The narcissism of today’s generation has supreme effects on our abilities to maintain relationships and feel empathy
By: Sama Elhansi, Contributor
Me! Me! Me! Everything is somehow always about us! If the baby boomers were considered the “Me Generation”, then it’s safe to say that Gen Z can be called the “Me, Me, Me, Generation”.
In my opinion, we have completely disregarded our extrinsic values. Instead of physically connecting with the people around us, we’d rather just send them a text or a snap. We are living in an increasingly narcissistic society.
Let me ask you a quick question: are you just a little too obsessed with your own Instagram feed?
As part of the generation that grew up with social media, a reflection on whether we are narcissistic is crucial. The significance of social media in our lives makes me wonder whether there are psychological implications of constantly checking our socials. Does it affect our relationship with others and ourselves?
My roommates and I decided to take a “how narcissistic are you?” test. To be quite honest, the four of us were concerningly leaning towards the narcissistic side. I would be lying if I said the results surprised me.
According to a 2010 study, the percentage of college students with narcissistic personality traits has increased since the early 1980s to 30 per cent. This study evaluated narcissism through the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a widely used diagnostic test.
Surprisingly, research has found that narcissism has been increasing at the same rate as obesity since the 1980s, according to The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, two psychologists.
There are examples of narcissism everywhere. The biggest example out there is Donald Trump. According to numerous mental health professionals, Trump is the epitome of apathy and narcissism. They’ve shared that aspects of his personality such as grandiosity and a lack of empathy are textbook features of narcissism.
Our narcissistic personalities are costing us relationships and the way we communicate our feelings. There is an immense amount of research stating that narcissism causes lower honesty and increased aggression.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you, you shouldn’t love and appreciate yourself, but focus on endorsing self-esteem, compassion and respect rather than obsessing over the way you look 24/7. We need to foster a less narcissistic generation by instilling a healthy level of self-love.
Admire yourself, accept your most imperfect self and your insecurities to grow as a person. A word of advice, don’t conform to society’s toxic image of perfection as perfection is merely a fraction of our imagination and doesn’t actually exist! Focus on yourself and don’t compare yourself to others . . . you’ll soon realize that everyone is on different paths.
Ainsley Thurgood/Photo Assistant
Have you ever thought of treating yourself the way you treat others?
As individuals, even at a young age, we’re taught to have compassion for others. Every quote, motto and story that we learned revolved around the idea of showing kindness, respect and appreciation for our family, friends and superiors.
It may suffice to say that such emphasis was laid on these foundations because it was assumed that we knew how to extend these values to ourselves.
Even the infamous “golden rule” of treating others the way you’d like to be treated taught us to use ourselves as a benchmark for our behaviour to others. They never mentioned how exactly we establish this benchmark, let alone the fact that the rule implies that it can only be accomplished through the means of others.
As we grew older, most of us became experts at the art of showing others compassion. When a friend feels upset about failing a test, we’re there to tell them how smart they are and when they’re feeling insecure about their outfit, we tell them how good they look.
I’m sure it’s obvious where I’m going with this, in that when similar situations arise for ourselves, how we respond is very different. Suddenly, we’re not smart enough to be sitting in a lecture hall and we wonder why the ogres haven't requested to have their faces back.
You’re free to call others talented, smart and beautiful, but if you dare say those things about yourself, it’s suddenly egotistical and morally repugnant.
There’s a kind of hypocrisy where social media expects you to constantly critique yourself and deflect compliments while simultaneously telling you that you’re “worthy and special in your own way.”
Why is it so hard to think positively and focus on the good things about ourselves?
For example, if we get 70 per cent on a midterm, we’re naturally more inclined to dwell on the 30 per cent of questions we got wrong rather than acknowledging the 70 percent we got correct.
Scientists tell us it’s due to a phenomenon known as the negativity bias, which implies an intrinsic asymmetry between using positive and negative information to navigate our lives. This can easily extend to our perceptions of ourselves, opting to hang on to the negative aspects instead of appreciating the positive.
Originally, this came from an ancestral survival instinct. In terms of survival, it was far more useful for our ancestors to take heed of negative stimuli rather than focusing on positive ones. It’s important to remind ourselves that what we’re doing here on Earth is no longer just surviving but that we have the luxury and right to live.
With that said, it ultimately comes down to the fact that we don’t trust ourselves. Even if there’s a moment where you believe yourself to be worthy, societal suggestions or even childhood experiences swiftly replace the feeling with doubt.
