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Self-love or Narcissism?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
October 05, 2015

Discover that self-love and narcissism are actually opposites!

It's interesting to me how often people confuse self-love with narcissism – because they are actually opposites in many ways.

Ramona ask a question about this issue:

"How do I know if I'm narcissistic? How do I differentiate between self-care and narcissism? For so long I've denied myself love and care and now that I am working on loving myself - hearing my inner child and taking care of myself - I sometimes feel narcissistic for focusing on me. I can't tell if I am being narcissistic or if I am focusing on my self-love and self-care in a healthy way. Thank you for clarifying."

Self-love and self-care are about taking responsibility for your own feelings and many of your own needs. It's about learning to see and deeply value your essence – your inner child – and to be at least as loving to your inner child as you would be to an actual child whom you adore.

While you might have learned to believe that narcissism relates to loving yourself, it's the opposite: i.e. narcissistic people do all they can to get others to love them. Instead of validating themselves, they manipulate in many ways to get others to validate them. Because they feel very empty and insecure inside, they are constantly trying to have control over getting others’ attention and approval – by talking on and on about themselves, by pulling for attention in many different ways, by getting angry and punishing when they don't get what they want, and by being critical of others. They take no responsibility for their own feelings and needs, instead pulling on others to give them what they are not giving to themselves.

People who are on the path of learning to love themselves are generally open to learning with others. They want to learn and grow, so instead of getting angry when someone points out something about themselves, they get curious. The opposite is true of narcissists. They feel attacked and generally attack back when confronted with their self-centered and manipulative behavior.

Being self-centered and selfish, and being self-responsible and self-loving are also opposites. We are being self-centered and selfish when we expect others to give themselves up for us, and we are being self-caring when we love ourselves enough to be able to share our love with others. Self-responsible people who are learning to love themselves and take responsibility for their own feelings enjoy sharing their love with others, while narcissistic, self-centered people are focused on getting love from others.

Your intent determines whether you are loving yourself or being narcissistic.    When your intent is to love yourself and share your love, you are operating from your loving adult self and you are connected with your spiritual source of love and truth. When your intent is to get love from others, you are operating from your wounded self, completely disconnected from a spiritual source of love and truth.

I would say this to Ramona: "Even the fact that you are questioning whether you are coming from self-love or narcissism indicates that you are open to learning and that your intent is to learn to love yourself. Narcissists rarely question their own behavior. You need to let go of worrying that focusing on yourself is narcissistic. You need to focus on yourself to learn to love yourself, and focusing on yourself is very different than trying to get others to focus on you – which is what narcissists do."

The more you learn to give yourself the love, attention and approval you have been trying to get from others, the more the narcissism of your wounded self gets healed. The wounded self in all of us is narcissistic to one degree or another, and learning to love yourself is what eventually heals the narcissism of the wounded self.


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