Finally getting the picture

I credit Joel Stein’s 2013 piece in Time for laying the foundation for my blog today. In his well-researched article we learned much about the generation we have come to call Millennials, who they are and how they got to be the way they are. He defines this group as those born between 1980 and 2000. What concerns me — and should concern us all —  about these folks is how strongly they resemble the leaders of our government today, one in particular. See if you agree.

Stein’s research found that “58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that a recent study showed that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance. They are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a senator, according to a 2007 survey. They’re so convinced of their own greatness that the National Study of Youth and Religion found the guiding morality of 60% of Millennials in any situation is that they’ll just be able to feel what’s right.”

They can “feel what’s right.” Does this sound to you like any of our elected leaders? Me, too.

Millenials got this way, Stein found, “because, in the 1970s, people wanted to improve kids’ chances of success by instilling self-esteem. It turns out that self-esteem is great for getting a job or hooking up at a bar but not so great for keeping a job or a relationship.”

Or leading a nation.

Stein quotes Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University and the editor of Self-Esteem: The Puzzle of Low Self-Regard. “The early findings showed that, indeed, kids with high self-esteem did better in school and were less likely to be in various kinds of trouble. It’s just that we’ve learned later that self-esteem is a result, not a cause.” The problem is that when people try to boost self-esteem, they accidentally boost narcissism instead.

Where have we heard that word before?

All that self-esteem leads to disappointment when the rest of the world fails to acknowledge how great they think they are. Two recent elections in America hint that the rest of the world might finally be getting the picture.



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