Powerful people find themselves more inspirational

Researchers find that people who feel powerful tend to draw inspiration from within

Matthew McConaughey taking a selfie

(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)

We tend to draw inspiration from many places, but if we feel powerful, we may get a lift closer to home.

According to a recent study published in the journal Social Psychology & Personality Science, researchers found that those people who feel powerful get their inspiration from themselves, not others.

In one experiment, the study’s authors—who hail from the Universities of Amsterdam, Cambridge, California at San Diego and California at Berkeley—asked 82 students from the University of Amsterdam to complete a questionnaire to determine how powerful they felt. Afterwards they were asked to write a short essay about an event that had inspired them. The researchers found that subjects who felt more powerful were more likely to write about themselves.

In another experiment, 140 students at the University of California, Berkeley, were paired up for face-to-face conversations. They were told to write a summary of an event that occurred in the past five years that had inspired them significantly. Participants then took turns telling their partner about the time when they had felt inspired and the impact it had on their life. Subjects who felt they were more powerful tended to find their own stories more inspiring than the stories their partners told.

Is it narcissistic to be inspired by oneself? Maybe not. Think of Matthew McConaughey, who won best actor at the 2014 Oscars. In his acceptance speech, he remembered once being asked who his hero was: “You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” And that’s alright, alright, alright.

Watch Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar acceptance speech: