THE BLOG

We May Be Conceited, But Are We Narcissistic?

05/29/2013 06:35 pm ET | Updated Jul 29, 2013
Getty Images

"Why do we even bother having a conversation anymore? We only ever talk about you."

So ends a very honest phone call with my mother, who enjoys calling me out on the little things.

The sad thing is, she's right. We probably have an 80/20 ratio for the amount of time that we spend talking about my life vs. the time we spend on hers. I rationalize this, of course, by telling myself that it's simply because I need more support, and honestly, I have more stories to tell. Doesn't she want to spend half an hour talking about the crazy masquerade loft party that ended with strippers singing "Creep" by Radiohead? (Let's be honest, we all want to hear that story.)

I think that the problem with me, and by extension if I may, with all Millennials, is that we're so used to our parents doting on us, we don't know how to have actual adult conversations with them when we grow up. All we've ever known is that their function in life is to shuttle us to ballet class and help us with our homework; if they had a life, it happened after we were asleep with the babysitter, and even those times were few and far between.

Our self-centeredness becomes even worse if we were raised in single-parent homes, like I was. Without another adult present, there was no shooing away of the children for "adult conversations," no divide between the parents and the children. My mother's purpose in life for the past 24 years has been to focus on raising me, but that focus gave me a convoluted sense of self, as if I were the only person worth focusing on in the world. My confidence is high, but this may not necessarily be such a good thing.

If you've read anything in the past few years about Millennials, you know that we are an extremely conceited generation. We enter the workforce and expect our bosses to cater to us as our parents have, we Snapchat selfies to our friends, we post pictures of our food. But does that make us narcissistic?

Narcissism, in laymen's terms, only means that one thinks a whole lot about themselves before thinking of others. It's a word that journalists like Joel Stein like to throw around, writing that "when [parents] try to boost self-esteem, they accidentally boost narcissism instead."

There is a big difference between having narcissistic tendencies, and possessing full-blown narcissism, though. Specialists at the mental health clinic Bridges to Recovery classify narcissism in a number of ways, among them people who "consider themselves to be better or more important than the people with whom they associate," "have an inability to empathize with the emotions of other people," and of course, the "desire to monopolize every conversation."

Sure, we may monopolize conversations with our parents, but do we necessarily do that with our friends? Parents have to deal with you whether they want to or not, but friends can dump you at a moments notice, and Millennials know this. If we have any interest in keeping them, we've learned to temper our conceitedness and ask them how they're doing every once in awhile. And I know we don't have an inability to empathize with others; according to the recent Millennial Impact Report, 75 percent of people between the ages of 20 and 35 donated to charitable foundations last year, and 63 percent donated their time.

As for considering ourselves better than our peers, this is absurd. We may get jealous when they achieve success, but ultimately if they are our friends, we are happy for them. We aren't monsters here.

We may be incredibly conceited and obsessed with ourselves, but that doesn't make us narcissistic by default. Narcissism is an actual personality disorder, and its unfair for people to pin a mental disorder on an entire generation. The way in which we were raised may have naturally set us up for such a condition, but that doesn't mean we haven't self-corrected.

So Mom, let's make a compromise: I promise to talk more about you if you promise to stop saying I have a mental disorder. As for the rest of the Millennials, it's up to us to stop perpetuating the tendencies of a personality disorder, so that people can stop writing about it on the Internet. And then we can go back to Snapchatting selfies in peace.