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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

10 Distorted Forms of Thinking That Are Holding You Back

10 Distorted Forms of Thinking That Are Holding You Back

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

Author: Shernide Delva

Recently, my therapist revealed I have a catastrophizing form of thinking. Essentially, I overanalyze everything and believe something will go wrong one way or another. This negative type of thinking results in anxiety when even the smallest things go wrong, which ultimately results in more things going wrong. Needless to say, it is a horrible cycle.

Still, the realization had me pondering other forms of irrational thinking people have. How do other negative ways of thinking affect people’s life? Cognitive psychologists pay very close attention to what is known as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are our mind’s way of convincing us of something that is not true. These distorted thoughts reinforce our negative thoughts and emotions. We tell ourselves things we believe sound rational and accurate, but in reality, they only make us feel bad about ourselves.

For example, a person might tell themselves, “I always fail when I try to do something new; therefore  I fail at everything I try.”

Honestly, these thoughts might be grounded in truth. Maybe this person has tried many things and HAS failed at many of them, but that does not mean they will fail at everything. That is an all or nothing mentality. People who think this way hesitate to do anything and feel worthless as a result. This form of thinking is known as overgeneralization—because you failed at x, y and z, you automatically will fail at a, b and c. It is self-deprecating and destructive in the long term.

Therapists try to understand their client’s way of thinking so that they can help them change their thinking in the future. Chances are, we have reinforced our thinking patterns over and over again for years, and some of us need help replacing our negative thought patterns with more rational, balanced ones.

10 Cognitive Distortions Holding You Back

  1. Filtering

    Filtering is when you take the negative details and magnify them while filtering the positive aspects of the situation. For example, you get a flat tire on the way to an event, and you decide to focus on that one negative aspect of the day that went wrong, rather than all the positive events that occurred afterward. Dwelling on these negative occurrences causes our vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

  2. “Black and White” Thinking

    This form of thinking is also known as all-or-nothing thinking. Either you go to the gym seven days a week, or you sit on the couch all week.  Either you work on something every day until it is perfect, or you do not do it at all. The “must be perfect” mentality does not work because no one is perfect. People who have black-or-white thinking lack the ability to see shades of gray. Every situation or performance must go perfect, or you are a failure. The concept of balance is difficult for a person with this style of distorted thinking to understand.

  1. Overgeneralizations

    Overgeneralization thinking focuses on the past rather than the future. For example, if the first time you tried pizza, it was bad, that means all pizza is bad. If the first time you tried flirting, you were rejected, that means you will always be rejected. If the first time you take any risk, you fail, then you will always fail. This form of thinking relies on a single incident or piece of evidence that we cling on to validate never doing that particular thing again. However, this only reinforces a never-ending pattern of defeat.

  2. Jumping to Conclusions

    You meet someone, and they are in a bad mood, and you automatically think they are mad at you.  You must have done something, right?  Perhaps your friend has not called you in weeks, so you assume they are ignoring you. Jumping to conclusions means you automatically assume the worse scenario when something out of the ordinary, or negative happens. You do not bother finding out the truth; you just make a conclusion on your own. This form of thinking is destructive because it relies on assumptions and not facts.

  3. Catastrophizing

    When we catastrophize, we expect the worse no matter what. We always question the what-ifs in life rather than remain in the present. This is also known as “magnifying or minimizing.” An example is when planning a trip; you think of every possible thing that could go wrong before the journey begins. Ex: “What if my flight delays?,” “What if I forget my passport?”, “What if tragedy strikes?” Everyone catastrophizes once in a while, but in excess, it can prevent you from doing anything you want in life.

  4. The Fallacy of Fairness

    In this form of thinking, you feel resentful because you do good things, yet do not get what you think is “fair” in return. For example, you volunteer to help your friend with an errand, however when you have an errand to run, she is not available. People who have this form of thinking keep track of everything and use measurements for every situation. Example: I did this for you, so I expect the same in return. The problem with this form of thinking is that life is not always fair, and you should not waste energy keeping track of every good deed you do. Learn to make sacrifices without expecting favors in return.

  5. Blaming

    You hold other people responsible for your pain. Example: “You are making me feel bad about myself!” or “I feel insecure when I am around you.” The problem with this form of thinking is nobody can make you feel a certain way. Your response to a situation comes from your experience and emotions. Blaming the outside world for your emotions is not an effective way of controlling them.

