Prevalence of Narcissism
People can’t leave me alone for a single minute,
I’m so pretty,
I make everyone smitten
No matter where I go, the floors are red
Like walking down a red carpet,
Everyone is staring at me
<’Like ooh-ahh’ – by Twice>
These are the lyrics to the song “Like ooh-ahh” by Twice. There are so many songs like this one that have narcissistic messages, such as “So Hot” by Wonder Girls and ”I am the Best” by Twenty-one. These kinds of narcissistic lyrics are easily found in the hip-hop genre. Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for the President of the United States, is a typical narcissist. He has succeeded in his business. He placed his name on every product and service that he created, namely, Trump restaurant, Trump chocolate, Trump water, Trump books, Trump clothes, Trump mortgage, and even on the university where he has made donations. There are so many things related to Trump. Moreover, he usually opens his suit jacket wide open, puts his hands on his hips, and poses his ring finger and index finger to his crotch when he is posing for a picture. It reminds us of apes boasting of their strength.
According to Sun Kyung Lee’s study on narcissism among the college students in Korea, the NPI (Narcissistic Personality Inventory) hasincreased from 1999 to 2014. Although the traditional Korean custom is based on collectivism, which emphasizes empathy, connectivity, and a sense of belonging, it seems like the increase of narcissism is unavoidable. These days, we can easily find people with narcissistic personalities around us.
What is narcissism? Narcissism refers to the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one's own attributes. The term “narcissism” originated from a man named Narcissus from the Greek mythology. Narcissus fell in love with himself. He ends up dying and becomes a flower because he fell in love with his reflection on the lake. This mythology contains a lesson. When the subject does not have the ability to differentiate himself from another or distinguish the interior from the exterior, the result can be tragic.
There are differences among narcissism, self-esteem, and self-love. Self-esteem is involved in self-love, while narcissism is a side of self-love. A narcissist is different from a person who has a high self-esteem. When someone is a narcissist, he or she wants to verify how many things he has or how much he has earned. Meanwhile, those with a high self-esteem have no need to verify themselves because they know that they are valuable. In addition, you have to differentiate between narcissism and NPD (Narcissism Personality Disorder). Narcissistic and being a narcissist does not mean that you have NPD.
There are many characteristics pertaining to narcissism, such as lookism, materialism, obsession with SNS, and reveling in their selfie. Narcissists do not want to be the same as other people. They have to be special and unique. The narcissists’ self-admiration can result in the desire to become physically beautiful. As a narcissist, looking beautiful can be a means of attracting people’s attention and acquiring a position. They also fall into the temptation of undergoing plastic surgery. In terms of materialism, narcissists buy products and services that show their importance, and they think that by bragging about their belongings people will think that materialism is cool. As we live in a capitalist society, Jean M. Twenge (author of The Narcissism Epidemic) said that “a wealthy person can enter the narcissists' heaven”. The rich can feel they are more important than the others because of the amount of money that they have. These facts lead people to dream of becoming rich.
Narcissism was spurred by the emergence of SNS. There is an online communication difference between the time without SNS and the time with SNS. Before the SNS emerged, people used to meet others via the internet cafe, community, or club. During this time, the main topic was their common interests, and they shared their problems with one another. However, after the emergence of SNS, people started to talk about themselves. From community to individuality the focus has been changed. People want to get ‘likes’ in Facebook.
The Mirror Stage Theory
There are many theories regarding the cause of narcissism. According to Jacques Lacan’s “The Mirror Stage”, before an infant faces a mirror (metaphor), he experiences a feeling that his body is only a fragment of a whole being. Facing the mirror reduces this preconception. When he faces the mirror, he makes his own idealized image and he thinks that it is his ego looking back at him. By trying to identify a real life's incomplete subject with an idealized image, he can perceive his whole body as an integrated whole. However, it was misunderstood because there is a difference between reality and fantasy. When we adapt this theory into the use of the SNS, the ‘mirror’ is symbolized by the SNS screen, while the ego inside the mirror is symbolized by the uploaded image to the SNS. Acknowledging a fragmented body into a whole body by the mirror is a metaphor for understanding and being contented with the idealized ego from the intended image in the screen.
Narcissists want to identify their reality with their ego, which is in a fantasy world, so they can display their decorated life. Furthermore, their spruced up figure shows their ideal image and makes them feel narcissistic. People do not care about the risk involved in self-exposure. They just want to feel contented and avoid alienation by showing off. Even if the people are living in a society withCCTV, which is an intrusion of privacy, and a similar life with others, they do not want to display their way of life and share their empathy on everything. They want to empathize and communicate with idealized images and texts. They want to hide their tedious and tacky routine of life. They accept the intended images as their reality. It would be embarrassing when a hidden camera revealed their true images instead of the idealized images according to their perception. This can be seen when we are taking a selfie. People download their filtered camera apps to be able to look better. They prefer to take a selfie with a filtered camera than a non-filtered camera. They delude themselves into thinking that their filtered selfie photo is their real physical appearance.
