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Generation Me: Be Self Confident without Being Arrogant

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A few weeks ago I went over my friend’s house for dinner. It wasn’t a party, but a few of her co-workers were also there and I somehow got stuck talking to one of the other women. After being around her for an hour or so I found myself trying to think of excuses as to why I had to leave early. I wanted to escape.

This woman talked about herself nonstop. I got to hear all about her recent promotion, the color she just painted her house, what kind of mileage her new car gets, and the special food she has to buy her dog … you get the picture. I kept my mouth shut for the sake of my friend, but what I really wanted to do was interrupt her and say, “Wow! Thanks for monopolizing the conversation so that it was entirely about you!”

A Narcissistic Society

It’s one thing to be self-confident; it’s another to be downright arrogant. Apparently this sort of behavior is pretty common. Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University and four of her colleagues performed a study which involved examining the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory—or NPI—between 1982 and 2006. Their findings? Today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors.

The researchers described their study as the largest of its type ever performed, and they say that students’ NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. Their findings show that by 2006, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, which was 30 percent more than in 1982.

Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, who also participated in the study, are the co-authors of a 2009 book called The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. The book points out that the parents of today’s college students have built up their children’s self-confidence, but also created a disproportionate sense of self-worth in the process.

Twenge reported that 10 percent of today’s twenty-somethings—the members of Generation Me, as they’re often called— have already experienced symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. The Mayo Clinic defines it as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings.”

I doubt that my friend’s co-worker had a mental disorder, but she definitely enjoyed hearing herself talk. I’m in the same age bracket as that woman and she drove me nuts.

Be Confident Without Being Arrogant

Confidence is a powerful trait that can help you be successful throughout college and your career, but there’s a difference between confidence and narcissism or arrogance. If you’re an arrogant know-it-all, you’ll easily turn people off. Eventually they won’t want to deal with you, and your “Me” attitude might cost you opportunities for advancement at work or hurt your reputation. Here are four ways to be confident without being arrogant:

  • Be Sincere. Talk with others about the things that are going on in their lives instead of always talking about you. Offer compliments and advice often.
  • Be Approachable. Arrogance can make you come across as standoffish. I know plenty of self-confident people that I have no problem walking right up to, but if I saw my friend’s co-worker out in public I’d probably try to hide from her.
  • Admit When You Are Wrong. Confident people have no problem saying, “I goofed up.” Arrogant people find ways to make others think they were right even when they weren’t or blame other people for their mistakes.
  • Be Humble. If someone compliments you, thank them but don’t go overboard. Arrogant people enjoy the spotlight a little too much.

Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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