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A Nation of Narcissists
–by Preeti Aroon | April 02, 2007

Quick, take this three-question quiz.

1. I can live my life any way I want to.

Agree or disagree?

Photo credit: Rachel’s Secret

2. It’s important to just “be yourself.”

Agree or disagree?

3. I think I’m a special person.

Agree or disagree?

If you agreed with these statements, you just might be a narcissistic person.

But don’t fret; you’re not alone. Young adults in the United States have been growing more narcissistic over the past 25 years.

A recent study by five psychologists found that today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than those a quarter century ago. The psychologists analyzed responses from 16,475 college students who took the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI)—a “quiz” that asks questions similar to the ones at the beginning of this piece. In 2006, two thirds of college students scored above average, 30 percent more than in 1982.

The lead author of the study, Jean Twenge, has studied this cultural shift toward greater individualism and has even dubbed those born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as “Generation Me.” She suggests that all this self-centeredness came about from the self-esteem movement that began in the 1980s. Kids were told they were special. Teachers were discouraged from using bright red pens to correct homework, and children received awards just for participating in activities. They were told that if they believed in themselves, anything was possible. (I remember when Miss America visited my middle school. We all sat in the gym while she exuberantly told us to reach for the stars and achieve our dreams.)

As a result, Twenge says, today’s young adults focus on themselves and doing what’s right for themselves, as opposed to following social rules and putting duty before self.

Universities such as Harvard and Duke have received record numbers of applications in recent years, increasing the competition of getting into college. In the face of outsourcing and a more globalized economy, today’s young adults aren’t just competing nationally—they’re competing globally…

While Twenge is onto som