy way out by seeing only extremes and failing to examine all of the intricacies of an issue.

I don’t know of a greater gift that a parent can give their child than the gift of self esteem and the belief that they can aspire to realize what ever dreams they may have. A child who grows up believing he or she is special, believing in themselves, is someone who will be emotionally prepared to address the trials and tribulations of life. It is only after an individual understands and accepts who they are that they can then effectively serve others and the community.

But there is more to this than instilling these character strengths in the child. It is equally important for children to know their role in the community, to learn from their parents that they are part of a world larger than themselves. In addition, instilling a sense of self worth is not the equivalent of a sense of entitlement, in fact the lesson is this: you aspire to achieve your dreams by working for them. It is the absence of these lessons, and not the instillation of self esteem and self worth that leads to narcissism. A critical point that this commentator failed to address.


timeisoftheessence said...

Oh WISE SAGE on the corner! I enjoy your wisdom!

Helen Read said...

I couldn't agree with you more - in fact, its the absence of self-worth that often leads to a me-centered, narcissitic personality!

Oh - thanks for your visit to Brushstrokes! Give colored pencil a try :) (But not all colored pencils are created equal!)