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Self-love Isn't Narcissism

Updated on March 31, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, and a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders.

We hear a lot about self-love these days, and for good reason. There seems to be a critical shortage of self-love, self-esteem, self-worth and more in this world. For those dealing with narcissists or narcissism, the phrase "self-love" can create a reaction of aversion. Self-love is so often associated with narcissism, and narcissism has become such a dirty word in our culture. For good reason usually, but still, the stigma is there. People who have dealt with narcissists and narcissism may become almost phobic about appearing selfish or as if they are somehow narcissistic themselves, and self-esteem or asserting their own needs can suffer because of it.

So to make it clear, narcissism is not self-love. Narcissism has nothing to do with love at all. In fact, most narcissists feel an enormous amount of self-hatred. It's one of the biggest driving forces behind their behavior. The behavior of most pathologically narcissistic people is the result of primitive and immature defense mechanisms attempting to deny that self-hatred. Narcissism is self-centeredness. It is self-absorption. It is self-importance. It is self-focus and it is self-aggrandizment, among other things, but it is not self-love. People who truly love themselves are less narcissistic, not more.

Narcissism is about compensation and denial. Self-love is about acceptance. Narcissism is about the endless pursuit of perfection. Self-love is about realistic goals and tempered understanding. Narcissism is about the screaming ego. Self-love is about healthy and balanced self-esteem. Narcissism is about delusional beliefs regarding the self. Self-love is about understanding who and what you are - and what you're not. Narcissism is about using other people to fulfill your needs and carry the responsibility for you. Self-love is about being able to fulfill your own needs and carry your own weight. It's about self-sufficiency. Narcissism is about being fragmented. Self-love is about being whole.

If you have difficulties with self-love, you're not alone. It's a pervasive problem in our society. But you can address it. You can learn to love yourself and treat yourself better. It's not selfish. It's not narcissistic. It's necessary to be whole. You can practice self-love by learning to forgive yourself, to accept yourself and by being kind to yourself. Be your own friend. A good exercise is to write down your thoughts about yourself and then evaluate how negative they are. Would you say these things to a friend? If you wouldn't, don't say them to yourself. You can learn to stop being so critical of yourself and so hard on yourself. This doesn't mean that you just let yourself slide with everything you do and never hold yourself accountable. It just means changing the way you talk to yourself. Narcissists don't hold themselves accountable because their ego and sense of self-worth is so fragile that they can't handle the responsibility of even simple mistakes. People who practice healthy self-love and self-care know that this is not the end of the world because nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. They learn from their mistakes and resolve to do better next time.

Don't let your experiences with narcissists turn self-love into a bad thing. It isn't. It's one of the most important things in the world. The more true self-love people have, the less narcissistic they are. Self-love is the antidote for narcissism. It is not the cause.

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