There is an irony in narcissism. Narcissism as a desire is a subjective action; however, as a form of showing off and displaying themselves, a recovery of subjectivity is made possible by other people’s perception. They have to be chosen by others, so they record shocking or abhorrent acts to attract more crowd. Some people regard killing others with a gun in school or university as an easy way to become famous and draw people’s attention.
The Increase of Narcissism
Narcissism has been rapidly increasing as Neo-Liberalism political economy emerges. The relationship between narcissism and neoliberalism is based on capitalism. Reinforcing and maintaining capitalism as itself becomes the motive of people’s behavior. People cannot think when they are outside of this system. Han Bung-Chul, a philosopher and professor at the university in Berlin, says that this neoliberalism phenomenon is simply explained by capitalism and it is a power generated by negative influences. This include the people who are obsessed with superficial positivity and pursuing instant contentment of consumption, as well as people who treat their body as an object of management to show off to others instead of including them as a subject of experience. People have to become better individuals, and they have to do something to improve their own ability. Capitalism affirmed positivity and encouraged narcissism. Advertisements are full of messages such as “You are the best. If you buy these products or services, you can become special.” Is it true that buying a particular product can make a person special? Being special does not require a person to purchase an advertised product. Popular products that are renowned through advertisements do not make a person different from others.
The Influence of Narcissism
Healthy narcissism is referred to as a revelation of recognition drive. Recognition is a positive mechanism in our lives as it can confirm our presence in the society. People have to belong to a social community. It is human nature; therefore, it does not matter if it is about the revelation of an adequately controlled recognition drive. However, it does matter when narcissism becomes pathological.
People with narcissism are easy to fall into arrogance and self-deception. If this happens, consideration for others is lacking and, eventually, they have difficulties with interpersonal relationships. They are also not receptive to criticism because they think that they are always right and other people are wrong. Narcissists are confident in all things, but they do not pursue self-development. As a result, they become miserable and this leads to a terrible result. Narcissists are afraid totake a hit at their self-esteem. In order to keep their self-esteem, they shift the blame onto other people, and they never admit to their mistakes.
Narcissists with such tendencies even have negative influences on an enterprise. People tend to think that narcissism is an essential element to leading a successful business because they know that a narcissistic leader can exercise great leadership and use popular strategies. This is true. In fact, a narcissistic leader uses a dramatic strategy, and this strategy often produces a successful result. Meanwhile, there is also the opposite case. A narcissist’s strategy sometimes produces disastrous results. In other words, the strategies of narcissistic leaders do not lead to a consistent performance. In addition, their performances are not always stable and intended.
In order to create a successful enterprise, it is necessary to have a tendency in contrast to narcissism. Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Talent Myth) said, “Excellent organization is not a collection of superstars, but a collection of individuals who can work with your organization.” It means that leaders and colleagues who show humility will be successful in creating a great enterprise.
Overcoming the Narcissism
What should we do in order to prevent and cure narcissism? First, it is necessary to be calm because the great feature of narcissism is to excessively recognize one's self. It is important to show humility and consideration. Do not dwell on one's own achievement, as it is also important to show an appreciation of other people's achievements. In addition, a person who admits his mistakes and learns from his failure will help him overcome narcissism.
The role of parents is important in order to mold children without narcissistic traits. Parents imprint ‘specificity’ to their children while raising them. Growing up with a perception that “our children are special”, the child is likely to have a narcissistic tendency. Therefore, it is important for parents to teach humility and empathy rather than specificity to the child.
Moreover, recognizing the relationship helps to solve narcissism by finding something in common with others. In the case of Hitler, he emphasized the uniqueness of the German Nation and discrimination against the Jews. Eventually, the nation's narcissistic attitude resulted in genocide. In this case, you can see how risky it is to emphasize the difference among others. In order to overcome narcissism, it is important to recognize common ground that other people can feel the same feeling as me even thoughwe have difference in skin color, position we are in, and how much money we possessed.
Furthermore, it is necessary to be vigilant with regard to the Internet and media that are propagators of narcissism. However, it does not mean that you have to be completely away from the Internet and media led by the modern society. This means that information from the Internet and media should be filtered rather than blindly accepted. There is also a need to refrain from accessing SNS to some extent.
The best way to overcome the narcissism phenomenon is by acknowledging that we are living in a “positivitysociety” and accepting the negativity.It may appear strange, but living in positivity means everything can be changed based on our decisions and actions. As a result, people are managing themselves instead of experiencing themselves. This leads to self-importance. Nevertheless, this self-centered trait finally leads to exhaustion as HanByung-Chul has pointed out. What we have to do is keep in mind that we are all imperfect beings. We have to love ourselves for who we are. We do not have to pretend to be anything else. We are all valuable.
Cho Min-su(ST Reporter)
Kwon hyeon-ji (ST Reporter)
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