Tell me…

I’m back, people!

Click here and click play. It’s part of a larger BBC report that I heard during work last week. With your permission, I’d like to break it down:

“The idea of self-improvement is now very much part of the culture. We take it for granted that the self is paramount, and that we need to feel good about ourselves. But is this changing our personalities?”

“Professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University in California has already coined the phrase, “Generation Me”, describing the growing number of people who take it for granted that the self comes first. And she’s less than flattering abut the downsides of this fundamental cultural shift.

Professor Twenge herself:

“There’s a very big percentage increase in college students who said they thought they were above average in their drive to achieve. There’s also a big increase in those who thought they were above average in their leadership ability, also in their intellectual self-confidence and social self-confidence.” 

“Scores were either down or unchanged over the years. So, that suggests that actual ability hasn’t changed or has maybe even gone down some at the same time that more students believe that they are above average in things like academic ability, Math ability, and so on.”

I wrote in 2010:

“Is it better to have happy children who don’t develop skills, simply because they’re not forced to? Is a child being comfortable (not just safe, but comfortable) more important than what, or if, they learn? Is it all right to have children graduating high school and even college with no real skills, as long as they feel good about themselves?”

Professor Twenge again:

“Our culture used to encourage… modesty, and humility, and not bragging about yourself, and it was considered a bad thing to be seen as conceited or full of yourself.”

“What’s really become prevalent over the last few decades is instead the idea that you should be self-confident at all times. And in fact that being highly self-confident, loving yourself, believing in yourself, is the key to success. The interesting thing about that belief is that it’s widely held, it’s very deeply held, and it’s also untrue.”

Me, 2006:

Throughout my entire life, I remember slogans and propaganda “you are special” “you are unique” “the power of positive thinking.” And yet, at the same time my generation has been bombarded, possibly more than ever before, with influences of media which paint an absurdly inaccurate picture of life that will be: our future.

Me, 2008:

To become ideal humans… we need to be hurt. 

Professor Twenge:

 “Big research review came out a few years ago on self-esteem and whether it actually leads to good outcomes. And it turns out, it doesn’t. Self esteem doesn’t really lead to success…”
“It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but it doesn’t really help, either.  So, that suggests that this idea we have of increasing self-esteem and positive self-views throughout the culture has had the effect of, younger generations in particular, thinking very highly of themselves but it has not actually improved performance.”
Me, 2006:

I feel like I’m in a coffee shop, comfortable, warm, secure, and happy. Across the street, I see the other people in my life playing on the damn playground outside McDonald’s. I’m happy with my coffee, and I enjoy it quite a bit…but I still want to be with my friends. I don’t feel bad for being across the street, or like I can’t hang with my friends simply because they wanna have their Happy Meals. I’d just like someone to drink some coffee with me, ya know? I’m sick, tired, and depressed that it feels like I’m alone and I just can’t be silly and play at McDonald’s.

Me, 2010
We are sending, every year, more and more young people out into the world with the mindset of “I know my rights” and nothing else. They have not been punished, they have never been firmly told to follow a rule, they have never been expected to hold up a responsibility. What happens, then, when those formative years are lost, when the brain does not develop correctly, and the now-adults are unaware of what life will turn into? The word is stagnation. Without anyone there to cater to their every whim, these man-children will do one of two things: find someone or something that will, or simply complain. Without the knowledge and ability to properly uphold a responsibility, these children have never stopped being children, and now we are treated to a generation of workers that now feels that they need to be thanked and lauded simply for coming to work on time.

Professor Twenge on those who score high in Narcissism:

“They put themselves first in every way. So they have a very positive self-view, they do have very high self-esteem, but they take it a step further. It’s not just that they feel good about themselves, it’s that they feel GREAT and they feel better than other people. And they feel so much better than other people that other people don’t matter to them much, except for what they can do for them…”

“They tend to lack empathy, they have a hard time taking someone else’s perspective, they don’t work well in groups, they have problems, long-term especially, in relationships, and they tend to be aggressive when other people insult them or reject them. So, they think very highly of themselves but not all that highly of other people.”

Me, 2006:

-A real successful person does not need to talk about themselves, other people will talk for them.

-What is better: a socially comfortable life with a weak, uncertain individual core


An individually strong life with a socially unfomfortable situation.

Should you care more what other people think of you, or what you think of yourself?

Me, 2010:

We have placed the “good feeling” of our students over the education they come to school to obtain in the hopes that, one treated like demigods, they will lower themselves to learn. For anyone who supports this approach, I will only tell you one thing: a demigod will never think that it needs to learn. When someone is placed upon such a pedestal and given the feeling that there is nothing wrong with them, the idea of getting an education is counterintuitive.

Professor Twenge on the Narcisissm Personality Inventory from 1982-2009:
“We found that college students are now more likely to describe themselves in narcissistic terms. Scores have increased over time.”
“Other researchers have looked at this question… all of which point in the direction of there being a generational increase in narcissistic personality traits.”
 Me, 2010:

This is just a symptom of a larger problem: the world is becoming increasingly self-focused, to the point where a basic conversation cannot take place in most situations. Additionally, the civilized world is becoming vastly anti-intellectual and anti-exceptional, an easy step to make from the current self-deification trend. When one is the God of their own universe, one could ask, there can be no one better.

Me, 2011:

This is just a symptom of a larger problem: self-deification. When one is the God of their own universe, one could ask, there can be no one better. When the smallest hardship happens in the lives of these demi-Gods, it is inflated to ridiculous proportions and the blame is usually laid at the feet of some sort of trickster demon.

More can be read here. I have to tell you, when I heard this at work, I was thankfully alone at the time. I rubbed those words like a soothing balm all over my body: now I have scientific proof that everything I was saying and what I was so worried about with my generation was right. I was right. After nearly a decade of wondering what was wrong with me, it’s a feeling that simply can’t be explained. If I wasn’t a married man, I’d say it was the best feeling I’d ever experienced, bar none.

Of course, this also draws into fine relief just how exactly I was able to see these trends and these issues before so many others did. How? Because I was there. In many ways, I still am a very self-absorbed, narcissistic person. What can I say, I am a product of my generation. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wife and family who are trying to help me through it, and in the mean time I can do all I can to use my failings and my experiences to try to make sure this horror is not repeated for as long as I live… I hope.

And finally, for all the people who said I was too angry, too arrogant, or just wanking and didn’t know what I was talking about, or for the assistant school administrator who said I was being “juvenile” and that this was no way to be an “agent of change,” for everyone who swore up and down that I had the problem and that was wrong and that was in the wrong place…



 Hey, like I said, I’m still a work in progress. Allow me one last bit of narcissism, eh?

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