For a healthy mentality, it is of the utmost importance that we as individuals learn to love and accept ourselves. But as with anything else, there is a limit to this love. And if allowed to transform into a kind of obsession, then you may be dealing with narcissism.
In today’s society, it is considered taboo to relish and love yourself openly and may be mistaken for narcissism. When in all actuality, this is just an exhibit of high self esteem. So where is the distinction? When does high self-esteem and love for oneself breach the dangerous curve into narcissism?
Self love is the unapologetic act of accepting oneself, putting yourself first, and being proud and confident in your achievements. This is a healthy mentality, unlike narcissism.
Narcissism is a personality disorder where the individuals have an inflated sense of self-importance and a total lack of empathy. They believe that they are superior to most people, and can only be understood by those who are also equally as special. This sense of prestige comes at a price, and is incredibly delicate. Those with narcissistic disorders need constant reassurance from their peers, because their self-esteem is actually incredibly fragile.
Self Love vs. Narcissism
Need for Recognition
Self Love: Those who have high self-esteem and practice self love don’t need recognition or congratulations for their accomplishments. They are well aware of their efforts and their success, and that knowledge is more than enough to feel adequate.
Narcissism: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a narcissist accomplishes success and no one is around to witness it, is it truly a success? The answer in this case is no. Without recognition and praise, they may as well not have accomplished anything at all. It makes the win feel empty, because they only receive satisfaction from the admiration of others.
Identifying flaws within one's self
Self Love: Everyone has flaws and idiosyncrasies that makes them an individual. Those who love themselves accept their flaws, and work to improve them if need be. They understand that those quirky little bits of themselves are what make them unique.
Narcissism: They act as if they do not posses any flaws. Everything they do, they do it better than anyone. Everything they have is better than what you have. If someone notices that they exhibit a flaw, it must be a misconception, because there is no way that any aspect of themselves could be anything less than perfect.
Knowing who you are-and being comfortable with it
Self Love: In lieu of self acceptance, these individuals are totally comfortable being themselves, and appreciate who they are and what they offer. They do not feel that they need to make any vast changes to themselves or their lives in order to achieve happiness, because they already are.
Narcissism: They are never happy with who they are and what they have. They often find themselves fantasizing about a more ideal lifestyle, job, or appearance. They never truly feel satisfied with any aspect of their life. They think that they deserve better, but put not effort forth to achieve their desires.
Humility is a virtue
Self Love: They have a strong sense of empathy and humility. They support and encourage others to do better, and are proud of their successes.
Narcissism: They can’t handle seeing others doing well. They cannot help but feel jealous, and will find a way to undermine their success in order to feel that they still have the upper hand. The common phrase, “misery loves company,” is all too appropriate in this circumstance.
Perception of other's emotions
Self Love: These individuals are receptive to others emotions, and can level with their struggles and pain. They will offer advice and assistance if they can, and genuinely care about the outcome of their struggling friends situation.
Narcissism: Although they may fake concern, they genuinely do not care about others struggles. In fact, they feed off of it. That’s one less person who is doing well in this world, and that makes them feel better about themselves.
Perception of others as individuals
Self Love: Appreciation of others is a strong attribute of those who have high self esteem. They see other individuals as valuable, and celebrate their existence. These people tend to be good friends, because they are incredibly supportive and understand that it takes all sorts of people to make a fully functioning world.
Narcissism: They do not view others as valuable. The only value they see in others is an opportunity to use them for their own benefit. Narcissists tend to surround themselves with other narcissists. The “special” people. The “elite.” No one else is worthy of their time. Gag.
Competition with peers
Self Love: With high self esteem, it is easy to view others as your equals. Each person is just that, another person trying to make it in this world and try to achieve happiness.
Narcissism: Narcissists always need to be doing better than their peers, or at least give off the illusion that they are. They thrive off of dominance and manipulation. They are not truly happy unless they feel that they are in complete control. They need for all of their efforts to be celebrated, and for themselves and people to be worshiped. Typically, narcissists will gravitate towards careers and hobbies that exhibit themselves as the center of attention.
Narcissists spend most of their time alone, because most people can identify their toxic behavior.
Signs of narcissistic behavior tend to rear their ugly heads in the early years of adulthood; typically in men. 50-70% of those who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder are male. The cause of this is unknown. Perhaps it is a combination of chemical composition, upbringing, and experiences during childhood.
Typically, boys are taught that they are special and superior throughout their entire lives. While this may seem like positive reinforcement, if the praise is not administered appropriately, these boys may grow up to be men who believe that they are better than everyone else.
Narcissism is incredibly toxic behavior, and will repel anyone from your life who can identify these disturbing features. That’s why people with this disorder tend to have few friends, and spend the majority of their time alone. They distort this rejection from others as their own personal rejection. Because they are better than everyone else, and no one is worthy of their precious time.
Find a happy medium. It’s okay to love yourself, but don’t let it turn into obsession.
With the introduction of social media, it is easier to spot narcissists because they showcase themselves daily. You know that girl or guy who posts multiple selfies a day, and is constantly changing their profile pictures? They are doing this for the recognition. They want people to see them, and to celebrate their beauty. The likes and comments they receive feed their innate need for worship. Outlets such as Instagram and Facebook has made it alarmingly normal to constantly demand attention from peers and strangers alike.
Unless those who suffer from NPD seek therapy, it is unlikely that they can amend their behavior, because they are oblivious to the fact that they suffer from this disorder. That kind of reflection would prove that they are imperfect; something that does not compute in the mind of a narcissist.
How to nurture self-love without allowing it to evolve into narcissism.
1. Do not put such a strong emphasis on your external attributes.
Narcissism is incredibly superficial. Don’t worry so much about the image that you put out and how people perceive you. Instead worry about how to perceive yourself, and which qualities can be improved upon on a realistic level.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others and their success.
Relish in your own success, and create personal goals to work on. Very few people have been handed their success. They had to plan and work very hard to get to where they are. You will reach that same level of prestige if you are willing to put the work in.
3. You can’t improve your self confidence by convincing yourself that you are better than everyone else.
Because the truth is, you don’t have much to offer other than your arrogance. Instead, improve your skills; or develop new ones. Being an expert on a subject, or a master of a craft will improve your sense of self immensely. You will be celebrated for your accomplishments, and will develop confidence from knowing that you are valuable and talented.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
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