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America has seen a disturbing trend in recent years. Narcissism is on the rise, especially among young people. Narcissism is a personality trait that manifests as self-absorption, egocentrism, an over estimation of how important one is, overconfidence in one’s abilities, a strong sense of entitlement and a distinct disregard for others often born out of a lack of empathy. In some cases, narcissism becomes so excessive that it becomes a personality disorder that can destroy the lives of both the narcissist and everyone around them.

What does it mean that narcissism is on the rise? Psychological tests and surveys have found that the number of people classified as narcissistic has doubled in the last 30 years, and empathy has been nearly halved in a similar time frame. As narcissism and empathy are inverses of each other, it is no surprise that one has shrunk while the other grew. One of the major keys to avoiding narcissism, then, is to grow a person’s empathy. How does one do that, however, in a culture that panders to and celebrates narcissistic tendencies?

Do Good Work For Others

Narcissism is essentially synonymous with self-absorption. In order to shake off the whispers of the cultural forces that say that everything is about you and your happiness, put your energy into helping others. Volunteer in your local community, and put your gifts and talents toward helping those in need. Find some way to give back, and do not show off that fact. You do not have to sneak around like a thief to hide your volunteer work, but to really push back against any narcissistic tendencies, you should avoid publicizing where you are volunteering. You are working to help others, not to make yourself look good or feel important. If you truly need that sort of validation all the time, it is probably time to call the therapist.

Touch a Wider World

It is no coincidence that atheism is on the rise at the same time as narcissism. Most religions deal with beliefs in a wider world and greater powers than humans could ever hope to either comprehend or control. When confronted with the reality that there is a bigger world controlled by something or someone that is powerful and ancient beyond human comprehension, it is hard for the budding narcissist to maintain the belief that they are something overwhelmingly special or important. For those who want to escape the narcissism of secular culture, a church, temple or mosque is probably the best bet. There will still be narcissists in the congregation, but when everyone is aware that there is a divine someone watching, it is hard to believe that one is the center of the universe.

Remember You Are Small

Nature is practically a cure-all, and narcissism is no different in that regard. While a narcissist could certainly enjoy the great outdoors, the natural world is a great way to put things back in perspective. Go to the ocean in winter when the beach is not covered with endless bathing suit clad bodies, just sand and surf. Stand at the edge of the water, and look out at the seemingly endless expanse of the depths. Drive out into the countryside where there are few to no lights and look up at the sky with its immense space and innumerable stars. It is hard to remain self-important when proof of just how small a person is happens to be right in front of them.

Detox From Social Media

Social media is not healthy. As much as many people want to claim that it helps form connections or brings the world closer together, it does nothing of the source. Social media actually has been shown to worsen interpersonal relationships because social media temporarily convinces the human brain that it had human interaction when the social media user was, of course, completely alone. This leaves the user lonelier than ever but unaware that they are lacking human contact. It is also causing internet addiction to break out at a startling rate. 

Social media also encourages narcissism. Social media posts are all about one person and their life. Posts are normally spun in order to make events seem as awe inspiring or impressive as possible. Take a step back from social media for a while to ditch the culture of narcissism. 

Let Others Share Their Stories

Narcissists tend to dominate conversations because they see the world as revolving around them. Interrupting the story someone was telling is perfectly acceptable when the narcissist does it. Whatever the narcissist has to say is certainly far more interesting than what the other person is saying. To avoid getting caught up in narcissistic tendencies, make it a point to truly listen to other people’s stories and opinions. Challenge yourself to go an entire evening without telling a story about yourself. You might be surprised what you learn about your dinner companions.

Do Not Demonize Disagreements

Narcissists have to be right all the time. This means that they are prone to lashing out at those who disagree with them, regardless of how much validity the disagreement may possess. Narcissists are thus prone to demonizing those who disagree with them. Anyone who has watched the news lately has seen that this has become more or less normal. That does not, however, make it right. To avoid getting tangled in the culture of narcissism, try to see things from other people’s points of view instead of dismissing them outright because they happened to disagree on a topic.

Kill Self-Esteem

It may sound odd, but one of the best things you can do is to kill off your sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem is roughly defined as how important or how much a person feels they are worth. It is one measure by which people evaluate their own significance. Unfortunately, self-esteem is often grown today through methods that teach each person that they are overwhelmingly special and all but perfect. When that expectation is inevitably bruised and shattered, people can lash out or become depressed. 

Narcissists tend to have simultaneously ridiculously high self-esteem and very low self-esteem. They think highly of themselves, but their egos are easily damaged. In order to push back against a narcissistic culture, forget about the emphasis placed on self-esteem. Grow self-confidence through working for achievements instead of fickle self-esteem.

Fighting back against a culture of narcissism is not always easy. Everyone wants to think they are important, and when the wider culture supports narcissistic traits, it can be very easy to go along with it. Do not fall into that trap. Narcissism is the sort of pride that comes before the fall. Push back on it and create a happier, healthier life.