The findings of a new study show that men tend to be more narcissistic than women. Women have been delighted with these findings, claiming they prove what women have always known innately to be true. However, the findings are more disturbing than delightful for women in some essential ways.
The term “narcissistic” comes from a Greek myth in which Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection, preferring it above all else. In the study, “[n]arcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relations, unethical behavior and aggression,” says lead author Emily Grijalva, PhD, none of which are exactly shining examples of positive character traits.
On the other hand, narcissism itself “is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader.” Those positive aspects of narcissism make it possible for men to assert themselves more easily. They also make it likely that men see themselves as entitled to more, including leadership roles.
The study examined more than 335 journal articles, dissertations, manuscripts and technical manuals. It analzyed differences between men and women specifically regarding attributes of leadership/authority, grandiosity/exhibitionism, and entitlement – all considered to be facets of narcissism. The widest gender gap was found to be in the area of entitlement, “suggesting men are more likely than women to exploit others and feel entitled to certain privileges.”
Assuming that greater amounts of some aspects of narcissism would be valuable to women in the workplace, just how does one acquire these traits? Grijalva says, “Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age…[i]n particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior.”
From these findings, it is clear that an essential component of true gender equality lies not only in the opportunities we create for women, or in the toys we give our daughters from their earliest years, but in the way we handle what society pejoratively views as their bossy, pushy, or entitled behavior. Or perhaps let’s just start with teaching everyone that it’s possible to love yourself in a healthy way without simply gazing at your own reflection forever.