  6. Emotional Reasoning

    This style of thinking means everything you feel about yourself must be true. It is the ultimate “I think. Therefore I am” mentality. If you feel stupid and depressed, then you must be stupid and depressed. You assume your unhealthy emotions define who you are as a person. This form of thinking is harmful because our emotions do not define us. Our emotions are a state that we can alter and change.

  7. Global Labeling

    This form of thinking involves labeling ourselves or other people because of an error or mistake. For example, you fail a math test, so automatically you are a loser. If you went over budget on a project, you are obviously irresponsible. This negative form of thinking is self-destructive. Furthermore, people who have this form of irrational thinking tend to judge others harshly. When they see another person make an error on a particular task, they label the person as a loser. This form of thinking is unhealthy because making mistakes does not automatically make you or anyone a loser or failure.

  8. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy

    A person with this type of thinking always feels unappreciated. When you do well, you feel like people should comment on how well you are doing. If they do not notice, then you feel less inclined to work as hard. You expect the sacrifices you make to be recognized and rewarded. If you do not get the reaction you want, you get bitter. The problem with this form of thinking is that you rely on other people to stay motivated. Instead, you should understand that not all our sacrifices will pay off. No one is keeping score. You should work on motivating yourself rather than waiting on others to motivate you.

Cognitive distortions are not healthy because they rely on a distorted, irrational way of thinking. Learning to understand your style of thinking will help you shift your negative thoughts. Awareness is critical.  If you are struggling with any of these types of thinking, we can guide you.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

How Transformational Breath Can Heal You

How Transformation Breath Can Heal You

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

Author: Shernide Delva

Breathing is something we have to do every day, however often we lose sight of how incredibly valuable breathing can be.  Without breathing, you can not live. Each breath we take allows oxygen to feed our cells. Unless you are breathing deeply, your body is not getting the most oxygen it is capable of, nor is it releasing toxins for optimal health. Our mental and emotional state can be affected by our breathing patterns. It is possible to transform our attitude by changing the depth, rhythm and rate of our breathing.

Transformational Breath ® is a self-empowering healing system that can help you have more energy, feel more peaceful, and achieve a higher level of consciousness. This breathing technique works by guiding people to follow a specific breathing pattern that has incredible healing benefits.

Transformational Breath ® has been shown to:

  • Release repressed feelings and emotions
  • Improve energy levels
  • Stimulate circulation throughout the body
  • Balance the flow of energy throughout
  • Clear past drama and traumas
  • Relieve depressive and negative emotions
  • Enhance awareness of self-sabotaging patterns

How is this possible?

It may be hard to believe that something as simple as breathing could have such an impact on your life. However, transformational breath works because most people restrict their breathing to avoid experiencing unpleasant feelings. For example, in very nervous situations, most people restrict their breathing and do not get adequate amounts of oxygen.

By holding our breath, we deactivate our feelings. Keeping those emotions repressed (held in the subconscious) requires a tremendous amount of energy and creates chronic tension in our bodies. Those repressed feelings affect our behaviors in a negative, self-sabotaging way.Transformational breathing works because old patterns are restructured using breath. Ultimately, you can move past your limitations and lead a more joyful and healthy life.

The most useful part of transformational breath is that it focuses on helping you channel in on what you want to create in your life, instead of just focusing on the past.Transformational breath is not a magic pill solution, however trying it has immense benefits.  Plus, it is natural, safe and healthy. Even if you do not have significant health issues, transformational breath can help you experience a more authentic sense of self and may help you become more spiritually connected.

How Transformational Breath Helps In Recovery

Transformational Breath is an excellent tool to help in overcoming addiction. It is often utilized in the substance abuse field as an aid in healing and an enhancement to traditional therapy. Transformational Breath is an excellent addition to a holistic treatment program. A treatment center that provides a more balanced approach to recovery often includes transformational breath as part of a client’s treatment plan. It is so important to try all types of holistic treatment options that can be very beneficial.

When doing transformational breath, a certified facilitator will observe your breath and see where your breath is being held. The facilitator will locate and help you release any blockages you may have. There are many techniques that can be used. Some examples are body adjustments, sound techniques, and positive affirmations. All these tools work to get your breath opened and moving again.

