A recent Google search of the term “narcissist” brought up 13.1 million results. That’s probably somewhat higher than before Trump took center stage.
While Trump personifies narcissism in a variety of ways (some would say he should be depicted as a classic example in the dictionary), he’s far from alone. In fact, the US narcissistic culture permeates all strata—a phenomenon likely driven by the tenets of the “Me” generation decades ago and continued today among “entitled millennials.”
In an effort to promote self-empowerment and control, the idea of “Me first” took hold. (Now it’s taking hold in another way with Trump’s “US first” rallying cry.)
While Trump’s theatrics make it easy to spot narcissistic-like behaviors, those of everyday Americans can be far less obvious. Yet, relatively minor or low-key infractions demonstrate the extent of the problem in this country. Here are two common and widespread examples:
- Drivers. We’ve all encountered drivers who seem to feel that a lane-change turn signal is a reason to speed up. This type of aggression, along with distracted drivers, can be considered narcissistic. People are concentrating on their needs, wants, and entitlements to the detriment of everyone else on the road. No wonder there are so many texting accidents.
- Shoppers. Two behaviors are all-too-common and enraging in the store. One is the shopper who seems to have no idea that leaving their cart square in the way of others is discourteous. The other is the shopper who dumps 50 items into the 15-and-fewer lane, while those following the rules stack up behind. This is either a case of entitlement or stupidity. But, either way, it’s narcissistic behavior.
This last example, while considerably less dangerous than its driving counterpart, may in fact have contributed more to Trump’s election than most people realize. During (and before) Obama, a culture of accommodating the rule-breakers to avoid potential legal action became commonplace in US retail.
This self-centered, entitled and don’t-need-to-follow-the-rules behavior has infuriated large numbers of voters, some of whom voted for Trump to promote a different mindset across many behavioral strata. (Isn’t it ironic that a move to combat narcissism would help elect a classic narcissist? Although, truth be told, Trump is far from the only narcissistic president. His over-the-top actions and words just make him an obvious target.)
So, what’s it all mean and what do we do about it? Warning: If you’re looking for a simple fix, it’s not likely to happen. “We the People” are directly responsible for creating the current environment of rampant narcissism, exploding litigation, political correctness…and all the rest of it. We elected the officials, promoted (or at least let happen) the ability of attorneys to run amok with advertising and money-driven practices, and allowed corporate America to function in its own narcissistic bubble. It took a generation-plus to get into this current state; it will take awhile to change it.
Here is one organic way to start: Review your own behaviors with regard to how you interact with the world-at-large, friends, family, co-workers, community, neighborhood, et al. Look critically at how well you think of and support the wellbeing of others; and how often you let self-absorbed behaviors prevail. When you make decisions about your kids, are they in their best interest…or yours? (Optimally, it should be both.) When you’re out on the road, do you pay attention to what’s going on around you and try to be accommodating? When shopping, do you show courtesy to others?
Obviously, the list can be exhaustive. But, trying to improve the world—one person at a time—is a doable, healthy and substantive way to make a contribution. Try it; hopefully you’ll like it and do your part to eliminate narcissism along the way.
Mark Lusky, aka The Happy Curmudgeon, has voted for Democrats, Republicans and a Libertarian in presidential elections going back 30 years. As the owner of a 34-year-old, Denver-based marketing communications firm, he is a political malcontent who views “winning” as a cooperative versus competitive endeavor. Sorry, Donald.