Have you ever been called a narcissist for prioritizing yourself? If so, you know the painful reality of struggling to manage your needs and boundaries in a way that’s considerate of others.
It’s been challenging for me to know where to draw the line between self-love and narcissism.
But by taking the time to understand the differences between the two, I can choose healthy expressions of self-care.
You don’t need to feel guilty for practicing self-love. I’m here to remind you that prioritizing your wellness doesn’t necessarily make you a narcissist.
This guide will help you clarify the two concepts. This way, you can prioritize your well-being while navigating relationships with others.
- Self-love promotes healthy self-esteem, empathy, personal growth, and confidence, and most importantly, it improves your overall mental wellness.
- Narcissism, characterized by inflated self-importance, lack of empathy, and a fear of change, often masks by low self-esteem.
- Building strong self-love by practicing self-compassion, aligning actions with your values, seeking feedback, avoiding comparisons, and embracing humility.
Table of Contents
What The Heck Is Self-Love Anyway?
Self-love is all about valuing yourself enough that you show up to provide the best for yourself.
This includes setting healthy boundaries, honoring your values, and doing things that genuinely make you happy.
What Is Narcissism?
Narcissism is a personality disorder in which one has an unusually high sense of self-importance.
This individual will often dismiss the feelings and perspectives of others due to their inflated concern for themselves.
These days, the term “narcissist” is often used without any real diagnosis of the condition, and refers to a person who needs a lot of attention from others.
This person tends to feel unfulfilled, disappointed, or even angry when others don’t give them an extreme or constant amount of energy.
Self-Love vs Narcissism: What Are The Key Differences?
Self-love and narcissism can look very similar, but when we dive deeper into the foundations of this behavior, we can clearly see that self-love is empowering, while narcissism is draining.
Here are some additional differences between the two:
Focus on Self vs. Focus on Others
When we have needs that emanate from a place of self-love, we usually consider others in our life.
For example, I desire for my family to do well, because it’s a part of my wellness practice to support those I love.
However, a narcissist would see the situation as a competition, wanting the spotlight on them.
In this scenario, they want all of the attention, because a person with narcissistic tendencies doesn’t believe there’s enough to go around.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Self-Esteem
Self-love is about building on what we like about ourselves and introducing new activities that help nurture our joy as well as reinforce our identity in a supportive way.
Many people don’t realize that narcissists often have very low self-esteem.
They try to overcompensate by making themselves feel more important or better than others to mask the fact that they don’t really like themselves.
Empathy vs. Lack of Empathy
Empathy is only something we can truly have when we extend understanding and observation to ourselves. Therefore, people with a good grasp of self-love are able to offer empathy freely to others.
Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t usually have a good understanding of themselves and their own needs, and as a result, don’t have the tools to offer empathetic support to others.
Personal Growth vs. Stagnation
Since self-love is about providing the best for yourself, there’s a lot of change, adaptability, and experimentation to get to better circumstances in life.
If you’re fully embracing self-love, you’re able to make changes, because you know that they will be better for you in the future.
Narcissists tend to have a fear-based perception of the world.
Rather than hoping and preparing for the best, they often hide from new situations and prefer to stay in the same place. This way, they know what to expect and don’t have to face the possibility of disappointment or failure.
Confidence vs. Arrogance
Confidence is when we’ve demonstrated that we can do something well, and based on past information, we feel capable of taking on a new task.
On the other hand, arrogance comes from a place of insecurity and trying to overcompensate by telling others how great you are.
Those who practice self-love take small steps to build confidence over time, while narcissists tend to overestimate their abilities without any real evidence.
How to Cultivate Self-Love While Avoiding Narcissism
Now that you see the differences between self-love and narcissism, let’s go over some actionable steps that will make sure you’re staying on the right track when it comes to developing your self-love routines:
Self-compassion is the backbone of self-love. It’s known as the art of kindness and involves a lot of forgiveness, acceptance, and understanding.
You can practice self-compassion by letting go of self-judgment, taking space and time to process things, or soothing yourself in stressful situations.
Make sure to celebrate yourself and thank yourself for the good things you do as well! Too often, we don’t acknowledge the accomplishments in our lives, and this is essential for developing self-love.
Get Clear and Comfortable With Your Values
So take time to think about and write down what you value the most in life. Then do an audit of your life and see where there are gaps between your values and your actions.
This will provide you with a roadmap towards self-love, as you’ll know exactly what steps to take that will bring you closer to your desired life.
Narcissists never feel like they have enough, and by practicing gratitude, you ensure that you’re focused on “good enough” over “not enough”.
When we practice self-love coming from a space of gratitude, we are gentler and more compassionate overall.
Seek Constructive and Honest Feedback
Most of the time, people really do want to help, even if their feedback doesn’t feel comfortable to hear.
This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with the feedback, but simply give it space without feeling threatened by it.
If there are people who provide hurtful feedback, you can set boundaries with them and make sure to keep yourself at a distance from them. Choose the people you seek feedback from wisely, and then lean fully into their support.
Avoid Comparing Oneself to Others
People with narcissistic tendencies are always watching what others are doing, and base their worth on how they compare themselves to others.
Instead of valuing your worth on the achievements of others, focus on your personal goals.
Other people have different values, goals, and metrics for success. So remind yourself that you can’t compare your wins to anyone else’s and that it’s okay to define success in whatever way works specifically for you.
Self-love is about having humility, which means compassionately accepting that you don’t know and understand everything.
Instead of seeing this as a threat, show up with curiosity and excitement around trying and learning new things.
Don’t Let Your Ego Gets The Best of You
While narcissism can look like many things, it boils down to one main difference. Are these acts meant to benefit oneself, or to manipulate others? It can be challenging to ask this question and realize that you may have narcissistic traits.
But remember this is the first step to making a change that will improve your life, your communities, and your relationship with yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if I am practicing healthy self-love or unhealthy narcissism?
The best way to identify if you’re practicing self-love or narcissism is by checking in on how you feel internally. Do you like yourself very much, and are you willing to prioritize your well-being? If so, you’re practicing self-love.
Is it possible for self-love to turn into narcissism over time?
Yes, it’s possible to lean into narcissistic tendencies over time. However, you can also reverse narcissistic behaviors by being aware of your actions and taking regular time to reflect on how you and the people around you feel.
Can someone with a history of low self-esteem develop narcissistic tendencies?
Absolutely. In fact, narcissists often become excessively self-involved as a way to try to combat their feelings of low self-esteem or to hide the pain of their insecurity.
How can I avoid becoming narcissistic while still practicing self-love?
Make sure to stay mindful of your community and check in with your loved ones regularly. This way, you can be sure that your self-love efforts aren’t in conflict with other people’s safety, values, or goals.
Is it possible for someone to have narcissistic traits but still love themselves in a healthy way?
With consistent effort, a narcissist may be able to learn how to love themselves in a healthy way. This usually takes a good amount of support, which can look like therapy, individual coaching, or support from loved ones.