In comparing the two, we have to start by distinguishing what we mean by ‘narcissistic personality disorder’. Narcissistic personality disorder, according to the American Psychological Association’s revised 10th amendment of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), is an inability or refusal to achieve self-worth or self-belief. It is the belief that one is superior to everyone else, that one is the center of focus, that one is special, and that one is in control. People with narcissism believe they are right and others are wrong, and they place themselves above the law. They feel threatened by democratic norms and seek to manipulate, control, and abuse those who aren’t compliant.
Let’s look first at self-esteem. Self-esteem is the attitude we have about ourselves. It is our self-image. It’s our perception of our worth. It is our value judgment on how we see ourselves. If we have low self-esteem, then it is easy to become a prey to right-wing authoritarianism.
When we embrace the beliefs that our minds are superior to others, that we are special, and that we are in control, we create our own mask of rationality. This mask is a lie. We know that the world doesn’t owe us anything, that we don’t deserve any attention, that there are people who are malicious and mean and who want to hurt us. Our mask of rationality gives us a kind of comfort. But this comfort feeds upon itself, and we can end up with more problems than we started out with. This explains the rise of narcissism in the world.
Low self-esteem and the other personality disorders described above are an inevitable result of this lie. Those who adopt these false beliefs are trapped, even if unconsciously, in a vicious cycle of victimization and blame. They think that they are the victim; the one being attacked by others. And so, they end up trying to get back the power they feel they’ve lost and try to regain their self-esteem by attacking those with narcissistic personality disorder.
So, we now know that those who suffer from low self-esteem are also at risk for narcissistic personality disorder and its right-wing authoritarianism. And, those who have narcissistic personality disorder and low self-esteem are also at risk for right-wing authoritarianism. Thus, those who attack those with these two mental conditions are actually doing the things they claim they are against.
Thus, those who say self-esteem and the others are the same thing are either misinformed themselves or they are trying to justify narcissism & self-respect by focusing on the low self-esteem. It would indeed be more correct to say that narcissism & self-respect are wrong altogether; not only because it is morally wrong but also because those who have it do not respect themselves. Indeed, the lack of self-esteem can drive one to do things which would otherwise seem unacceptable. It’s like living with a spoiled child – you know, the one that does not care how he looks or whether he gets a good grade, or how long he lives, but still thinks that he is better than everyone else.
In order to regain one’s self-respect and improve his/her self-esteem, the first step is to eliminate the conditions that created it in the first place. These conditions are narcissistic personality disorder, low self-esteem, right-wing authoritarianism and social withdrawal. In order to eliminate the first two, it would be necessary for the individual to work through and deal with his/her issues with love, money, anger, self-dignity and guilt. Eliminating the social withdrawal, though, may be a little more difficult since this seems to be the core of the narcissistic personality disorder, in my opinion.
Narcissistic personality disorder is without question the most devastating of all the conditions that cause low self-esteem, vanity, guilt and anger. The person suffering from it has a grandiose sense of his/her importance and wants others to be as important (and happy) as they are. Unfortunately, narcissists have always been around and are now getting more “normalized” which may help explain why they continue to thrive so well. The best solution to this problem, then, is to seek professional help from a psychiatrist who specializes in this area. In order to rid oneself of this destructive cycle, one must not only recognize their narcissism, but must also try to work out the relationship issues that created it in the first place.