Narcissism and Success


Looking Successful

“We have become a culture that places more importance on the appearance of success than actual success.”

~Jean Twenge, author and psychology professor

In their book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell suggest the recession, recent political scandals, the national debt crisis, grade inflation, reality television, and materialism are all the result of an increase in narcissism.

Narcissism is defined as excessive self-love or vanity.

It’s one thing to have self-esteem or feel good about yourself, but narcissism is feeling superior or believing you’re superior when you’re really not. Twenge and Campbell write, “Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance, celebrity worship, and attention seeking.”

That means the focus on looking successful and feeling superior is a cultural trend that could very well be responsible, at least in part, for the pursuit of money and success. Twenge and Campbell cite materialism as one of the more obvious examples of narcissism in America because it’s all about buying things that communicate status and importance—expensive cars, jewelry, clothing, a nice house. They also claim this new materialism has infected many people who are not otherwise narcissistic by nature.

This provides one explanation for why so many people seem to be seeking more money, success, and material possessions.

Excerpted from “Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. She now teaches marketing and helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

4 comments on “Narcissism and Success

  1. I think that is a book I want to read!
    Way too much importance is placed on ‘looking the part’, rather than just doing it. I have unsubscribed from certain gurus for that exact reason– because I lost total respect after I saw her suggesting through a photo in her eZine that standing with loads of designer name packages ‘made’ her successful. Umm, No. I have a credit card, too and can achieve that same effect…it doesn’t mean I’m successful (except at achieving debt).
    I hate the whole, ‘You have to look the part’ teaching, it feels so slimy and fake.
    Don’t *look* the part, BE the part. And for me, that doesn’t include having to wear everything designer or drive a car I can’t afford. I guess that’s why I’m happy…I know that I’m NOT my car.
    Sorry for the rant, Debbie, but this attitude really ticks me off!

  2. Kimberly,
    Rants are always welcome… sometimes we just have to vent. 🙂

    Perhaps, if enough of us stop “buying into” these perceptions of wealth and success, the gurus will stop flaunting them. I actually do believe for many “experts” they are modeling what they’ve seen their mentors do. I also believe they think they’re inspiring others, and showing them what’s possible. Problem is, the whole thing has gotten out of hand, and now it’s just starting to look like ego… or narcissism.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I’ll tell you how bad it gets when it comes to looking the part.

    I had someone look at a photo I had done of my wife and say – to my face – “Hmm. That’s not what I expected.” I asked what this person meant by that. Their inference was that since I’m a photographer and I often work with models they thought my wife must have been one of those “model types”. I was insulted.

    I once had a client comment on the car I drove up in. “You drive that!?” Yeah. “I thought you’d be driving like a sports car or something”. Where the hell do they get these ideas!!??

    I’ve had enough of it. Anything I do in any form – be it outward appearance or with my work – I do it for me and not to impress. Don’t like it? Fine. Don’t look. Don’t like my work? Fine, hire somebody else. After turning 50 recently, my new mantra is: I’m in it for me and I don’t give a sh*t what anyone else thinks!

    Sorry for the rant 🙂

  4. Brian, as I shared with Kimberly, rants are welcome… sometimes we do get angry and have to vent. I love that you have decided that you are doing things for yourself now. We can’t please everyone no matter what we do. So I believe we need to focus on sharing our gifts with the world — for you that’s your photography — and to do it in a way that serves us and our loved ones. I’ve also found that when you are clear that it’s not all about the ego stuff, and that’s how you live your life, you begin attracting people, and clients, who share those values. And those who are concerned only with appearances and ego don’t show up – they simply are not attracted to your energy. And yes, there is something about turning 50 that makes you just not give a sh*t about stuff that used to seem to matter, isn’t there?! 🙂

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