In May of this year, Joel Stein wrote a piece for TIME called “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation.” In it, he quoted the National Institutes of Health, saying this:
“The incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older… 58 percent more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982… 40 percent believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance. They are fame-obsessed: three times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a Senator, according to a 2007 survey; four times as many would pick the assistant job over CEO of a major corporation.”
As a millennial, I have a few things to say. First, I’d say yes, I do have narcissistic tendencies. I like to be in charge. I might have a dictator complex. I think I’m pretty great. A friend recently told me they could see me descending upon the Earth in a spaceship, hell-bent on world domination. I was flattered. I can see me doing that, too—I dream about it, actually. That confidence makes me an empowered female and human being, and I think that’s a really, really good thing.
And you know what? I bet I will get a promotion every two years, but it’ll be because I earn a promotion every two years—which I’ll do because I know I’m talented, because I’ve worked. I’ve worked hard.
If you had asked me in middle school (which was, coincidentally, only a few years before 2007) what I wanted to be when I grew up, there is a high likelihood I would have said something along the lines of “whoever gets free Mr. Pibb’s out of the vending machine” or “someone who totally works at Aeropostale because that’s, like, my faaaaavorite store.” I would have said that BECAUSE I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL. My answers would have been, like, totally skewed. Ask me now to choose between being a celeb’s personal assistant and being a Senator or a CEO, and I’d choose being a Senator or a CEO. Or a magazine editor. Or President. Or Empress of the Universe. BECAUSE I’M AN ADULT, and because I know I could own any of those jobs.
But here’s the thing: If you want a job as Justin Timberlake’s personal assistant, then work hard enough to become Justin Timberlake’s personal assistant. Whoever gets that job probably killed themselves working overtime in PR school(s). If that’s your dream, then get after it. Wanting a job like that doesn’t make you a narcissist—it makes you driven, and that’s great. (Tell JT I said hi when you make it to the top.)
So, here are a few of my favorite quotes that make me feel empowered—oh, wait, I mean, like a narcissist. Oh, wait, I mean, like a millennial. Right.
1. Never love anybody who treats you like you’re ordinary.
There was never a narcissist quite like Wilde. He’s right here, though. We aren’t ordinary. So don’t settle. We deserve better, and if thinking that makes me a narcissist, then fine. No qualms.
2. Why don’t you tell me that ‘If the girl had been worth having, she’d have waited for you?’ No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
This works with what Wilde said. Don’t settle. So why won’t that girl wait for you to get it together? Because she’s fabulous, and too busy making her own way to worry about your sorry self and your bad habits and the sheets you haven’t washed in four weeks. Like, bye.
3. There are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats.
Rule No. 1: BE A GODDESS. Don’t be a doormat. Don’t get stepped on. Don’t let people rub their dirt on you. You deserve better than that. You are better than that. Own it.
4. There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.
This always reminds me of that Nelly Furtado song “Maneater.” You either wanna be with me/or be me. Make them want you, miss you, dream about you, write about you. Be confident.
5. It is better to be feared than to be loved, if you cannot be both.
This philosophy makes me feel like Cersei Lannister (my favorite “Game of Thrones” character). Try to be both, but if you can’t, might as well make them bow down. (A little harsh, I know, but did I mention the dictator complex?)
6. The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you’re not good enough. On occasion, they may be correct. But do not do their job for them. Seek any job, ask anyone out, pursue any goal. Don’t take it personally when they say ‘no’—they may not be smart enough to say ‘yes.’
You tell ‘em, Keith! Yeah, some of us aren’t cut out for certain jobs. If someone told me I wasn’t “good enough” to be a particle physicist, I’d say, “Thank GOD,” and buy them a cupcake. But you know what? If you want that editorship, build your portfolio and apply. Think the barista is cute? Ask him out next time he hands you your iced coffee. If they say no, think of what Keith said, smile, and think of how sorry they’ll be one day that they passed you up.
7. You should be kissed, and often, and by somebody who knows how.
Rhett Butler, every Southern girl’s dream narcissist: tall, dark, handsome, and knows what he’s good at. If you’re a good kisser, this quote applies directly to you! But a more broad application would be to say this: Got a talent? Own it! Make others understand that they need what you have to offer. So you want to be JT’s personal assistant, and you know you’ve got what it takes? Say this: “You should be assisted well, and often, and by somebody who knows how.” Be forward. It shows confidence.
8. Conformity is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Wilde coming at you again, this time to tell you that it’s OK to be different, eccentric, eclectic, unconventional. We are not unimaginative. We are brilliant, and it’s OK to show that, even if it seems like no one else is.
9. A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.
This works right along with Keith Olbermann’s quote. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you’ve been doing really well at work, and your bosses have been complimentary and encouraging, and you think it’s time for that raise you’ve been thinking about, ASK FOR IT. TALK TO YOUR BOSS ABOUT IT. It could just be that they’re so busy they aren’t thinking about things like that, or that they’re waiting to see if you’ve actually got the guts to do it yourself. Get what you want.
So there you have it. Maybe us millennials are narcissists. It’s mostly true of me. But the difference in me, and in most other millennials I know, is that we have that confidence because we’ve proven to ourselves we deserve it. Congressional seats, executive offices and Justin Timberlake won’t land in our laps (unfortunately for that last one), but we might just climb and claw our way up to those positions, and be fabulous the whole time we’re doing it.
What do you think? Tell us below in the comments or tweet us @litdarling.
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Haley – I love your message here that we should be out earning our way to conquering the world. I like most of these quotes (particularly #9). However (and I don’t get feminist-y very often), I have to object to #3 and #4. It seems to me they are saying women don’t exist outside of a man’s romantic desires. Like, where would a shrewd CEO fall on the love/suffer for/write about scale (which, by the way, couldn’t one person be all 3)? I think there’s an important distinction between “love” and “respect” or “admire.” I don’t know if I am articulating this properly – does anyone else have that take?
Erin, I can definitely see where you’re coming from, and I agree with you, to a point! It’s true that the quotes can be taken as meaning that a woman doesn’t exist outside of a particular man’s (or men’s) desires. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I can see where that would come across, especially since the word “only” is used. I think a woman can definitely be loved and suffered for and written about (especially because I think writing is a weird, terrible combination of love and suffering). What I feel when I read those two quotes, though, is a huge sense of empowerment. I didn’t put as much thought into as you did, which is my mistake (never post anything online without thinking it through first). Thanks for commenting!
So. In. Love.