One of the most telling signs of a narcissist is that they are not open to criticism.
Narcissists tend to react very badly to criticism, becoming aggressive and lashing out.
However, new research shows that, with age, people’s narcissism tends to decrease.
People get less full of themselves and more relaxed with criticism as they age.
Young people’s narcissism declines fastest of all and most rapidly when they get their first job, the researchers found.
Dr William Chopik, the study’s first author, said:
“There’s a narrative in our culture that generations are getting more and more narcissistic, but no one has ever looked at it throughout generations or how it varies with age at the same time.”
The study included 747 people of all ages who were asked how much they displayed the typical qualities of a narcissist:
- Being sensitive to criticism,
- being full of oneself,
- Imposing one’s opinions on others.
The results showed that all aspects of narcissism declined with age.
Dr Chopik said:
“There are things that happen in life that can shake people a little bit and force them to adapt their narcissistic qualities.
As you age, you form new relationships, have new experiences, start a family and so on.
All of these factors make someone realize that it’s not ‘all about them.’
And, the older you get, the more you think about the world that you may leave behind.”
Young people’s narcissism decline rapidly when they got their first job, Dr Chopik said:
“When life happens and you’re forced to accept feedback, break up with someone or have tragedy strike, you might need to adjust to understanding that you’re not as awesome as you once thought.
There’s a sense in which narcissists start to realize that being the way they are isn’t smart if they want to have friends or meaningful relationships.”
The narcissism of young adults changed the fastest.
Dr Chopik said:
“One of the most surprising findings was that—also contrary to what many people think—individuals who were born earlier in the century started off with higher levels of hyper-sensitivity, or the type of narcissism where people are full of themselves, as well as willfulness, which is the tendency to impose opinions on others.
There isn’t much data on older generations, but now that Baby Boomers are aging into that phase of life, it’s a huge part of the population that we need to be looking at.”
The study was published in the journal Psychology and Aging (Chopik & Grimm, 2019).