Monday, October 08, 2007

College Life

Vanity: Where Do We Draw The Line?
By Priya Joshi

Some psychologists have concluded that today’s generation of college students are far more vain than their predecessors.

However, in a recent Associated Press article, “Vanity On The Rise Among College Students,” what these psychologists have failed to mention are the key reasons for this outcome. They have confidently pinned the blame on the “Self-Esteem Movement” of the 1980’s, a movement that worked to build confidence in young adults, but that may have gone too far.

Alyssa Geddes, a 19-year-old college student disagrees. “We are living in a completely different world now. A self-esteem movement in the 80’s is irrelevant to our current decade. Nowadays, we are bombarded with gorgeous people everywhere. Each and every magazine has the face of a model plastered to the front. That is the reason kids these days care so much about looking good.”

Geddes makes a valid point. The pressures of society in 2007 are far different than those of the 1980’s. In fact, the pressures have sky rocketed. Nevertheless, Geddes agrees that college students are extremely concerned with their appearance and will go to great lengths to look acceptable. “It’s no longer a matter of just self-confidence,” said Geddes. “Looking good has become a way of life for a lot of young adults these days and I can’t say that it’s totally their fault. The world we live in shapes the people who inhabit it.”

The article, based on a study of 16,475 students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006, also states several benefits for having such a drastic rise in self-confidence. It can help with making friends at school or getting invited to parties. However, all of this extra attention can have dire consequences.

“I can’t stand people who are overly confident in themselves,” says Jill Mezey, a college student who says she has personally seen the downside of narcissism. “People need to know when to be modest and I think that is a trait that our generation severely lacks. I have seen friends go through boyfriends at an unhealthy rate due to the fact that they get too much attention and it goes straight to their head.”

Physical appearance isn’t the only problem that this article brings up. Narcissism can take the form of college applications as well. With an obscene amount of pressure to get a good job and make a lot of money in America, the self-confidence of high school and college students alike is at an all time peek.

Michael McCarthy , a 23-year-old college graduate remembers the pressures placed on him at an early age. “I attended a very rich and very smart high school in New Jersey. An unbelievable amount of kids in my graduating class went off to Ivy Leagues,” said McCarthy. “We had teachers and guidance counselors breathing down our necks constantly. The competition was almost unbearable. It’s not healthy for teenagers to have to go through that.”

The question then seems to be: where do we draw the line?

Perhaps the problem does not lie within the fashion magazines or the beautiful people on television. The problem with today’s college students and narcissism could have a direct relation to our constant rising economy. The demand for more money and power and better jobs seems to have students far more stressed than making sure they have this season’s shoes.

Betty Epstein, a 47-year-old mother of two current college students agrees. “I watched them go through the stress of high school and now I’m watching them go through it all over again,” says Epstein. “My kids have always been happy with who they are and never had trouble making friends, but they watch some of their classmates parade around with a smile on their face or join clubs at school that they don’t care about just to look good for job applications. It’s disappointing.”

A solution could be to stop shoving kids in one direction. Let the college students know that the path they pave is their own. Instead of having outside influences building their confidence, let them build it. Perhaps then the attitude will switch from feeling pressure to feeling ready and able.

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