Whether this includes finding someone else to build you up, competing with others or becoming a perfectionist, these tactics will often fail since they are rooted in self-doubt.
Instead, we need to re-teach ourselves to look for fulfillment within. It’s not remotely realistic to attempt to block out all the negativity, but I can practically see the eye-roll if I tell you to embrace it.
Finding a middle ground where you simply
acknowledge your mistakes and alleged shortcomings is a start. It’s difficult to accept the good, bad and ugly parts of yourself, but unless we make an effort to do so, it will prove equally challenging to do the same for others.
If we daringly flip the saying and start to treat ourselves the way we treat others then perhaps we can finally learn to love ourselves the way we were always meant to.
Sorting out my disoriented understanding of love
I’ve always struggled with the question “tell me about yourself.” It’s as if suddenly I forget who I am as I sift through the mess of traits that make up me. The truth is, people are complicated. We all have multiple identities and part of the struggle of being young is trying to uncover them all.
For many years I considered my parent’s divorce a defining part of my identity. The way I thought about relationships, platonic and romantic, was influenced by my fear of being emotionally vulnerable.
I internalized emotions and I kept most people at a distance. Around the few close friends I let into my life I was an open book, but the rest of the time I remained closed off.
Thinking back, there’s not a moment I can remember where my parents enjoyed each other’s company. My parents divorced when I was nine and for a while, things were pretty messy. All I remember thinking was that it was better this way, that everyone was far happier.
I remember travelling to school with my backpack and a grocery bag full of my favourite clothes as I switched between my parent’s houses every two days. Living across town, I led two different lives and had to learn to switch between my identities each time my environment changed. I didn’t choose to be Hannah Montana — it’s just something that happened.
Whenever my parents came to support me in extracurriculars or school events I would end up anxious, running back and forth between them, trying to balance my separate identities.
Seeing them both, I couldn’t imagine a reality in which relationships were positive. I lived in the wreckage of an emotional battle. If I was sure of one thing, it was that I never wanted a relationship for myself.
Watching my mom, a strong and fiercely independent woman, I always knew that when I grew up, I only wanted to rely on myself. It wasn’t sad or lonely to me — it was smart.
I never felt a need to seek out relationships because I believed that to love someone you first had to love yourself. So I turned inward, determined to build a strong enough sense of self that I would not be hurt by emotions if I ever began to feel for someone.
I had convinced myself and those around me that I was wounded from my parents’ divorce. That I was not interested in finding a significant other. I told myself that I didn’t want to be attracted to anyone but surely, I should have been.
Having no other ideas and a burning desire to fit in, I began to fake it. I remember spending a night in with my roommates, swiping through Bumble. I couldn’t understand what they meant as they rated the attractiveness of each new profile that appeared.
That night, I ended up scrolling through all of Bumble, swiping on a few men so as not to feel so abnormal. The truth is, I couldn’t understand the feelings my friends felt.
Not long after, I became suddenly more exposed to queer stories through the media I was consuming. I was fascinated by the queer characters in the TV shows and movies I came across.
Seeing these characters represented on screen allowed me to come to terms with the legitimacy of a feeling I had been ignoring for so many years. I was finally able to admit to myself that I am attracted to women and the world finally clicked into place.
At the same time, I was faced with the unease of internalized homophobia and a lifetime of exposure to primarily heteronormative narratives. I was raised neutral to the queer community in that it was seldom a topic of conversation in my house.
But being exposed to a world that assumes heterosexuality as the default instilled in me a feeling of otherness towards the community.
Though I questioned myself, I remembered the same-sex crushes I’d had all through my childhood and teen years that I passed off as admiration or platonic friendships without giving two thoughts to the matter.
I could finally see what my friends had been speaking about all along. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder what my earlier life would have been had I been exposed to more queer stories earlier.
For so long I blamed my parent’s divorce on my disdain for relationships and love. Yet all along, it was just me being unable to see myself for who I am.
I think back to the unfortunate conclusions I drew about love so early on in life because I was lost and I wish I could tell myself to keep searching. I recognize that I still know very little, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that everyone loves differently and everyone’s love is valid.
With something so personal, we all have to figure things out on our own time for ourselves.
A Sex and the Steel City reading list
The stories we tell ourselves matter. From the imaginary to the instructional to the personal to the public, these stories can be incredibly influential. They shape our actions and decisions and inform our beliefs and values. This is perhaps most true when it comes to topics that are especially close to our hearts, such as love and relationships.
