Too much Vitamin Me?
Does Cambridge life encourage narcissism?
Are we, students at Cambridge, inherently narcissistic?
Born with a silver spoon in our mouths, imbued with a mighty sense of purpose, nay even entitlement, do we value our own individual achievements above all else? Were we self-obsessed before coming to Cambridge or does its culture breed this in us?
Alas, such a long list of questions, such a short amount of time for me to capture your attention, before it invariably drifts back to thinking about yourself.
For some studying at Cambridge is another feather in their cap. The crowning glory on top of 4A*s or 45 IB points, Duke of Edinburgh Gold, Head Girl/Boy etc. It seems that life is just a succession of personal achievements.
For others Cambridge may have been more of a surprise achievement, and having earned their place, they seek to prove their worth.
Cambridge certainly offers no shortage of opportunities for distinction, if that is what you seek. The adage “there’s no ‘i’ in ‘team’ but there is ‘me'” certainly does hold true- for those who choose sports as the battlefield to attain their glory it’s as much for themselves as for their institution. Think of all those profile pictures of toned sportspeople defiantly gazing into the camera. GDBO? Surely they could crush Oxf*rd with a single surly stare. (To clarify, I am not resentful, they put in the hard-work, they deserve the recognition. But if I hear someone pine incessantly again about how they want to be part of the Hawks, I might just shove that Blues jacket somewhere highly unpleasant.)
We all know Oxbridge is the breeding ground for future politicians. Hence every JCR election ends up sounding like a Brexit vote with students promising to be the voice of the underrepresented. A secretary role has never been made to sound so exciting and never will do again. Well in advance of the elections rumours fly around about who’s going for what, it’s a delicate political game. And let’s not even get started on the Union…
Not being a thesp myself, I am excluded from that hallowed world of amateur drama. Yet I should imagine that if people don’t tend to go on stage unless they love being in the spotlight. The ultimate goal for these students is probably to have more Camdram points than UCAS points.
However, beyond our own blind ambition, there is something about Cambridge that encourages the self-centredness. Living in Cambridge, for the most part, is a solitary life (especially if you’re an arts/humanities student, yay to my 3 contact hours a week). Caught in a busy work schedule, when you’re first human contact in the day either with your supervisor or being woken up by your cleaner, it’s hard not to be focused on yourself when all you think about is all the shit you have to get done.
And if this tunnel vision didn’t exist before, it certainly does now. Cue Easter term, a.k.a. Exam term, with stress levels rising faster the outside temperature. Students enter into a voluntary confinement to eat, sleep and breathe work. It’s all about your own work, exams, and grades. With so much self-centred stress, it’s hard to be considerate about other people. Prime example is when people leave all their stuff in their library overnight, akin to some Cambridge student’s territorial scent marking.
Face it, we’re all Narcissus now, staring at the pool that reflects back our own stress, fears, dreams and tears.