Each experience is unique, but you can expect to experience some impressive visuals, and get an idea of where your energy is blocked and where it is free-flowing.  Transformational Breath can help those in recovery revisit memories, conflicts, and traumas from the past.

The only way to know how transformational breath can benefit you is by trying it yourself. In recovery, it is important to open yourself to new experiences. Everyone is different and often through being open, you can find something that will work for you. Remember abusing substances is never the answer.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Is Compassion the Key to Recovery?

Is Compassion the Key to Recovery?

 By Cheryl Steinberg

Dr. Jack Kornfield, renowned Buddhist teacher, sees the importance of compassion, forgiveness and mindfulness in liberating you from addiction.

A little background: Psychologist Jack Kornfield, PhD., has worked for more than 40 years in his mission to make Buddhism more accessible for Westerners by way of his teachings of mindfulness and meditation.

It is his belief that the Buddhist teachings of compassion and mindfulness can have great impact on addiction, and therefore, recovery:

“Addiction is a common part of human incarnation. It starts because we’re built with desire. It is always a part of us. Poet Alison Luterman says, ‘It’s like when you hide the chocolate chip cookies because you’re on a diet, and you’re the only person in the entire galaxy who knows where the chocolate chip cookies are hidden.’ From childhood on, we struggle to find ways to satisfy ourselves and to regulate ourselves because of pain, loneliness, or simply to avoid what’s unpleasant. Trying to manage life, especially when it’s hard, we can then get caught in a cycle of grasping and addiction,” says Kornfield. “In Buddhist psychology, this is called living in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. A Hungry Ghost is a being who has a tiny mouth and giant belly and no matter how much it eats, it can never feel satisfied or whole. When it is strong, what do we do with our hunger? The point is not to get rid of desires, but to find a healthy relationship to them. As William Blake said, ‘Those who want to be free must not rid themselves of desires, but develop an understanding of them.’”

In an interview he gave with The Fix, Dr. Kornfield answers the question: Is compassion the key to recovery? Here is an abridged version of the interview.

The Fix: Have you worked with people struggling with substance and behavioral addictions?

Dr. Kornfield: Over the years, many people struggling with addiction have come to learn Buddhist mindfulness and compassion. Self-compassion can help see what is really at the body, heart and mind’s best interest, and how the tools of mindfulness can let you step back and experience things that you couldn’t withstand because of the discomfort and difficulty it brings.

Are you saying mindfulness is about taking a step back?

Yes, it develops a perspective of loving awareness that can witness experience without being completely caught in it. Modern neuroscience research has shown that steadiness of attention, emotional regulation, and self-compassion all deepen through systematic practice. So there are ways to train yourself to respond differently.

What would you like addicts to know about your teachings?

Buddhist tradition begins by acknowledging the dignity and nobility of every being. With addiction there’s so much shame, guilt, self-loathing and self-criticism. Buddhist trainings begin with loving awareness and the capacity to step back and witness your experience without being taken over by it. Participating in trainings for compassion and mindfulness requires courage and patience and self-compassion. Step by step, you begin to remember the wholeness and well-being that is your birthright.

Do you think spirituality is a necessity in the recovery process?

I would say it’s important for most people because our soul and spirit needs to be connected to something greater than our small sense of self, our limited identity. Whether that spirituality is religious or for some simply feeling the sacredness of life there is a need to treasure yourself and others. The Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” In whatever form it takes, spirituality moves us from a materialistic or depressed or self-critical perspective to a sense that life itself is sacred.

What kind of role can forgiveness meditation play in recovery and healing?

It’s critical. On my website is a beautiful forgiveness meditation that comes from my book The Art of Forgivingness and Lovingkindness and Peace.  Forgiving others and ourselves releases the heart so we do not continue to carry hatred. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you condone what has happened. In fact, you must protect yourself and say “I’ll do all I can to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone again.” Forgiveness simply means not carrying hatred in your heart, but being willing to start anew. The most important forgiveness in addiction is self-forgiveness, a deep process of learning to hold yourself and your own self-betrayal and the suffering you caused to yourself and others with mercy and tenderness so that you can begin again.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, help is available and recovery is possible. Please call an Addiction Specialist today at toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We are available around the clock to answer your questions.

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