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How to be more empathetic in an increasingly narcissistic world

By: Shauna Gavin

Updated: 13 December 2019

There is a saying, “be the change you want to see in the world”. In a world where many are too wrapped up in their own lives to look up from their phones to make sure they don’t bump into the person walking towards them on the street, is it any wonder why you would yearn for a less selfish world? This kind of selfishness can be observed everywhere, in all walks of life. The world is becoming more and more impersonal by the year and ironically, this goes against our very nature. We as humans are social creatures who thrive off interactions with other humans, even the most introverted of us.


With this growing lack of connection becoming more and more apparent around us, it makes sense that this connection and absorption back into the self is becoming more widespread. The world we live in rewards narcissistic tendencies hugely. The more likes and followers you have, the better. Those with inflated egos tend to rise to the top and youth, money and looks tend to trump integrity, kindness and decency. This can be observed in the popular trends of today. For example, Love Island broke all records this summer with each episode pulling in on average, 3.3 million viewers per episode, mostly between 16-24 year olds. This is not to say that the people who participated in Love Island are bad people, however, the contrived and insular nature of the show, along with its tendencies to only pick people with at least several thousand followers and perfect bodies and faces contribute to this culture of narcissism. In an age that is arguably more tolerant than the world has ever been, why is it that so many people fail to notice those around them?


This rise of narcissism could be put down to a variety of factors. There is a correlation between narcissism developing in children being isolated from other children during childhood and not having the freedom to play naturally in an undirected setting. It is so essential for children to be around other children in order for them to learn how to empathise with others. Society on the whole can also be blamed for this rise in self centeredness for a variety of factors. Children’s television telling children that they are special and they can be whatever they want to be throughout their childhood as well as the rise in homeschooling are just a few of these factors. As the child gets older they will discover social media which can further affect this tendency.


A world where everyone is a narcissist is a very dreary prospect. Caring for and looking out for one another is vital for our survival as a race. Here are some easy ways you can remind yourself to be more empathetic in your interactions with the world around you.


  1. Remember to look around you on public transport, there may be an older person or a pregnant woman who needs a seat.


This is a pet peeve of many people yet it happens every day on the bus, DART or LUAS. So many are so engrossed in themselves that they will not notice those right in front of them who need a seat so much more urgently than they do. Be the person who stands up and makes that person smile and thank you wholeheartedly, it will feel really good, trust me.


  1. If you are on social media and see someone posting something that seems like a cry for help, respond, don’t just scroll past.


We live in an age where social media is so deeply ingrained into all of our lives. There is no going back, it is here to stay and that’s the way it is. Social media can be used in so many different ways. If you feel like you see someone who posts something worrying or that looks like they are crying out for help, respond and check in with them. Let them know you are thinking about them and that you’re genuinely worried about their wellbeing. It will mean so much to them and the extent of your help could be so much bigger than you’ll ever know.

 
  1. Keep in contact with and appreciate those who are good to you.


Our parents, our siblings, our friends or even just that person who did you a huge favour that one time. Making time to remember those who have helped you in life never goes unnoticed. Everyone likes to be contacted and appreciated so it is always important that we remember to do this for those important to ourselves, otherwise you run the possibility of losing a connection.


  1. Converse with and give time to people around you.

If someone starts a conversation with you in public, so many people have a tendency to answer them bluntly and briefly before using their phone as an excuse to end the interaction abruptly. If your intuition tells you you are not in danger speaking to this person and you have some time, why not give them five minutes of your time? Instead of viewing the interaction in a negative light, try changing your mindset about why someone would randomly reach out to you. It may be the only human interaction that person has all day.

  1. Check your privileges.

We all have social ‘privileges’ we benefit from as individuals. Being white, being able bodied or being male or female will affect your social standing in different ways depending on the society you live in. Checking in on the things that you are privileged to have and be within your society is very important in order to empathise with and not offend those less fortunate or privileged than you.


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Cian O'Connor Psychotherapist Location: Online

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Next avaialble appointment: 19:00 01 April 2020

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Gabriela Cestari Manieri Psychologist Location: Online

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Next avaialble appointment: 18:00 31 March 2020

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