For Sex and the Steel City 2021, the Sil has compiled a list of books about love, relationships and identity to add to your bookshelves.
Romance is one of the most extensive genres encompassing a large range of subgenres from fantasy to historical fiction. While this variety can be helpful at times, it can also make it more difficult to find what you’re looking for. Here are a few places to start.
If you’re looking for a light-hearted read, try Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. The first in an ongoing series, Carry On follows Simon Snow through his last year at Watford School of Magicks as he works with his friends to uncover a mystery and manages to find love along the way.
Another light-hearted read is Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren, which weaves back and forth in time to tell the story of a chance reunion of childhood sweethearts Macy and Elliot after nearly a decade apart.
Other light romances include Love’s Recipe by Mila Nicks and One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston. Love’s Recipe is a story for food lovers, following recently divorced Rosalie as she helps Nick try to save his family’s restaurant. One Last Stop tells the story of August, a waitress at a 24-hour diner, and Jane, the time traveller she meets on the subway, as August tries to help Jane get back to her own time before it’s too late.
Dealing with questions of culture, community, identity, Islamophobia and sexism among others, Such a Lonely, Lovely Road by Kagiso Lesego Molope and The Chai Factor by Farah Heron are more serious, but still satisfying reads.
While there’s something special about seeing yourself represented in fiction, memoirs are affirming in a more tangible way as they show that you are truly not alone in your feelings or experiences.
Samra Habib’s memoir We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim’s Memoir is an excellent example of this, detailing Habib’s experiences growing up in Pakistan and Canada as she wrestled with ideas of faith, identity, love and sexuality and struggled to find a space where she could be herself.
A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt and My Body Is Yours by Michael V. Smith are two more exceptional memoirs exploring questions of identity and sexuality. In A History of My Brief Body, Belcourt uses his personal experiences to examine the intersection between Indigeneity and queerness, while Smith confronts traditional ideals of gender and masculinity in My Body is Yours.
There are also some more informational memoirs, where authors draw on their personal experience to raise awareness about a certain issue, such as in Ask me about my Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain, Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay) and The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me (Keah Brown).
Or if you’re looking for something a more lighthearted and more traditional autobiography, The Most of Nora Ephron (Nora Ephron) is a reflection on the late journalist and director’s life and questions of feminism and femininity, all told with her trademark humour.
NONFICTION TO TAKE NOTE OF
Education is absolutely essential, especially perhaps when it comes to relationships and sexuality. Books can be an excellent and informational starting place.
For example, books such as Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex (Angela Chen) and Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy and Research on Sex Work in Canada (Emily van der Meulen, Elya M Durisin, Victoria Love) offer comprehensive guides to topics you may have heard about in passing but need to know more about.
Anthologies in particular are wonderful for offering multiple perspectives and voices on a given topic. In Big: Stories about Life in Plus-Sized Bodies (edited by Christina Myers), 26 writers share their experiences and explore the intersection between body positivity and self-love, sexuality and other themes.
Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities (edited by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker and Kat Gupta) is another book with intersectionality at its forefront, touching on the range of answers to the question of what it means to be non-binary in the 21st century.
Two more anthologies worth taking note of are Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora and Black Studies (Rinaldo Walcott) and Trans Love: An Anthology of Transgender and Non-Binary Voice (Freiya Benson).
Beyond educating us, books such as The Body is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love by Sonya Renee Taylor can also offer guidance for moving forward as your best possible self.
Something between fiction and memoir but also something entirely on its own, poetry holds nothing back, conveying a depth of emotion while also dealing with difficult topics with a grace that lengthier literature is often unable to.
Through her passionate and powerful words in Holy Wild, Gwen Benaway explores the intersection between the trans and Indigenous experience, while in Junebat John Elizabeth Stintzi carves out a space for themselves to explore questions of gender identity
Another collection exploring identity and sexuality, My Art is Killing Me and other Poems (Amber Dawn) draws on the author’s own experiences and is an unflinchingly honest examination of femineity, sexuality and sex work justice.
It is often poets’ willingness to speak to their own experiences that lend to the emotional impact of their work. In home body, Rupi Kaur reflects on the past and potential and reminds us how important love is in times of change.
In The Gospel of Breakin, Jillian Christmas draws on her own family history to create stories offering insight on culture, race and other themes. In Where Things Touch, Bahar Orang uses her experiences as a physician-in-training to explore the idea of beauty and what it means in the context of the larger human experience.
If you asked 14-year-old me what my worst nightmare was, bra shopping was at the top of the list.
