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4 Questions on Self-Love VS Narcissism

4 Questions of Self-Love VS Narcissism

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

Narcissism is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. The “selfie society” that exists in a world of social media has some people saying we are more concerned with ourselves than ever. The new heightened sense of self-promotion causes many to feel we have become less interested in true connection with others. The truth is, there is nothing wrong with healthy self-love. Some may see it as simply embarking on self-exploration and celebration. Others may see it as self-seeking and being conceded. Are you more conscious, or are you pretentious? Are you introspective or disconnected?

At times the distinction becomes blurred, and that might not be your fault. Sometimes others will perceive us differently and it’s not our responsibility to change their minds. Sometimes people are afraid to give themselves the self-love they need because they don’t want to seem self-centered, but isn’t there a strong difference between self-love and narcissism?

True Narcissism

Let us be clear; narcissists seem to love themselves to an extreme, with the exclusion of others. This is often considered as a feature of a mental health disorder and includes an excessive interest in one’s self, especially physical appearances. It is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes.

If you were to look up the definition of narcissism, you would probably find it also described as a social or cultural problem. It is a factor in trait theory used in various self-report inventories of personality.

Narcissism is most typically considered an issue in an individual’s or group’s relationships with self and others.


Let us also be clear that narcissism is not the same as egocentrism. It is true that both egocentrism and narcissism appear comparable. However there is a distinct difference.

Much like a narcissist, a person who is egocentric believes they are the center of attention. However, this individual does not receive gratification by one’s own admiration, as the narcissist does. In other words, the egocentric individual must receive validation and admiration from outside itself, so the self-love aspect is not so much an issue from the egocentric perspective.


Self-love is being more subject to the broad-stroke of “narcissism” over time, but should be viewed in a different light. For example, two forms of narcissism are not considered to be as detrimental:

  • Primary Narcissism

Freud suggested that, simply put, the desire and energy that drives one’s instinct to survive is something he dubbed primary narcissism. This sense of self-preservation is supposedly ingrained in everyone as a sense of self that protects us, without abandoning empathy or loving others.

  • Healthy Self-love

The “healthy narcissist” can be characterized as possessing realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life. This expression of self-love, or “health narcissism,” is about having a honest appraisal of ones worth, and still valuing others.

All of this brings us back to the question; How can we love ourselves in a way that feels good and enhances the quality of our lives, but isn’t narcissistic?

Research finds four consistent differences between healthy self-love and narcissistic love. Take a look at these 4 questions that can help you with self-love vs narcissism.

  1. Do I need to be validated by others?

Narcissists need the validation of others; it is a primary motive for a lot of their actions. A true narcissist craves constant affirmation. They need to be verified by others because they haven’t created a self-sustaining sense of worthiness or self-compassion. They may seem to hold themselves highly, however they have no genuine instinct of high self-regard.

The narcissist will do things to win praise and recognition. They seek materials as tools to measure their own worthiness. Even the people they develop relationships with are possessions they use as a means of validation.

Healthy self-love is fundamentally different in the sense of measuring self-worth. With health self-love, an individual’s internal values are a primary influence of their actions. They behave in a way that is consistent with those values, and these convictions help to sustain their good feelings about themselves.

In other words, basing your self-worth on your beliefs, instead of what others may believe about you, is self-love.

  1. Am I focusing on my appearance or my performance?

This isn’t just for the sake of aesthetics either. It ties right into the last question.

A true narcissist will often make a great actor. They play many parts, such as:

  • Caring friend
  • Devoted lover
  • Good employee

But they are better at keeping up appearances than actually performing the role with expertise and aptitude. Like when an action movie hero does well at looking like they beat up a room full of ninjas, but in reality they have CGI and stunt doubles.

A narcissist doesn’t invest too much emotionally in the actual quality of their performance. They don’t mind how their role as a friend or lover actually impact the other person, they just want to make it look good, especially if other people are looking. It is another form of validation.

People with authentic self-love take real care in doing a good job and taking responsibility for their part in things, particularly in relationships. So it is very acceptable to be concerned with your contribution to relationships and how you impact others, because in a way you earn your own self-love from the way you treat others.

  1. Am I focusing on comparison or compassion?

Another huge piece of this puzzle is comparison. How do you perceive others in contrast to yourself?

Typically, narcissists are not self-loving or secure in their worth. Because of this, they often seek to compare ourselves with others. Now this isn’t especially exclusive to full-blown narcissism, because we all have a tendency to try and measure up.

But the narcissist will thrive on the belief that they are better than, or even the best. We all feel better about ourselves when we are accomplished or exceptional at something, but to require to always outshine others is a little more relevant to narcissism. The focus here isn’t so much on us being able to appreciate our own achievement as much as it is the need for other people to be less. In order for a narcissist to be more, other people have to be beneath them. It isn’t self-worth; it is self-inflation through the dispossession of others.

Healthy self-love and self-esteem is based on believing that we have a number of positive qualities, and that other people have such qualities. It puts us on a more level playing field and allows us to be compassionate whether or not someone is as accomplished in something as we are. So it is OK to excel at something, as long as you don’t make it about other people being less.

  1. Do emotions and attitudes seem “black and white?”

We have mentioned before the real dangers of black and white thinking. In the words of the great Obi-Wan Kenobi,

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Basically, the issue is that some people only let it be one of two ways. It has to be black or white, no room for grey area or compromise.

Research indicates a narcissists tends to either love or hate things. They don’t to tolerate the middle ground. Usually, something with themselves or others is either preferable and exceptional or totally unacceptable. They are either everything or nothing, instead of just letting it be.

As a result, when we can’t abide our own uncomfortable feelings, we’re more likely to project them onto others. Once we force those feelings onto others we create conflict, isolation, and self-disillusionment.

Healthy self-love allows us to tolerate uncertainty. It is important to have self-love because with a strong sense of self-love we have the ability to experience our own vulnerability. Where a narcissist feels angry or intolerant of their own vulnerability, a healthy, self-loving person will naturally resort to self-compassion. This same compassion for ourselves gives us a chance to feel more connected to others.

So don’t look at self-compassion as “letting yourself off the hook,” look at it as accepting your imperfections with humility.

Recovery is Self-Love

At the end of the day, what is the moral of the story here?

Is it OK to just assume that people who have a high opinion of themselves, who believe in their own capacity to be unique and successful, and who value and respect their own impact on other people should be considered narcissists? Should the term “healthy narcissist” be something we swap for self-love once in a while to consider it as a virtue?

In recovery we hear a lot about how addicts and alcoholics are especially selfish. As often as we are told this, should we also be reminded to use our own nature as selfish people in recovery to shape that sense of self into something more constructive and empowering instead of thinking we need to abandon it completely?

Let us not be so quick to label one another as narcissists, and learn to love ourselves thoroughly as we learn again to love each other.

Mental health and self-esteem is extremely important in regards to addiction recovery. Holistic treatment programs like Palm Partners are specifically designed to address unique issues in unique ways. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

   CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

3 Kinds of Selfie Takers Out There: Which Kind Are You?

3 Kinds of Selfie Takers Out There: Which Kind Are You?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

What kind of selfie do you usually snap? Is it one with an obscene amount of editing to look glamorous? Is it one of you and the family at dinner or out in some exotic location on vacation? Or is it a pic of you and a volunteer crew at a charity event? When you hashtag and share it, what does that selfie say about you? What is the message you are trying to send?

Before we have talked about the dangers of obsessive selfie taking, and I have personally related to how the ‘selfie society’ of today could be risky for those struggling with addiction or mental health concerns, presenting issues with narcissism or relating to depression when correlated an obsession with social media. So what kind of selfies contribute to these issues?

Well, that much might be said about all of them, depending on who you ask. The one question that might hit closer to home is- what kind of selfie taker are you?

