AEE 1018: Are Americans Narcissistic?

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Have you ever heard of somebody being referred to as a narcissist?

What does this word mean to you? Do you think that people who grow up in American culture are more likely to be narcissistic?

Today we’ll reference a book review from the NY Times. The article reviews a new book called Selfie: How We Became so Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us” by Will Storr.

If you have ever heard about this concept of self-obsessions and narcissism and wondered how to discuss it in English we’ll give you some answers.

We’ll talk about narcissism, cultural differences, and what this means for working across cultures. You’ll also build language tools to discuss a topic like this with your native speaker friends in English.

 

Understanding What Narcissism Is All About

There’s individual and collective narcissism, and both of them can be less than flattering traits or classifications.

Individual narcissism is somebody who is self absorbed who almost demands attention or the spotlight.

Collective narcissism is more about a group, such as Americans in this case.

Neither are positive and may be viewed as stereotypes or hurtful comments.

These people and groups do exist however, and you want to try your best to understand them.

 

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Breaking Down the Stereotype

So are Americans narcissists overall?

There is an interview with author Will Storr who wrote a book called  “Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us”

He says the West in general is more individualistic  which has pros and cons.

It’s good to be positive about goals and dreams, but we generally think everything has to do with us more than it actually does.

There was a study done where East Asian and Western people were put in a lab with a fish tank.

One fish was isolated and was positioned ahead of the group. When they asked the people from a Western culture about the isolated fish they said he or she was the leader. In contrast, when they asked East Asian participants they said that the isolated fish was at a disadvantage because they were not part of the group.

 

Can This Mindset Be Changed?

Are you born a narcissist or always one?

Not necessarily, and so the study continues on with this thinking and eliciting change.

One of the most interesting parts is the end where Storr gives advice:

If you want to be happy and find fulfillment, don’t try to be Beyoncé or Elon Musk; instead, find the thing you’re good at and become even better at it, and try to help the people around you as much as possible. It’s really that simple.”

This makes sense because Americans do have this ideal and put a lot of pressure on themselves to be the best. 

 

A Few Phrases and Further Explanation

If you are struggling with the word narcissist specifically then you may want to use another related phrase.

In essence, this is all about making your own happiness the only focus.

It’s all about being self centered and seeing the world around you only through your eyes.

Here are a few phrases that can help you to further understand or explain narcissism:

  • Out for number one: You only care about yourself and look out for nobody else. 
  • Stand out in the crowd: Though you might think of this as a good thing, in this case it’s not. In this situation it’s all about standing out because you are all about yourself and fulfilling your needs.
  • Self Absorbed: You are focused on yourself, your needs, and will do whatever it takes to make only yourself happy.
  • Self Centered: It’s as if the world is centered around you and that’s the only thing you see or care about.

You get the idea here, for narcissism is about caring only for yourself and seeing the world through your eyes.

 

Takeaway

It’s very important to understand some of these deep cultural differences and use them to be more understanding with others.

What may look like a narcissistic person or group may be about pressure or something completely unrelated. 

Try to learn as much about others as possible and if someone doesn’t have a trait you are familiar with, don’t look at it as a bad thing.

Understanding others and the way that they work can hopefully lead us to more tolerance and understanding across cultures.

This understanding is also important for making connections, which matters greatly!

 

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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