We’ve all heard the Greek myth of Narcissus, the proud young man who saw his reflection in a pool and fell in love with it. Narcissus was unable to break away from his own gaze, and eventually died by the side of the pool. Sad to say, if one survey is correct, we may be raising a generation of young people who are succumbing to the terrible danger of unhealthy, delusional, and misdirected self-love.
The recently released American Freshman Survey finds a gaping chasm between students’ perceptions of their giftedness and drive to succeed, and the reality. For example, according to lead researcher Jean Twenge, today’s freshmen are much more likely to rate their writing abilities as “gifted” than their predecessors. But their test scores — and often their reading and writing abilities — are far below their 1960s counterparts.
Statistically it seems in the past four decades, students’ opinions of themselves have soared — even though test scores have gone down. But this mental disconnect is only part of the problem. Twenge says narcissism in college students has risen 30 percent in 30 years. She defines narcissism as “a need to pump yourself up with praise and approval in order to feel okay.”