Why Narcissism Is Good for Gen Y

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gen y narcissismThis post originally appeared on The Jane Dough.

Though Joel Stein is a clever man (he always makes me laugh on those I Love the 80′s specials on Vh1 but then again, so did John Meyer) and managed to nab the cover of TIME Magazine this week with his cover story on millennials in which he calls them the most narcissistic generation, I really don’t think this is anything new. People have been saying this for years.

They have also called it selfish, entitled, spoiled, lazy and spoiled again. But what Stein does do differently is point out that narcissism is actually a great trait to have for our generation. So for all those that think they’re great and like to look in the mirror all day, keep going. You may just save the world.

There is actually evidence to back up the fact that Gen Y is more into themselves than previous generations. The National Institutes of Health found that for people in their 20s, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is three times as high than the generation that’s 65 or older. We truly are the Me, Me, Me Generation (the headline for the article) while the baby boomer generation is just the Me Generation.

But this isn’t bad at all because narcissism translates to hopefulness. Ridiculously hopeful actually, especially considering the years they are entering the workforce in. According to Red Alert Politics, unemployment among those aged 18-29 years old rose by more than 1.5% in January to 13.1%.

I think if we do come across as narcissistic (though I think self-absorbed or obsessively self-promotional is a more appropriate term) a lot of it is due to the time we are living in. Our entire lives our on display with social media. It is how we get jobs, communicate and share our lives. Sharing has been brought to a whole new level with this generation. Our grandparents and parents never had the option or the expectation of this kind of transparency. It is basic adaptation to the times.

I also think narcissism also translates to redefining the career you want to have. Millennials are often accused of not being loyal to companies and for lacking a work ethic. It turns out that translates to major entrepreneurial spirit. A recent study by the Kauffman Foundation shows that 54 percent of millennials either want to start their own company or already have. In 2011, millennials launched nearly 160,000 startups a month, according to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

If that means laziness, then I am clearly confused as to what laziness is. Plus, I just don’t think you can call a generation that works many more hours in a week than baby boomers lazy. They may not be doing it on a 9 to 5 schedule (and probably aren’t), but they are doing it.

Millenials are redefining what a career is. You can chase your passion and channel it into profit. David Burstein, a 24-year-old filmmaker and founder of Generation18, a campaign to engage young voters, wrote the new book Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaping Our World. He toldThe Fiscal Times, “You can chase your passion and channel it into profit. There are alternative career paths that don’t involve passing through the doors of human resources to achieve happiness.”

Plus, all that narcissism still doesn’t mean Gen Y doesn’t get stressed. The American Psychological Association released the results for a study they conducted on stress levels for each generation, determining that Millennials – Americans aged 18-29 – are far more stressed out than their elders. According to the study, the average stress level for a Millennial was a 5.4 on a 10-point scale, where one means “little or no stress” and 10 means “a great deal of stress.” So if cockiness is looped in with the narcissism you can see here that for a lot of people it is an act.

And if you want to say we aren’t giving back, please just read anything about Maggie Doyne. Also, according to the Giving USA Foundation, which tracks philanthropy, in 2008 donations from people of all ages and wallet sizes exceeded $300 billion for the second year in a row.

If this all fits under the umbrella of narcissism, then call me narcissistic any day.

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  • CrankyFranky

    narcissism = hopefulness ?

    so there’s hope for us after all – good to know.

  • http://twitter.com/MatthewPMGordon Matthew Gordon

    “The National Institutes of Health found that for people in their 20s, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is three times as high than the generation that’s 65 or older.”

    Do we have reliable, accurate stats for the older crowd 45 years ago? It could just be a 20s thing.

    Regardless, I agree with the general thrust that hopefulness is a gift in this economy.