Recent a group of BYU communications master’s students, feeling themselves surrounded by the selfie-saturated culture that is social media, decided to ask the question: what is the method to the selfie madness? This has proven to not just be a millennial problem, because your uncle and aunt do it, just like your bosses and teachers. Grandma might not be all that good at it, but she takes plenty of selfies anyway.

So why do people of all ages, cultures, genders and religions take and share selfies?

Are We All Narcissists?

Some people would say that ‘this generation’ is so self-absorbed, but again; it isn’t just one group. The answer, at least one we hear so often, is simply narcissism. But are we all narcissists?

Naaaaaaah, can’t be.

Actually, in a study recently published in Visual Communication Quarterly, those same five BYU student researchers took a closer look. In their data they show that individuals’ motives often range far past self-obsession. Sometimes our selfies are actually taken with purpose, whether we notice or not.

Steven Holiday, who completed his master’s in 2015 and is now pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, is one of the co-authors. Of this latest topic Holiday states,

“It’s important to recognize that not everyone is a narcissist,”

So to be clear on the idea of true narcissism and the connection we often misguidedly make to selfies, we should look at the definition. To refresh your memory:

  • Narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder(NPD) – is a condition that is estimated to affect only 1% of the population.

After analyzing survey results and interviews, researchers say they can identify three categories of selfie-takers:

  1. Communicators

These are individuals who take selfies primarily to engage with others for some reason. They don’t just do it for their face on a cause, but to draw followers into a conversation. One of the survey’s co-authors and current student Maureen “Mo” Elinzano states,

“They’re all about two-way communication,”

So it isn’t about the spotlight on them, it’s about shining to give others a reason to shine.

An example of this is when the election season came around and everyone, including celebrities, took an “I voted” selfie to plaster on Instagram. These photos aren’t (always) meant to brag about the individual, they are about calling others to action. People talk a lot about opinions on social media, so some people take a selfie as an opportunity to inspire action.

  1. Autobiographers

This type of selfie taker uses the art of the selfie as a tool to record key events in their lives. This autobiography isn’t necessarily to show off to their followers, but to try and preserve significant memories for themselves and their loved ones.

This group of selfie takers does also want others to see their photos and enjoy them, but they aren’t necessarily doing it for the feedback. They are cataloging their lives for their own benefit, not for the engagement that the Communicators are.

For example, plenty of people will have entire albums on Facebook dedicated to specific trips or events. They don’t (always) organize these specifically for likes as much as they do for their trips down memory lane.

  1. Self-publicists

This infamous category is the one everyone typically assumes a selfie taker falls into, but it is actually the smallest of the three groups. These are the ones who are closely linked to more narcissistic characteristics.

The coauthor Harper Anderson states the self-publicists “are the people who love documenting their entire lives,”

Harper Anderson, who is also now pursuing a Ph.D. at Texas Tech, went on to say that in recording and sharing their entire lives, these selfie takers are hoping to present their narrative in a trendy and desirable light.

Think the Kardashians. Without any real sustenance, these selfies are just for the sake of “look at me everyone” without actually having a connection to a cause.

The Collage

Personally, I present the idea of a collage style world where sometimes we blur these lines a bit. Some people may read these three types and say “I do all of these” and I get that. Perhaps we are all likely to have varied traits, but perhaps we can admit that one of these styles is our dominant selfie taking self. In this event, we can more closely examine if we are impacting our mental health; maybe even that of others.

Holiday went on to describe that identifying and categorizing the three groups is valuable in part because-

“…it’s a different kind of photography than we’ve ever experienced before…I can go on Facebook or Instagram and see that people have a desire to participate in a conversation. It’s an opportunity for them to express themselves and get some kind of return on that expression.”

Another co-author Matt Lewis states

“…years from now, our society’s visual history is going to be largely comprised of selfies. To find out why people do it, that contributes a lot to the discussion on selfies and visual communication in general.”

