Narcissism is something looked down upon by most of first-world society in conversation, but has also become one of the most socially practiced and socially accepted actions in recent years.
Wait, it is ridiculed and also accepted?
Why are we so self important?
We accept it because of the entertainment value, but we denounce it because more often than not we see a projection of someone attempting to be something they are not - even if they think they can pull it off or believe it for themselves. Let me tell you a story.
Volvo is a Scandinavian car marque which has been around just shy of one-hundred years as of this post. Their cars sold fairly well in various European countries from their inception, but while selling in sparse number overseas, they wanted to go a bit farther and create something more oriented to the world market. When 1974 came about, they released the 200-series of cars to accomplish just this. Known as "bricks" within the automotive circle, this is most likely the image you have in your head when someone says "Volvo".
The 200-series of Volvos were pretty simple in design and had very utilitarian features which changed little throughout its life. The engine was simple to work on, cheap to fix and economical, the options offered on the car were few, and they sold incredibly well all over the world. This model was manufactured on three continents and given final assembly in six different countries, selling just under 3,000,000 cars over nineteen years of production. Volvo actually released the 700-series in 1982, but the 200-series still outsold it and lived an entire model year longer than the car designed to replace it. Brand loyalty is a precious commodity in business, and Volvo had gone from a small Swedish car maker to a worldwide force of reliability and practicality. Their 200-series of coupes, sedans, and wagons is easily one of the most indestructible cars ever built, many logging over half a million miles with only regular maintenance. Volvo had found their niche and were doing well, but then dropped the ball.
With the life of the 200-series coming to a close, Volvo probably should have been planning a new successor to their landmark vehicle which shared a similar philosophy of what it was known for, but instead decided to use their capital to move more upmarket. The company wanted to position itself as a safety-conscious premium brand rather than a safety-conscious practical brand. Walking onto any Volvo dealership's lot in the early 1990's would have shown you the majority of their offerings trimmed in leather, with full power options, turbocharged engines, electronically controlled transmissions, loads of buttons and dials across the dashboard, packaged in a rather bland, softly squared body. The company was wanting to compete with the higher-end luxury market instead of staying true to their economical reliability of the past. Due to this investment action, the company took a hit in reliability, which led to falling sales percentages with occasional spikes, but nothing exceptional to the growth they should have been enduring. Ford Motor Company bought them in 1999 as a means of attempting restoration in the marketplace and still could not turn a profit, selling them to a Chinese investor in 2010. Volvo thought they were bigger than they actually were, and with that, lost sight of the big picture and pursuing endeavors which were actually promising for them. What does this have to do with society? Hang on...
Everyone has a skill set of some sort and anyone who has spent any amount of time developing their skills should have a pretty well-rounded idea of their abilities after living in the real world for a few years. The problem is, we would often rather take the time to prove our perceived greatness to the world than to actually make an effort to improve ourselves naturally. We thrive on having a title and we love having recognition, but taking the easiest route to achieve a title of little substance is often more important to us than achieving something that sticks for our lifetime.
Creating your own destiny is a concept that is lost in the current generation because we thrive on instant gratification so much. When I was learning to play guitar over a dozen years ago, I spent hours and hours in my room, by myself, learning everything I could on my own and being my own biggest encouragement. During the first few years I only played in front of people very sparingly, but every time I did, the improvements I had been making in the skill were obvious to the people who had heard me play a few months or even a year prior to that point - this is how I gained encouragement from the world. Taking it upon myself to be my own worst critic pushed me more and more to improve. Surrounding myself with friends and family to tell me how great I was constantly would not have led me to try any harder, because of that connection of bias. Those outside of your circle are the people to pay attention to, not the people who will always support your efforts.
This is not centered on music either. I have not played music for income in a very long time. This works in everything.
We, as a generation seem pretty well unprepared for what is ahead of us because of the encouragement we seek through more narcissistic outlets. Unfortunately, the distance we make it through life (in practically anything) successfully depends upon what other people see in us who are generally connected to us in a singular capacity.
-If you sell an inconsistent product, your buyers notice.
- If you do not keep your word or commitments, your backers notice.
-If your focus on business dwindles, your employers notice.
-If your focus on friendships stray, your friends notice.
-If you do not continually develop your skills and education, your talent becomes stagnant.
Most of us thrive on this idea of greatness or the acquisition of a title being the ultimate goal for whatever we have worked towards. We have this idea that once we arrive at this place in time, everything will be great and we will no longer have to put in the effort to sustain what we have. Looking for a "big break" or a magical moment of epiphany is a great thought, but takes continual effort to achieve the fruit and reap those rewards. This is not saying we should all be pigeon-holed and stuck where ever we happen to be in life, because there is always an improvement to be made as well as an opportunity to further educate ourselves. The idea behind all of this is to not be afraid to take a risk in life, but never go into any situation blindly without doing every bit of research and making every effort to know whether or not the risk is worth taking. Improper execution of a risk can have a direct impact on the way those who back you up the most maintain their perception, belief, and support in your efforts, which is always a key element in anything. Look at what happened to Volvo when they took a risk because of how great they thought they were before paying attention to what their most important audience was asking of them.
Never allow yourself to permanently fail and never put yourself in a position of not being taken seriously.
Failure is part of life, but making improvements to be sure you never run into the same failure again is the only way to grow.
Growing requires continual education to obtain continual improvement.
Always value your importance, but be very conscious of exactly where you stand in life and always try to do better without attempting to convince anyone you are anything other than yourself.
You are your best critic.
Make sure your ego stays in check.
Grace and Peace,
*I know there were more reasons on the economic end for the decline of Volvo than stated in the post above. If I had broken down every one of those points, you would have been reading a dissertation about corporate fallacy. Actually, you wouldn't have been reading a dissertation about corporate fallacy, because you wouldn't have finished reading it at all.