(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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Selfishness, self-centeredness… these issues have become a commonality in our culture. The alcoholic or addict in recovery probably has had some time to reflect and discuss the presence of selfishness in their lives, and in most 12 Step fellowships of recovery we are told selfishness is often the common factor of our troubles. Entire books have been dedicated in the past decade to narcissism and self-serving, while we live in the “selfie” society that puts so much emphasis on the individual.
When we have to deal with selfish people on a constant basis it can make our lives miserable. When we are told we are selfish, it can seem hurtful and unfair, but a lot of times we can often see where we have been self-involved or focused on ourselves. First, let us look at the meaning of being selfish.
(A person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.
So when we consider that being selfish means neglecting the needs of others in order to serve one’s self, maybe we can take a second look at selfishness to try and understand the aspects of being selfish, and find out how we can turn selfishness into self-awareness.
Now when I say to show empathy, I do not mean you are required to accept someone’s selfishness and allow it to negatively impact your life. The intention here is to try and understand the mindset from which this person is acting from because that empathy can make your response more effective.
Sometimes people are acting selfishly out of a sense of necessity, thinking that the best they can do to take care of themselves is to focus on themselves and not put so much effort into other people. In recovery sometimes we are told it is a selfish program. While I may disagree with that personally, I do understand that in a life-or-death situation like addiction or alcoholism sometimes the best we have in the beginning is self-preservation.
Empathy allows us to better appreciate why someone is acting selfishly, so that we can better address it when that selfishness has an effect on our lives. Having empathy means having self-awareness too, and connecting to someone else to see where selfish actions come from on both sides.
We all know what happens when we assume… yes that old cliché. If you don’t know, we’ll tell you when you’re older.
Anyway, the point is that when we make assumptions they are frequently incorrect or set up unfair expectations. Again, with empathy we have to try and give someone who is being selfish the room to explain what they are dealing with and try to see it from their perspective instead of making up our own meaning for why they are acting the way they are. Don’t assume you know someone’s motives without at least having a conversation. Being self-aware of your assumptions can make a big difference.
Sometimes people make selfish choices out of the need to be loved or to give love. Sometimes they want to bond more with others, or sometimes they want to protect themselves from others. Sometimes selfishness comes from desire to be ambitious. There is nothing wrong with some of these selfish motives, as long as we can recognize them for what they are.
One thing we can also conclude from a few of these factors is that selfishness can be healthy because it reminds us to take care of ourselves, and believe it or not healthy selfishness can actually make it possible for us to take care of others. Even selfless acts are not always purely selfless because they make us feel good. Doing something for someone else can make us experience a feeling of joy, accomplishment and even self-worth– and aren’t those just a little selfish themselves?
That doesn’t mean it is wrong.
In 12 Step fellowships we are often told that nothing will ensure lasting recovery as much as intensive work with others who struggle. So if this is the case, we are actively encouraged to do for others as selflessly as we can as a means to keep ourselves on track. It is kind of a paradox- seeking to do for others with no thought of yourself, because in the end it will benefit you to not be selfish… weird right? Mind blown.
Even though selfishness can hinder our growth and keep us stuck in our contempt or our troubles, it is important to take a second look at where that selfishness comes from and how it is poised to impact other people. Whether it is our own selfishness or the selfishness of others, we should always try and see to what end that selfishness aims toward or what mindset it stems from in order to meet it with appropriate action.
Understanding our characteristics and the patterns we run is part of developing healthier coping mechanisms in recovery. Not every one of our impulses is as easy to overcome, but when fighting addiction the more we know about ourselves, the better we can grow. For those who need a foundation for recovery, help is here. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Living in sobriety you might not be the most popular person in the eyes of problem drinkers and party animals. Some people who still enjoy getting trashed regularly think it’s ‘lame’ that you don’t. They can’t wrap their head around why someone would want to stop drinking; even though they themselves wake up hung-over once in a while saying they should never drink again. Why would you NOT get wasted when they are? How boring is it to NOT get drunk, binge drink or black out?
Really there are plenty of REAL reasons that a problem drinker thinks it’s ‘lame’ that you aren’t drinking anymore, and most of the time it really has NOTHING to do with you, and EVERYTHING to do with them. This is a list of just 5 real reasons problem drinkers think its lame when you stop drinking.
- They’re afraid you will judge them while drinking…
When a problem drinker is doing some binge drinking or taking the party a little too seriously, they might think it’s lame that you have stopped drinking because they are afraid you will see them in their intoxicated state and pass judgment on them for being drunk. Most times a problem drinker wants to drink with others who are drinking because getting drunk helps them forget their inhibitions, which is always easier when the people around you forget theirs too.
When someone who drinks to the extent that it creates problems in their life is confronted with being around someone who no longer has those problems, they may feel ashamed that they act the way they do and say the things they say, knowing that you still have some sense while staying sober.
- People seem more ‘normal’ to them drinking…
Sometimes a problem drinker considers others normal when they are drinking as they do, especially if they are used to you being a heavy drinker too, and they consider that to be the ‘normal’ you. Once you get sober it may confuse them as to how you ended up not having to have a drink to be yourself. Problem drinkers might feel they can’t relate to you as much simply because you are no longer drinking. Truthfully, if they are causing problems every time they drink, it’s probably a good thing.
- You can remember what they did the next day…
I know this may be a crazy statement, but sometimes problem drinkers actually do things that are a little more embarrassing or a little less tasteful than they would care to admit. Problem drinkers might find it discomforting that you are sober, because then they have to worry about the person who will definitely remember those embarrassing things they do, or those crazy things they say, and call them out on it once they sober up.
Someone who has stopped drinking can be an annoying reminder to a problem drinker of the fact that they get drunk, make mistakes, and cause problems. It’s not that you’re lame, they just do lame stuff and now someone can prove it!
- They may be jealous they can’t stop…
Problem drinkers may just be jealous of you once you’re sober. Maybe that person who thinks it’s ‘lame’ you don’t drink is just upset because deep down they know they don’t have the ability to stop drinking on their own and they don’t understand how you were able to overcome your drinking. Not to say that they will hate you or lash out against you for it.
Still, a part of them may just be annoyed at the fact that they try to stop drinking but can’t. Or they do but they can’t be happy without it. If a problem drinker is causing problems for themselves, and sees you able to not drink and be happy, then it may go to show that they need help. Do NOT let a problem drinker make you feel like your accomplishments in sobriety are insignificant, especially if deep down they just want what you have.
- They may think you consider yourself better than them…
Ego is a huge problem with alcoholics. Self-centered behavior is natural to most that have serious problems with drinking, and it would only make sense that a problem drinker would assume your ego has only grown since you stopped drinking. In sobriety we should remember not to be self-righteous, because a problem drinker may see that and say the sober individual thinks they are better than people who do drink.
This is not the fault of the recovering alcoholic who is around a problem drinker and maintains their sobriety. The other person may even feel this way based off of another issue, like jealousy or insecurity.
The problem drinker or even the average person may not understand the process and the perseverance of obtaining and keeping your sobriety. By not knowing the struggles you have been through for your sobriety, they won’t understand the value of it, but hopefully they respect it enough to honor you when you maintain it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135