Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How do I love me? Let me count the ways

A recent study, conducted by five psychologists, has found that, after years of telling children that they're special, that they can do anything, and that it's all about them, they've apparently been listening. In fact, current college students are "more self-centered and narcissistic" than previous generations. The researchers used the Narcissistic Personality Inventory to fuel their findings. The NPI, which looks for a response on the highly scientific "Strongly Agree-Strongly Disagree" scale to statements such as "I think I am a special person" and "The new Starbucks coffee drink was made with me in mind", has been used for over twenty years to gather information on how people feel about themselves.

Of course, the researchers also point to websites like MySpace, YouTube, and OurGlobalDomination (access pending) as more indications of people engaging in attention-seeking behavior. They also point out that narcissism and a strong sense of self-worth could actually have positive yields, such as when meeting new people. The downside, according to the researchers, is that the students have been told that they're special for so long, it could affect their ability to have worthwhile and open relationships with others. After all, it's been well documented that relationships formed of two people with positive self-image will always end tragically, while relationships where one or both parties suffer from low self-esteem provide a wealth of love and happiness. Or however you want to define codependence.

Obviously, these psychologists are being a little too concerned. True, being more self-centered is a bad thing, but having a high self-worth does not necessarily correlate. If you think highly of yourself, it's entirely possible that nobody will ever meet your expectations, and your goals will completely run over the top of theirs in a sort of battle royale, until only one of you is the winner. Of course, it's also entirely possible that thinking highly of yourself will allow you to work towards your own goals, and to try to support others in their endeavors.

Part of the cycle of high self-worth, in our humble opinion, is the advent of reality programming. When everyone can get themselves onto television for their 15 seconds of fame (adjusted down due to larger numbers of people seeking portion of fame), then it can certainly lead to a greater sense of self-worth and entitlement. Heck, just look towards the celebutards like Paris Hilton and Brandon Davis to see just how out of proportion things can get. Still, shows such as "American Idol" and "Survivor" should also serve to point out something to the viewers of the shows (of which there are millions). The lesson? No matter how special and fabulous you think you are, there's a good chance that the rest of the country may not agree with you. Of course, you could pull a Jennifer Hudson and shove an Oscar win in the nation's face, but that sort of thing is really once in a lifetime.

So while it may be true that the college students today like themselves more than the college students of yesteryear, it doesn't necessarily mean that the end of the world and the end of interpersonal relationships is just around the corner. Because for every Paris Hilton, there is also an Eddie Murphy, willing to hide their own self-loathing behind layers and layers of fatsuit.

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