By Scott Carter, CMHC
Typically, when people think of narcissism, they think of people who are full of themselves and even people that love themselves more than anyone else. The term “narcissist” comes from a story in Greek mythology about a man who constantly looked at his own reflection in a pool so long that eventually he died of it.
There are a few common elements of narcissism and self-love.
Narcissists and those who love themselves both hold themselves in high regard and they both make their wants a higher priority.
Many people seem quite averse to the idea of loving themselves because that would be “narcissistic,” and so these kind of people avoid developing a positive self-image because they see it as “selfish.”
Learning to love yourself is a key element to many higher principles in personal growth and development including integrity, generosity, healthy boundaries with others, aiding in the removal of bad habits and learning new healthy ones; to name a few. Building a positive self-image is paramount in our pursuit of a better life. Building a positive self-image usually generates a sense of kindness and generosity. People who create a positive self-image have an easier time getting out of their own way. People with self-love exercise compassion and tolerance for their own short comings. People with self-love know they are worthy of good things.
There are very distinct differences between narcissism and self-love:
Narcissism: Based in scarcity, sees the world and other people in a sense that there is only so much to go around so they must take everything that they can get while they can and hold onto it.
Self-love: Based in abundance. Sees the world and others as limitless with more than enough to go around for everybody.
Narcissism: Views life and others as a “competition.” Value is only gained through building status and winning. Frequently uses comparisons to show their superiority.
Self-love: Value is built within regardless of accomplishments or social status. Views life as a journey, lacks a sense of competition. Avoids comparisons to others and only measures success by their own journey.
Narcissism: Despite exterior appearance, self-esteem is extremely low. Building themselves up is a mislead attempt at improving their sense of inner value. Views external success and status as a way to improve self-esteem.
Self-love: Has higher self-esteem, has built self-esteem through personal growth and development. Does not seek external sources to create internal validation.
Narcissism: Works to improve their image by “proving” their value to others. This often comes in the form of tearing others down and exercising attempts to make others look bad.
Self-love: Does not feel the need to “prove” to others that they have value because they feel that they do not need it. Self-validation is often sufficient.
Narcissism: Hyper focused on personal accomplishments. Has a tendency to talk, at length, about their work and their accomplishments while minimizing and down playing the accomplishments of others in attempt to appear superior.
Self-love: Lacks a desire for superiority and has no use for it.
Narcissism: Has difficulty sustaining meaningful relationships. They have tendency towards superiority and sense of being better that others struggle to relate to.
Self-love: Positive relationships come easier. Positive and healthy relationships seem to be a natural bi-product of their positivity and optimism.
Narcissism: Lacks compassion for self or others, Denies making mistakes; does not easily apologize.
Self-love: Exercises compassion for self and others. Owns up to mistakes and is able to apologize for them without degrading themselves.
Scott M. Carter, CMHC
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