There is a vast difference between healthy self-esteem and healthy narcissism. When we say healthy, we are actually specifying the absence of dangerous personality traits like habitual lying, sadistic behavior, boastfulness or callousness. Narcissistic personality traits, on the other hand, are behaviors that make the person feel very good about themselves – as if they were superior to others. Let’s take a closer look at these differences.
narcissists believe that they are superior to others. They consider themselves to be more intelligent, better looking, funnier, and better at life than others. They believe that they are right and people are wrong, and that everyone is inferior or bad. Narcissistic personality traits are the mirror of a distorted self-image of oneself. Healthy self-esteem and social dominance are not inconsistent with each other.
In contrast, healthy self-esteem and social dominance are not inconsistent with narcissism. Healthy self-esteem and the ability to form and maintain relationships are not inconsistent with narcissism either. A person with high self-esteem can sometimes go along with other people’s mistakes and still come out better than those who do not have healthy self-esteem. Those who are able to form and maintain relationships even with those who commit terrible deeds (like murder) are not lacking in self-esteem. In short, those who have higher self-esteem are not inherently narcissistic.
As mentioned above, narcissists believe that they are superior to others. They believe that they possess unique and special personality traits that make them special and superior to others. However, all of those traits are present in narcissists, just in slightly different degrees. They all share the basic traits of low self-esteem, inflated self-image, insatiable appetite for their own self-worth, and a lack of empathy for others’ needs and feelings. However, there is a crucial difference between normal personality traits and narcissism.
Those with normal personality traits like self-esteem are normally happy, outgoing, and comfortable in most social settings. They don’t believe that they’re inferior or that they’re worthless. On the other hand, narcissists feel like they are worthless and have no self-image or confidence. They view themselves as inferior and feel that they must increase their value to others at all costs – by acting out, lying, stealing, and talking about sexual topics in front of everyone. Because of their deep-seated feelings of unworthiness, these people have difficulty forming or sustaining friendships.
The difference between normal self-esteem and narcissism manifests itself in various ways. People with normal self-esteem will engage in healthy self-evaluation, will tell the truth, be honest, and try to be good to others. People with narcissism tend to have a healthy disregard for others, have distorted self-evaluation, and a habit of lying and cheating. In short, they lack self-esteem, and a void remains that causes them to engage in behavior that places them in danger.
Narcissistic people have a need to place themselves in a certain light. They want to see themselves as supremely powerful and confident, so that others will see them that way. When someone with narcissism seeks help from a professional, it’s not because they don’t know how to do things themselves, but because they don’t want to acknowledge that they can’t do things correctly, or to accept that help is necessary. It’s a self-defense mechanism, which works against the person who seeks help.
When assessing yourself against those characteristics, you may find that you possess all of the qualities listed above, or nearly so. However, each person has their own internal values, and their own ways of looking at the world. For example, there are some people who see themselves as self-sufficient, while others might view themselves as emotionally needy, dependent, or even downright silly. Each person has a different interpretation of what it means to be self-aware, self-confident, and self-evaluating.