How “You Do You” is Leading to Narcissism and a Mental Health Crisis

How “You Do You” is Leading to Narcissism and a Mental Health Crisis

We weren’t designed to find our identity by looking within but by looking to our Creator God. Unfortunately, humanity is instinctively repelled by any thought of looking for our identity in Him (Romans 1:18-30), and so, left to ourselves, we look for identity anywhere but the living God. And in the modern secular West, that search for identity has turned inwards.

We’re the first generation in human history in which ‘You Do You’ is the default way of doing identity formation.

You Do You’: it’s all about finding your purpose and identity by looking within. It’s fed to us by Disney, our schools and universities, our sporting athletes, and just about every part of secular culture. We’re swimming in a ‘you do you’ world.

And we’ve been on this path for at least twenty years now.

But the consequences for individuals and society of implementing this idea will take decades to uncover and assess. And Australian Christian author Brian Rosner attempts to start doing that in his forthcoming book, How To Find Yourself: Why Looking Inward Is Not The Answer. [1] So, what has Rosner uncovered?

A lot, as it turns out.

While I’ve yet to finish his book, Rosner points out that we can be thankful for the increasing freedom we have to make choices about how we live our lives. But the ‘you do you’ way of doing identity comes at an enormous cost, including an increase in narcissism and a growing mental health crisis:

1) You Do You is Leading to an Increase in Narcissism

A narcissist is preoccupied with himself and constantly craves the approval of others. In 2013, Time magazine reported that “the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their 20s as for the generation that’s now 65 or older, according to the National Institutes of Health; 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.” [2]

As Rosner points out:

Today, “Be your biggest fan” is actually a clothing brand, which unapologetically “pays homage to self love.” And given the new profession of influencer, “self-promotion” coaches are not hard to find. [3]

Psychologist Ross King claims that “studies show those with [narcissistic] traits have jumped from about 3 per cent to 10 per cent of the population over the past three decades.” [4] Indeed, some health professionals speak of an epidemic of narcissism in our society. [5] And in numerous studies, psychologists warn that addiction to social media is strongly linked to narcissistic behavior and low self-esteem. [6]

Because of our fallen human nature, we all have narcissistic traits to some degree. But the rapid rise in narcissistic behaviour needs a further cultural explanation.

And that explanation, according to Rosner, is that ‘you do you’ mixed with social media has become a toxic brew reshaping how we think of ourselves. After all, if our identity is determined by looking within us, how do we measure our accomplishments? By comparing ourselves to others, especially on social media. [7]

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