Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Found My Autobiography

I just finished reading Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas. I really recommend it; it does an engaging and effective job of explaining the history of feminism within a media context. I found a passage that literally made me stop, gasp, and not only highlight but also circle and mark the page down (I am a compulsive book-marker. I can't read books without writing in them). I re-typed this passage below. It resonated with me so much and actually applies to not only me, but a lot of people I know-- and not necessarily all women.

Advertisers in the 1980s, especially those targeting women, apparently had a new bible: Christopher Lasch's 1979 best-seller, The Culture of Narcissism. Lasch identified what he saw as a new trend, the emergence of people who seemed self-centered and self-satisfied but were really deeply anxious about what others thought of them. Americans were becoming increasingly self-absorbed, he wrote, but not because they were conceited. On the contrary, Americans were desperately insecure, consumed with self-doubt and self-loathing, and totally obsessed with competing with other people for approval and acclaim. The "narcissistic personality," according to Lasch, was compulsively "other-directed" and consumed by self-doubt, even self-hatred. As a result, the narcissist craved approval and fantasized about adulation. Any sense of self-esteem was fleeting, hinging on things like whether someone looked at you funny or laughed at one of your jokes. This obsessive need for admiration prompted the narcissist to become skilled at managing impressions, at assuming different roles, and at developing a magnetic personality. Narcissists were always measuring themselves against others; being envied, for example, had become infinitely more important than being admired or respected. Narcissists had a strong believe in their right to be gratified and were constantly searching for heightened emotional experiences, for instant gratification, to stave off the fear that life is unreal, artificial, meaningless. Narcissists were especially terrified of aging and death.

I feel like I just read my own biography.

-Jess

3 comments:

David said...

Self-hate breeds narcissism; I never really thought about that. Really good passage, Jess.

Gay Toast said...

wait, do you mean that there are people who don't have a fleeting relationship with their self-esteem? seriously? who are they?

David said...

I don't think that's what it was saying. I read it more as a new (media) phenomenon in which, yes, people lack self-esteem, but because of that they develop a narcissism. (Which is unexpected, to say the least.)