Higher narcissism in Gen Y: Why?

𝓦𝓮𝓵𝓵 𝓣𝓸𝓭𝓪𝔂
Published in
5 min readApr 10, 2024


The rise of narcissism among Generation Y has potential consequences for both individuals and society as a whole

Photo by Tusik Only on Unsplash

In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the increasing prevalence of narcissistic tendencies among members of Generation Y, also known as millennials. Born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, this generation has been labeled as the “me” generation, often characterized by a sense of entitlement, a need for constant validation, and an inflated sense of self-importance. But what has led to this rise in narcissism among millennials, and what are the potential consequences for society as a whole?

Narcissism, in its clinical form, is a personality disorder characterized by an excessive need for admiration, a lack of empathy for others, and a grandiose sense of self-importance. However, narcissistic traits exist on a spectrum, and it is the subclinical form of narcissism that seems to be more prevalent among Generation Y. This type of narcissism is often manifested through behaviors such as self-promotion, a constant need for validation, and a preoccupation with one’s own image and success.

While it is important to note that not all millennials exhibit narcissistic tendencies, and that these traits are not exclusive to this generation, there is evidence to suggest that narcissism has become more prevalent among Gen Y compared to previous generations. A study conducted by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, found that college students in the 2000s scored significantly higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory compared to students in the 1980s.

So, what has contributed to this apparent rise in narcissistic tendencies among millennials? There are several factors that have been proposed by experts in the field:

  1. Social media and technology: Generation Y grew up alongside the rapid expansion of the internet and the rise of social media platforms. These digital spaces have created an environment that encourages self-promotion, curating an idealized online image, and seeking validation through likes, followers, and comments. The constant comparison to others’ highlight reels and the pressure to present a perfect version of oneself can contribute to the development of narcissistic traits. Moreover, the instant gratification provided by social media, such as the dopamine rush from receiving likes and positive feedback, can reinforce the need for external validation and fuel a sense of self-importance.
  2. Parenting styles: The parenting approach common during millennials’ upbringing has also been cited as a potential factor in the development of narcissistic tendencies. Many parents of Gen Y focused on building their children’s self-esteem, often through constant praise, positive reinforcement, and a “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. While well-intentioned, this parenting style may have inadvertently fostered a sense of entitlement and an inflated sense of self-worth. By shielding their children from failure and criticism, parents may have hindered the development of resilience and the ability to cope with setbacks, leading to a fragile sense of self that relies heavily on external validation.
  3. Cultural shifts: The cultural landscape during millennials’ formative years has also played a role in shaping their characteristics. Western society has increasingly prioritized individualism, self-expression, and personal achievement. The idea of being unique, standing out from the crowd, and achieving success has been heavily emphasized in popular media and culture. This focus on the self, combined with the rise of “celebrity culture” and the glorification of wealth and fame, may have contributed to the development of narcissistic traits among Gen Y. The pressure to be exceptional and to achieve a certain level of status can lead to an obsession with one’s own image and a constant need for validation.
  4. Proliferation of materialistic values: Another cultural shift that has influenced the rise of narcissism among millennials is the increasing emphasis on materialistic values and the pursuit of wealth and status. In a society that often equates success with financial prosperity and the acquisition of luxury goods, the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” has intensified. Social media has further exacerbated this trend, as it provides a platform for individuals to showcase their material possessions and curate an image of affluence. This focus on external markers of success can contribute to a narcissistic preoccupation with oneself and a constant need for validation through the display of wealth and status.
  5. Economic factors: Millennials have faced significant economic challenges, such as the Great Recession, high levels of student loan debt, and a competitive job market. These financial pressures have led to a sense of uncertainty and a need to stand out in order to secure employment and financial stability. In response to these challenges, some millennials may have developed a focus on building a strong personal brand and promoting themselves as unique and valuable individuals. This emphasis on self-promotion and the need to constantly showcase one’s accomplishments can contribute to narcissistic tendencies.
Photo by Mahdi Bafande on Unsplash

The rise of narcissism among Generation Y has potential consequences for both individuals and society as a whole. On an individual level, narcissistic traits can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships, as the need for admiration and lack of empathy can strain interpersonal connections. Narcissistic individuals may also struggle with decision-making, as they may prioritize short-term gains and self-interest over long-term consequences and the well-being of others.

On a societal level, the increase in narcissistic tendencies could lead to a more individualistic and less empathetic culture. A focus on personal success and self-promotion may come at the expense of community involvement, collaboration, and concern for the common good. Moreover, a society that places a high value on external validation and the appearance of success may neglect the importance of intrinsic motivation, personal growth, and genuine self-worth.

However, it is crucial to recognize that the factors contributing to the rise of narcissism among millennials are complex and multifaceted. It is not a simple case of pointing fingers at technology, parenting, or cultural shifts. Instead, it is the interplay of these various influences that has shaped the characteristics of this generation.

Furthermore, it is essential to acknowledge that not all millennials exhibit narcissistic tendencies, and that these traits are not exclusive to this generation. Narcissism exists on a continuum, and individuals from all generations can display varying levels of narcissistic traits.

The rise of narcissism among Generation Y is a concerning trend that has been influenced by a combination of factors, including the prevalence of social media, parenting styles, cultural shifts, the proliferation of materialistic values, and economic challenges. While the consequences of this trend are yet to be fully understood, it is important for society to recognize and address the potential impact on individuals and the broader community. By fostering a culture that values empathy, collaboration, intrinsic self-worth, and a more balanced approach to success and happiness, we can work towards mitigating the negative effects of narcissism and promoting a healthier and more fulfilling way of life for all generations.

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𝓦𝓮𝓵𝓵 𝓣𝓸𝓭𝓪𝔂

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