"People do not pay attention to me the way they should," says "Cynthia," one subject of "The New Narcissist," Judith Newman's psych-trend piece in December Allure. "I know I deserve to be heard, and when I'm not, I get very angry," she continues. "I think people are frightened of me." Cynthia is an attractive, outspoken woman who has risen quickly to a high-powered TV exec position at 30. She's also an example of a disease supposedly sweeping the nation — successful people are, according to Newman, coming down with acquired situational narcissism (ASN) in which they ignore other people's needs and think everyone should bow down to them. And although the rich and powerful have been acting out since time immemorial (see Caligula), Newman thinks their antics are on the rise.
The last couple of years have been an egopalooza of celebrities, politicians, businessmen, and religious leaders behaving not just badly, but with overweening sense of entitlement. Paris Hilton: Jail is worse for me than anyone else! Oprah: the Hermes store wouldn't let me shop because I'm black! (The fact that the store had just closed apparently had nothing to do with it.) And Hillary: Oh, dear God, Hillary. If she hadn't radiated an almost-cartoonish, Daffy Duck-like aura ("The presidency is mine-mine-MINE!"), maybe she would have been the Democratic candidate.
Note that all three of Newman's examples are women. Probably she's just considering her target audience, but the message stands — don't be like these ladies, or like Cynthia, unless you want to be pilloried in Allure. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Newman just lumped Oprah and Hillary together with Paris Hilton, and the fact that aggressively seeking public office apparently now makes you a cartoon character — are these women really that bad?
Cynthia achieved great success after "a modest upbringing," and now she's extremely confident. She believes she'll succeed in her career, and says, "there's value in being opinionated when you have really good opinions." Maybe Cynthia isn't the most considerate person in the world, but we'd sure rather hear from her than someone who couches every statement with "I'm not sure, but . . ." There is value in being opinionated, and in being confident, and in feeling that people should listen to you — and more women and men should embrace this value.
Of course, some cases of ASN (which Newman defines as "a form of self-absorption and grandiosity developed not in childhood, as classical narcissism is thought to be, but rather [...] after an individual has acquired modest fame and fortune") may cause problems — the "luxury shame" sufferers Sadie wrote about should probably try thinking of the less fortunate for a change. But we may not have to hear from them much longer: Newman says the best cure for ASN is failure.
Cynthia, for instance, suffered a failed project and a series of bad dates, including one with a guy who said, "I don't think she asked one question about me." Now she's way nicer, even asking Newman about herself when they meet up for drinks. Cynthia could probably stand to learn a thing or two about consideration, but we're still a little disturbed that Newman's recipe for bringing an uppity woman to earth is a stinging remark from a man.
[Allure] (Official Site)