As I fumbled with various straps and clasps in a seemingly endless tangle through adolescence, my discomfort with the under-shirt, over-skin layer grew.
And when I moved out of training bra territory and into more “grown up” styles and designs, I was faced with not only discomfort, but a degree of alienation from the sexually-charged marketing of bras and lingerie that greeted me at the entrance of any boutique or store at the mall.
When I was a teenager, it was easy to convince myself that I just wasn’t “ready” yet, “ready” in the euphemistic way my Grade 7 health teacher talked about anything done behind closed doors.
I was okay with that, partially because I found myself in the unfair reality where my body grew up before I did.
But as I finished high school and began my undergraduate degree, I noticed that my aversion to anything that wasn’t a sports bra and plain cotton underwear had only gotten stronger. And by then it was harder to convince myself that what I was feeling was normal. Why was the idea of wearing lingerie so uncomfortable to me?
This inability to even try to challenge myself and explore the seemingly endless world of lace, prints and straps was disappointing to say the least. People around me saw lingerie as an empowering piece of clothing. They were beautiful, they were sexy, they knew it and they were going to make sure you did too. I admired them, but felt that I could never be like them.
“At the time, I came to the conclusion that the parts of my body most lacy, architectural lingerie is meant to accentuate were not parts of me I ever thought of as being especially interesting or attractive.”
At that point I wished I could just grow up a little bit.
And so, equipped with a more defined sense of self, I began to puzzle over this discomfort on a more frequent basis. At the time, I came to the conclusion that the parts of my body most lacy, architectural lingerie is meant to accentuate were not parts of me I ever thought of as being especially interesting or attractive. I liked my shoulders, arms and back, areas these garments existed on or around, but that were typically not the focal point.
Through a recent conversation with Hamilton-based lingerie designer Rosalie Loney, I finally found some solace in that I was not alone in my sentiments.
“I have so many memories of shopping for bras,” Loney said. “Even like, as a teenager, shopping for bras with my mom and thinking ‘this is terrible’. Like going to La Senza and feeling like [I] must have been the weirdest shape because nothing ever, ever fit.”
Loney’s line, Rosalie Wynne, offers a fully customizable sizing experience, meaning that she is able to offer a much broader range than what is available in most big-box retailers. Poor sizing was an issue for Loney in the past, and she created Rosalie Wynne out of a desire to ensure that anyone, no matter their size or proportions, can find a beautiful bralette or pair of underwear they can wear with confidence.
“I really want women to feel empowered, to be comfortable and confident in their own bodies and to know that you can be super comfortable in your unique shape, whatever it is,” she explained. “I don’t want to choose between being comfortable and feeling pretty.”
Loney’s commitment to working towards universally comfortable lingerie anyone can feel confident in is admirable and her pieces are undoubtedly beautiful. Her work is focused on empowerment, not necessarily sex appeal, and it allows customers to appreciate their bodies as they are and not as objects of desire.
After our conversation, I reflected on the associations we tend to have between femininity, beauty and what is meant to be sexy about women and women’s lingerie. These one-dimensional views of sex appeal are not emblematic of a universal experience of womanhood.
This is not new information, but it took me a long time to realize that this visual definition of womanhood did not mesh comfortably with my own feelings about femininity and sexuality. While I still don’t have an alternative term for my expression of myself as a woman, that internal realization allowed for so much of my discomfort around traditionally feminine, overtly sexual lingerie to make sense.
“And slowly I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea that I can feel pretty in a plain bralette or confident in something lacey or sexy in a sports bra.”
It was such a relief to finally discover for myself that I didn’t need to find the raciest or laciest undergarments to feel sexy. But I was still left wondering what, if anything, made me feel that way.
I recalled something else Loney had said to me: “A lot of feeling beautiful is feeling comfortable.”
At that point during our conversation, it dawned on me that there actually were undergarments in my drawer that made me feel beautiful and confident and maybe even a bit sexy. And one was a little lacy, one was a fun colour and one was literally a grey Spanx bralette. But they all made me feel beautiful because they made me feel more than comfortable; they made me feel like myself.
“If you’re not feeling comfortable, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing,” she added. “You could look great, but if you don’t feel like you can just be yourself, then what’s the point?”
Loney is right.
And slowly I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea that I can feel pretty in a plain bralette or confident in something lacy or sexy in a sports bra. My body will change, and so will my style and ideas of womanhood and queerness. And slowly I’m learning that all of these elements are inherently beautiful and I can feel confident and even a little sexy because of — not in spite of — all of these different parts of me.