Our world isn’t just one picture at a time. Every moment is a collage of events happens simultaneously. We exchange the currency of our stories through an ever-expanding network of social media sites and while at times we may seem obsessive or impulsive, at least we are trying to use our new tools to connect.

It may seem strange, but I do think that regardless of whether you’re climbing a mountain in Africa, raising awareness for people struggling somewhere, or simply showing off your new hair-cut, we all have something to offer.

We all have something worth sharing.

Take that selfie. Post it. Let the “double tap” fall where it may.

The selfie is like a socially accepted addiction, and while mental health has been a close conversation to it, we hope that we can continue to learn from our compulsions and be able to help others. Mental health issues and drug or alcohol abuse frequently co-exist. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

‘Selfie’ Collage By Author

This next piece is one that some might relate to, even though many may not admit it. I have been given the opportunity to discuss something that is relevant to our culture today, my own personal development, and relevant to many people in the recovery community- addiction and narcissism- but first, let me take a selfie! The ‘Selfie’ itself is now being looked at as an addiction and could be considered a personality disorder trait. While I adjust the angle and pick a good filter, here’s some back ground. It has already been determined that we addicts and alcoholics are a special kind of selfish. The general population itself these days is becoming the ‘Selfie Society’ and now that the phenomenon of craving a good ‘default pic’ has become a new addiction, let us take a look at some things that show how closely the symptoms of narcissism relate to us as addicts and alcoholics.

Narcissism is defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) – is a condition that is estimated to affect one percent of the population. It is suggested that narcissists typically display most of the following traits, which I have included as they relate to the topic of Addiction. I’ll be using one of my personal hero’s and TV narcissist Neil Patrick Harris (NPH) to help me out. I’m still trying to get the best angle for this profile picture.

Obvious Self-Focus in Relationships

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

I know for myself in active addiction my wants and ‘needs’ came before anyone else. If I could see it or not at the time, I had a motive for getting what I wanted out of anyone at any given time. My focus, even when I wanted to pretend I did things for others, was never to give more than I could take. #MyOwnMCM

Problems in Sustaining Satisfying Relationships

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

When I was involved in any kind of relationship, especially an intimate one, it was next to impossible to sustain it. The few relationships that lasted were never healthy and never happy while I was actively using drugs and drinking. Addicts and Narcissists seem to have a very hard time with this, and a lot of times they do their best not to care. #NoNewFriends

Lack of Psychological Awareness

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

Being in active addiction, we are usually oblivious to the state our mind is in and how our thinking process effects us or others. Sure there are periods we feel desperate and bewildered, but more often than not we don’t attach emotional value to it, or we think in ways that we cannot justify or explain and act upon those thoughts without a second guess. My mind works just fine, for a junkie, now hold on while I post this pic. #NoFilter

Hypersensitivity To Any Insults (real or imagined)

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

I know in my addiction I was sensitive to nearly any accusation thrown my way. Even if nobody was inquiring about my addiction or insulting me personally, all bets were off and everything was a threat if I suspected others were ‘attacking me’. I know if you don’t ‘like’ my pic you’re probably a hater! #HatersGonnaHate

Detesting Those Who Do Not Admire You

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

As an addict we are sometimes so selfish that we believe others need to look up to us for how much we use, how often we drink, and how we get away with so much. Meanwhile we are typically falling apart at the seams. We KNOW we are better than most anyone has ever been at anything, or at least other addicts, so they should at least thank us for gracing them with our presence, duh! #GetLikeMe

Denial of Remorse or Gratitude

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

In addiction I did a lot of things I was not proud of, and there were even more things I should have been grateful for. However, being that I was so selfish, I denied acknowledging remorse or gratitude in any area of my life. I did not feel bad for people I robbed, and I was not truly grateful to people who helped me, because after all I can take my own picture and that’s what is important. #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat

