Those are the still true words once written by Mark Twain. I say still true because according to a recent study from the University of Illinois, they most certainly are right on the money.
Apparently, young people benefit from narcissism. The theory is that during those crucial years when a child leaves the home and makes his or own way in the world, it is important for them to think very highly of themselves. Setbacks seem less detrimental and the world is at their feet. Plus, any perceived narcissism from the outside world is written off on their young age.
Patrick Hill and Brent Roberts had students and their family members fill out questionnaires that painted a portrait of how narcissistic each individual was as well as their views and opinions on one another. To keep a consistent view, the researchers chose to focus on those students who had their mothers participate, as they were by far the most common to do so.
The results showed that students who scored higher on the narcissism scale also felt better about their lives, that is, happier and more successful. And though others may have seen them as being a bit full of themselves, it was not detrimental to their overall opinion of the youngsters.
The opposite did not hold true. Adults who were identified as narcissistic took a blow to their image to others.
Also, narcissistic traits were found to disappear with age. The researchers believe that is because they become less useful. Once out of the difficult young adult stage, people tend to shed their narcissistic tendencies. The theory is that this happens because they don’t need them anymore and also because they become detrimental instead of useful.
It should be noted that all of these results only hold true for two out of the three parts of narcissism. While leadership/authority and grandiose exhibitionism may work to one’s benefit, high scores in entitlement/exploitativeness are always a bad thing.
So as Mark Twain said, “‘There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except for an old optimist.’’