It was beautiful.
The sky was blue, the brick was red, the grass was green and the tree was so, so, gold.
I remembered sitting on the scratchy carpet in Mrs. Nordahl’s grade one class, learning about why trees change colour in the fall. As autumn days are cut to darkness and fall is cut to winter, the green pigments flood out, extraneous without the light that feeds them. Gold is the colour of death.
But as we extoll upon fall’s fiery beauty, we might ask why we find it so. The reds and yellows splattering our campus are omens of winter, and a symbol of vanishing vitality. They are the tree’s last words, and their parting gift before a barren darkness.
As I stood next to viagra canada Bates residence staring up at this incredible tree, I wondered why we don’t revel in spring the same way. Sure, everyone loves spring, the blissful rebirth after a harsh winter, but we don’t savour it. We keep looking ahead to summer. Fall is different because it’s ephemeral. We know it won’t last. We don’t like what comes next.
The leaves remind us how little time we have left. Fall inspires people to do things: go for one last hike before it gets icy, wear your sandals one last time, roast around one last bonfire, eat one last bowl of squash soup and live as much as possible before frigidity sets in and we all retreat to tunnels and dorms.
It was a bit of a shock to come inside and open up a magazine to a spread on anti-aging creams, serums and cleansers. Society doesn’t find beauty in wrinkles and grey hairs, but they’re no different from gold and red leaves.
When a woman looks in the mirror and spots her first wrinkle, the tired trope calls for a catastrophic melt down. She looks in the mirror and curses all the things that caused it. All those afternoons sunbathing on the lawn, those blissful cigarette study breaks, the late nights imbibing with friends, she stares in the mirror and wishes she could take them all back. Is it really worth it to lose all those joyful moments for a less flawed face?
When a man spots his first grey hair, he doesn’t celebrate the fact he lived long enough to earn one, he worries that he has lost his looks. He fears he looks old, tired, like his grandfather.
If a tree could see its leaves, how would it feel? Would it rejoice in its new beauty, or fear their imminent loss? We dislike signs of age in ourselves because they remind us of how much time we have left, but rather than plan how to spend it most people plan how to keep it from showing. What if grey hair and wrinkles were treated like fall, inspiring us to really carpe diem this time, instead of feeding into the $114 billion anti-aging industry. Couldn’t that money be better spent making the most of our own personal autumns?
I know that a bunch of college students who won’t be facing this anytime soon may not be the best people to make this plea to, but it starts with you. Next time you see your grandmother, try to appreciate the silver in her hair like you appreciate the gold in the leaves. If you’re lucky, that’ll be you some day. It can be beautiful too.
The start of 2018 brings mixed feelings in regards to starting off the year on the right foot and beginning a new semester. Resolutions, and talks of “bettering” ourselves can be helpful for motivation, but sometimes they bring a daunting perspective to the new year. Here are some reasonable, but helpful, resolutions and motivations that you can make for 2018, without getting too stressed out.
Go to a class. If we’re being quite honest, there’s a lot of students who don’t end up going to classes. Whether it be mental wellness reasons, extracurriculars or sleeping in, it can be quite easy just to stay at home instead of making the trek to school in the snow. Try making it to at least one class this week.
Give yourself a bedtime. Friends, partying or even Netflix binges can have students messing up their sleep schedules. And while staying up until 4 am finishing up the latest season of Black Mirror can be fun, rest is incredibly important for mental well-being and for learning. Give yourself a time you want to be under the covers and make sure you get a healthy 8 hours sleep.
Put down your phone. While mobile phones are the main way we communicate with people now, they can become distracting when you’re trying to hang out with friends and family in real life. On your next trip to Snooty’s with the lads, or during a wine and movie night, turn off your device and enjoy the moment.
Drink more water. If you’re reading this, without a doubt you know about the ~magical properties~ of water. As humans are made out of 60% of water, it’s vital to our lives: it makes our skin better, it helps with headaches, and it flushes out waste and bacteria. Set a daily alarm to make sure you get at least one big bottle of water in a day (the ideal amount is 2L though)!
Eat. As a university student, ye old “three balanced nutritional meals a day” seems like something from a different universe. With school, jobs and other commitments busting up our schedule, eating out and eating less can easily become the alternative. Drag yourself to your nearest grocery store to stock up on nutrients for the week.
This list may seem simple, but it’s important to re-center ourselves and get back into positive routines! Happy 2018 y’all!