Self-regard: You are not special

24. May 2015

Date: 24-05-2015
Source: The Economist

How to get from narcissism to thoughtfulness

The Road to Character. By David Brooks. Random House; 300 pages; $28. Allen Lane; £17.99. Buy from

PEOPLE are too full of themselves, says David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times. Joe Namath, a star quarterback of the 1960s, once shouted to his bathroom mirror: “Joe! Joe! You’re the most beautiful thing in the world!”—with a reporter watching. But it is not just celebrities who puff themselves up, and the evidence is not just anecdotal. The proportion of American teenagers who believe themselves to be “very important” jumped from 12% in 1950 to 80% in 2005. On a test that asks subjects to agree or disagree with statements such as “I like to look at my body” and “Somebody should write a biography about me”, 93% of young Americans emerge as being more narcissistic than the average of 20 years ago.

With the rise in self-regard has come an unprecedented yearning for fame. In a survey in 1976, people ranked being famous 15th out of 16 possible life goals. By 2007, 51% of young people said it was one of their principal ambitions. On a recent multiple-choice quiz, nearly twice as many middle-school girls said they would rather be a celebrity’s personal assistant than the president of Harvard University. Read the rest of this entry »