Narcissists & Self-love
Pathologically narcissistic people are masters of deflection. If you only listen to what narcissists tell you, then you would believe they think they are the most important person that ever existed, that they are amazing and that they love themselves unconditionally. But does that really hold up under scrutiny? The answer is no.
For example, narcissistic people are usually very jealous and envious. This usually shows itself as jealous behavior on their part, attempts to sabotage others or as claims that others are jealous and envious of them. But does someone with adequate self-worth who truly loves themselves have anything to be jealous of? Do they have the need to believe others are jealous of them? Would they need to sabotage others out of the fear that their own efforts will be exposed as inferior if someone else succeeds? No, they do not. People who have sufficient self-esteem don't fear that they will be judged as inferior by others and they don't need to boost their own self-worth with the feelings, successes or failures of others.
Another example is that narcissistic people insist their needs come before anyone else's. On the surface, this can look like self-love and self-care. But is it? If we look at their behavior, we see that it isn't. People who truly understand their own value don't fear their needs will be overlooked by others. They don't feel the need to remind others constantly that they are important because they are not afraid they will be forgotten, and their self-esteem is not dependent on whether other people acknowledge their worth or not People who truly love themselves are able to validate themselves. They don't have to scramble for validation from others, or rage in the fear that they won't get it. And of course, people who truly love themselves and practice healthy self-care can attend to their own needs themselves. They don't have to try to force others to take care of it for them.
Blame is often a big indicator that narcissists don't feel the way they claim to feel about themselves. When someone truly accepts and loves themselves, they understand that they are responsible for their own behavior and their own feelings. They don't have to try to foist this off onto other people. Someone who is truly secure in their own worth and in their own esteem is able to take responsibility for things. They don't need to blame others because they know that it's OK not to be perfect. They are not afraid of failure - or success, for that matter, and they are able to accept that they've done something wrong or that they've made a mistake. This is one of the biggest differences in the way narcissistic people view themselves and the way healthier people do. People who are not narcissistic know that it's OK to be human and have flaws. They are not afraid of these things, and they are not afraid of people finding out about them. For most narcissists, their entire lives revolve around hiding that.
The false self that pathologically narcissistic people project onto the world is a huge indication that they don't really believe they are the greatest thing that ever lived. Why fake it if that were really true? Why do you have to hide who you really are if you are OK with it? We all have a public face that we show to the world, of course, and we all behave a little differently with people we know really well vs strangers, for example, but the difference between who a pathologically narcissistic person really is and what they show the world is so enormous that it is not a true representation of themselves in any way. It's a complete and total fake. The distance between their actual and ideal selves is so large that it is one of their main causes of stress and dysfunction. People who truly love themselves \don't have to fake anything because they are OK with who they are. This whole charade is just not necessary for them. When you really love yourself and you truly understand your value, you don't have to deny who you really are and pretend to be somebody else.
Control is another red flag that telegraphs how they really feel. When someone really understands their own value, they don't feel the need to control others so that they will get their needs met. They don't feel the need to make sure everything goes the way they want it to go. They don't feel the need to force others into taking care of them, or force themselves onto other people. They don't need to create roles that others are expected to act out in order to make life acceptable and OK to live. When you are really secure in yourself, you don't fall apart because something happens that you don't like or didn't expect.
Perhaps one of the biggest indicators that narcissists are not what they claim to be is the way they generally treat other people. Pathologically narcissistic people are often purposely abusive and cruel. How this looks like self-love to some people, I really don't know, but I hear it all the time. I would guess that some people mistake preoccupation with the self as love of the self. It isn't. People who love themselves do not feel the need to destroy others because they are upset, or feeling badly. They do not feel the need to hurt others or ruin their happiness because they can't find their own. They do not feel justified in these behaviors, or that other people owe them something. Their own self-sabotage, risk-taking and self-abuse falls into this category, too. When you love yourself, you don't need to hurt other people or yourself. There's absolutely no way around this.
When you look at the behavior of narcissistic people, it becomes obvious that people who really accept themselves, care about themselves and value themselves just don't act this way. They can lie all they want, they can deny and project and accuse all they want, but it doesn't matter because the proof is in their behavior. The simple truth is that when you are a secure person who knows your worth and honestly loves yourself, you don't do these things. The pathologically narcissistic person's idea of what self-love looks like is so completely and totally wrong that they don't even realize they are blatantly contradicting themselves. They don't realize that someone who loves themselves and is secure in their value of themselves has no need to do or feel any of these things. It doesn't even come up. But you can see it, and now you know what you are dealing with: a person so unable to accept themselves that they will never be able to accept you. A person so deficient in their ability to love themselves that they have nothing to offer other people.