Using Other People Without Consideration

Let Me Take a Selfie: Addiction and Narcissism

This one is probably an easy one to relate to, if you’re in recovery don’t be afraid to admit it if you can recall this kind of narcissistic behavior. Any addict or alcoholic who says they have not done this is probably more of a narcissist than they care to believe. I know I used people for rides around town, for money, and especially for drugs. The narcissists and the addict can closely relate to using and abusing others to fill any need physical or personal, and sometimes we take pride in the manipulation. They should be happy you LET them be used by you! Now I know your phones gonna die, but I need a full-body shot. You can use it as your screen-saver if you want! #TurnDownForWhat

 If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Health Problems Associated with Alcoholism Pt. 2

Health Problems Associated With Alcoholism Pt 2

Alcohol has become so ingrained in our social culture that we often forget it is a poison. When you ingest poison it immediately begins to impact your body in ways that can cause serious health problems. Alcohol penetrates every cell in your body and directly affects your brain, heart, liver, pancreas, stomach, kidneys and lungs. At times people disregard the health problems associated with their drinking and blame it on aging or another disease they may have.

Here are some more (you can catch up on part 1 here) health problems associated with alcoholism that you should be aware of:


Hypertension is also known as high blood pressure. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Consuming more than three alcoholic beverages temporarily raises blood pressure but continued drinking and alcoholism can lead to permanent hypertension. For those that drink heavily stopping drinking suddenly can cause severe hypertension. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories which can lead to weight gain which is also a high risk factor for hypertension. Alcohol can also interfere with blood pressure medications increasing the side effects and decreasing their effectiveness.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a condition that occurs from alcohol exposure during pregnancy. The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child but the defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are irreversible. Problems that are caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are physical deformities, mental retardation, learning disorders, vision problems, and behavioral problems. There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to consume during a pregnancy. If a mother drinks during pregnancy in any amount the baby is at risk of developing fetal alcohol syndrome.

Signs of fetal alcohol syndrome include:

  • Distinctive facial features, including small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short, upturned nose, and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip
  • Deformities of joints, limbs and fingers
  • Slow physical growth before and after birth
  • Vision difficulties or hearing problems
  • Small head circumference and brain size (microcephaly)
  • Poor coordination
  • Mental retardation and delayed development
  • Learning disorders
  • Abnormal behavior, such as a short attention span, hyperactivity, poor impulse control, extreme nervousness and anxiety
  • Heart defects

Liver Diseases

The liver is the second largest organ in the body that has many different jobs. The liver’s biggest job is to filter your blood and process what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients your body can use. There are different types of liver diseases that are alcohol-related. There is fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis.

Fatty liver disease is caused from the buildup of extra fat in liver cells. Fatty liver disease is the earliest stage of any alcohol-related liver disease. In most cases there are no symptoms of fatty liver disease. If there are symptoms they tend to be fatigue, weakness, and weight loss. Nearly all alcoholic drinkers have fatty liver disease but if they stop drinking it tends to go away.

Alcoholic hepatitis causes the liver to swell and become damaged. The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and jaundice. Alcoholic hepatitis can range in severity from mild to very severe. If the damage is mild it can be reversed but if it is severe it can lead to serious problems including liver failure or death.

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the scarring of the liver. Hard scar tissue replaces soft tissue in the liver. Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most serious of liver disease. Symptoms of cirrhosis are very similar to alcoholic hepatitis. 10-20% of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis. Unfortunately alcoholic cirrhosis cannot be reversed and can cause liver failure.

Psychiatric Problems

Alcoholism can have a big impact on mental health causing many psychiatric disorders and heightening the risk of suicide. The formation of a depressive disorder is common with alcohol.  Not only that but those who drink heavily are at risk of developing alcoholism which in and of itself is a psychiatric problem. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, bulimia, PTSD, schizophrenia, confusion and panic disorders can all develop due to long term misuse of alcohol. Dementia would be one of the most severe and the longer the alcohol abuse the worse it gets.

If your loved one is in need of alcohol detox or treatment for alcoholism please give us a call at 800-951-6135.



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