Are We Raising a Generation of Narcissists?
What is it with many college students today? Actually, what is it with non-college kids as well? What is it that has given them the attitude that they are “entitled” to success without putting in years of working their way up the ladder?
I don’t mean to paint with a broad brush here, there are plenty of kids today who work hard and have good values. Just look at our men and women in the military and you can see that there is hope for this country. No, I am talking about a group of young college students who were asked to take the American Freshman Survey. 9 million young people have taken this survey over the last 47 years and when you analyze the results you can see that young people today are convinced of their own greatness whether they have accomplished anything or not.
They tend to believe that they are smarter, more talented, more confident and more apt to succeed than any of their predecessors. THEY may believe it, but researchers have found that there is a disconnect between the student’s opinion of themselves and the actual truth of their ability. These kids actually believe that just by wanting and wishing for success, they will get it without putting in the blood, sweat and tears it takes to really succeed.
So where does this skewed since of self-worth come from? I can pinpoint the day that I realized we were in trouble with this generation. It was my son Cody’s first Little League game. Three or four of the kids on the team were stand-out players. They practiced all the time, went to the batting cage and really worked at being good at the sport. Others either didn’t have any athletic ability or just flat out didn’t want to be there. They never picked up a bat until the day of the game and couldn’t wait to go home and do something else.
The dedicated kids played their hearts out and Cody’s team won. The coach put the kids all in a circle, congratulated them and then proceeded to give each of them a “game ball” for an outstanding job. As Cody and I walked to the car, he tossed the ball in his bag and asked me, “Why did everybody get a reward? I made three base hits and Casey made two RBI’s. Some of those kids didn’t even try.”
I didn’t quite know what to say to him. He continued. “Why should I try so hard? I’ll get a game ball anyway.” At that point, I tried to explain to a seven year old that he had to try and be the best at whatever he did. He needed to practice and hone his skills so that he could be proud of what he accomplished and not just get a reward for doing nothing. I told him that you don’t appreciate anything that you don’t earn and work hard for and that some day he would understand.
So here we are today. Those seven year olds are now graduating from college and expecting their “reward”. Look at Occupy Wall Street; there is a perfect example of privileged, coddled children who probably have wealthy families that paid for their law degrees at some liberal institution. They are so outraged that they have to actually “pay” for their student loans when they can’t find a job. How dare they be asked to do that?!
The future doesn’t look too bright for these narcissistic young people. Studies now say that they will more than likely suffer from depression as they get older, have trouble finding meaningful relationships and have to come to grips with the fact that they are not as great as they thought they were.
Narcissism is defined as excessive self-love and vanity; self-admiration and self-centeredness. Remember when it was a bad thing to be full of yourself and conceited? You were looked down upon if you acted that way. Today, whether it is because of the celebrity culture, social media or parenting styles, kids aspire to be “known” and talked about. Their heroes are more than likely celebrities and reality stars than hard working business people. In one sense, how can you blame them when they see the Kardashians and the Jersey Shore kids pulling in millions of dollars for doing nothing? Why bother to spend years going to college when you can become a YouTube sensation? Have an affair with a famous sports star and you can take it to the bank.
Unfortunately this will end badly. We can already see where our country is headed with its runaway entitlement mentality. If this generation of young people doesn’t wake up, our society really is lost.
As bad as this all sounds, I like to try to find a glimmer of hope. Perhaps all of the turmoil that we are going through in this country and with this culture is for a reason. Perhaps God has put these challenges in our way to finally make us wake up and see the light. Maybe a jolt into reality for this young generation will actually make them better people as they age.
The world didn’t end on December 21, 2012. Maybe it wasn’t an ending that was predicted, but enlightenment instead.