Are we a Nation of Narcissists?
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Do you complain about ‘kids today’? You’re not alone

Since time immemorial we’ve been lamenting the young people of following generations.  The earliest quote I can find is from Aristotle (384BC – 322BC) who worried that:

“They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things — and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning – all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything – they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.”

It’s common that each generation worries about the generations that follow, and complain about young people’s declining behaviours.  When boundaries and rules relax, behaviours then change. Young people will challenge authority and this occurs with the support of their peers. This is how generational changes occur.

Young woman sitting looking at her phone with cold latte on the table
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Generational changes equal ideological changes

When the baby boomers relaxed the traditionalists’ rules, teens broke barriers and rebelled to create a ‘better’ world. After the austerity of World War II and Korean War, there was prosperity and lives became easier. As parents, it’s common to want the next generation to have easier or better lives than what we had.

This is a pivotal point in how narcissism was created, then fostered, to create the current generation, the Millennials, also known as Gen Y and Zs, or ‘Generation Me’. Families relaxed, boundaries shifted and rules were either stretched or broken, and technology changed our culture, the way we viewed the world and the way we communicated. Of course, there was always going to be a major shift.

Basically we’ve moved from having cultural core values of family/community (WE) (the traditionalists born 1900-1945), to the Millennials (born 1981 to current) whose core value is Individuality (ME).  So we’ve moved from thought-patterns like, “If it’s not good for the community, I won’t do it”, to “If it’s not good for me, I won’t do it”.  See the difference?

Neuroticism to narcissism

Basically, some bright spark thought that if children weren’t happy all the time, they had a self-esteem problem, but it’s likely they were just high in the personality trait of neuroticism. Self-esteem was fostered in western countries, and we’ve all been teaching our kids how to be narcissists ever since. And there’s still kids (high in neuroticism) that aren’t happy so the ‘problem’ was never fixed.

This ideological shift has huge implications on how our culture will be shaped in the future and I see it as one of the pivotal causal links to why our society is getting more and more violent.  Not only does this disenfranchisement effect behaviour, it will also have a big impact on how we operate businesses

For example, where will our volunteers come from when the current crop of older vollies eventually retire or die out?  The generations that follow don’t have the same sense of empathy, community or belonging to anything to validate them giving up their time.  Remember they’re about ME rather than WE.

Today’s’me’ rather than ‘we’ ideology

Children crowded round a laptop
What are our children learning from the internet?

So, we need to work towards understanding how to cater for the cultural shifts which occur in the community and in the workplace.  Understanding the generational changes will help us understand where we’re heading.  In this way, structuring, building and maintaining communities, schools, businesses and not for profit organisations will cater for this upcoming generation with polarised ideologies and values from the past generations.

If you’d like more information on how these generational shifts will effect your business, school or organisation, contact Lynette on 0400 595 679 for a chat today.

Researcher: Dr Lynette Maguire
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Want more information?

Dr Maguire’s book Selfies, sexting, suicide and savagery: Welcome to the era of narcissism  was released in 2017.  You can order by emailing

Want a Now Generation consultant to speak at your conference, school, organisational masterclass?  Contact Lynette