At the beginning of any year, as people look for ways to improve themselves, one of the top priorities always seems to be based somewhere around self-improvement. Whether it be a physical manifestation, a self-confidence issue, or getting in tune with one’s own personal needs, people are always looking for ways and reasons to improve. Overall, this is something noble and admirable, but much like all other aspects of life, it can be taken to extremes, which is where today’s word – narcissistic – comes into play.
Narcissistic is the descriptive variation of narcissism and defines an unnatural/unhealthy obsession with an individual’s own thoughts, ideas, and appearance. Though the concept behind the word originated in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the word itself first entered the English lexicon a century ago in March 1915’s Journal of Abnormal Psychology in an article by L.E. Emerson, with references by M. Duberman in 1986’s About Time, stating, “Felt better in warm bath, naked, saw own body. Narcissistic [sic.].” Within two decades of arriving in the language as a clinical term, narcissistic began to be used more informally, as a personality trait or characteristic: in 1935’s The Destructive Element, Stephen Spender writes that, “It was not a narcissistic desire to recover lost charms and innocence.”
In the majority of cases today, after a century of usage, narcissistic has come to define a small character flaw that we all possess to varying degrees and in varying forms. Perhaps it explains why a 2014 study showed that, although more people are exercising to get healthy, more millennials are exercising to improve their appearance (37% to 32%). Indeed, it could also easily explain why Americans alone spend over $10 billion annually on self-improvement products. But most of all, it explains the current selfie mania – which replaced old-fashioned gazing in the mirror and made most of us dive into numerous attempts on a daily basis to capture our flawless perfection to share with the world.