I Me Mine: Is Society Becoming Increasingly Narcissistic?

In the recent New York Times Bestseller, “The Road to Character,” David Brooks criticizes western culture for its ever increasing emphasis on individual success and self-advancement over more collectivist virtues, such as humility, empathy, and compassion for others. Brooks contends that this “culture of the Big Me” has led many of us to become obsessed with superficial “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status – at the expense of core “eulogy virtues” – kindness, bravery, honesty, and faithfulness.

Brooks further suggests that our modern self-obsessed culture has contributed to an increase in the prevalence of narcissism.

Between 1948 and 1954, psychologists asked more than 10,000 adolescents whether they considered themselves to be a very important person. At that point, 12 percent said yes. The same question was revisited in 1989, and this time it wasn’t 12 percent who considered themselves very important, it was 80 percent of boys and 77 percent of girls.

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Are the Contributions of Influential Introverts Under Recognized and Under Appreciated?

I recently finished reading Susan Cain’s bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I recommend picking it up if you haven’t already read it, as it addresses a topic relevant not only to psychologists, but also educators, administrators, business leaders, and pretty much anyone who comes into contact with other human beings on a regular basis.

In Quiet, Cain argues that, since the Industrial Revolution, those of us living in traditional western societies have come to believe that, in order to be successful if life, one must possess the “right” type of personality. In order to find a suitable mate, one must be charming and funny. In order to land a job, one must be assertive and persuasive. And in order to have a successful career and earn promotion, one must be charismatic, gregarious, and an affable “team player.”

As such, Cain argues that western society favors and idealizes extroverts (those who primarily seek stimulation from the external environment and who prefer being in the company of others) at the expense of introverts (those who primarily seek stimulation from their own internal environment and who prefer spending time alone with their own thoughts).¹

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