There is an important difference between self-esteem and narcissism. Self-esteem is a positive regard for yourself that stems from your positive interactions with others and can range from admiration to respect to arrogance. Narcissism, on the other hand, is having an inflated sense of self-worth that usually stems from negative self-talk and a lack of regard for social norms. Both conditions are harmful and have far reaching impacts on our lives.
One of the most disturbing trends in contemporary American life is what is known as “narcissistic leadership”. This is where a person with a narcissistic personality disorder (or who displays symptoms of such disorder) seeks to gain admiration, power and control from others at the expense of others who they believe deserve nothing but inferior treatment. They view themselves as “great” or “better” than others and think little of the consequences of their behavior on others. Narcissistic leadership affects all facets of life from their personal relationships to their professional careers. In short, self-esteem vs. narcissism are quite relevant in this circumstance.
narcissists believe that they are superior to others – in almost every area of life. They feel they are entitled to the best of everything, including sex, money and power. Because of this, self-esteem and narcissism are closely intertwined in many parts of the world. In the United States, there is a significant current of narcissism in both the public and private spaces, including social networks like Facebook and Twitter and the entertainment landscape of movies, music and television. Research has shown that a substantial number of youth are hanging out on social networks like MySpace and Facebook to develop narcissistic traits.
In contrast, those with self-esteem vs. narcissism do not have the sense of entitlement and are not self-absorbed. They are generally respectful of others and are more likely to take responsibility for their own actions. They are unlikely to blame others or make excuses. These individuals also tend to be very happy with themselves, and do not need to constantly evaluate themselves. While they may have some unhealthy behaviors, such as lying or excessive cheating, they usually engage in healthy self-evaluation.
Unfortunately, this healthy self-evaluation is being undermined by narcissists using social media to groom their next victim. Narcissists know that they can easily obtain an “expert” quality opinion about themselves in the form of a Twitter or Facebook profile. It is not unusual for young adults to lie about their height or weight in order to gain attention from friends or strangers on these social media sites. Another problem related to narcissism in the United States is the “wave of exhaustion” sweeping across college campuses across the country. This is a phenomenon where an individual’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall sense of “being connected” with others rapidly decline leading to a loss of personal interest in their personal relationships, work, and hobbies.
While narcissists prey on younger adults who do not fully understand the destructive nature of narcissism, it is important to note that many older adults, who were once narcissists themselves, fall into the trap. They are the ones most responsible for helping young adults navigate the treacherous waters of the Internet and social media. In fact, many therapists have detected increasing cases of narcissism among the older generation. The symptoms that come with narcissism include: an inflated sense of your own importance, an intense need for admiration, an inflated sense of your value, and a lack of empathy for other people’s feelings. As we have seen, these character traits are extremely difficult to overcome, which is why narcissists typically fall into one of two traps.
The first traps, as described earlier, are committed narcissists who hide behind their personality traits, whereas the second type of trap is where the victim slips into democratic norms or starts to inappropriately criticize others in the hopes of receiving validation. Both of these personality traits, when combined with increasing feelings of “worthlessness,” create a toxic environment that is ripe for entitlement. As we have seen, entitlement is related to a deep belief in one’s own self worth. This belief is typically not related to one’s actual accomplishments, but rather a mask to protect a feeling of inadequacy. Those who are capable of validating their own value generally do not engage in this behavior, and tend to thrive as individuals who take responsibility for their own well-being.
Unfortunately, while narcissists are very common, and therefore easy to spot, and the definition of narcissistic personality disorder is getting more attention now than ever before, there are also more “right-wing authoritarianists” in our society. Those who score high on the authoritarian personality scale are also usually high in self-evaluation, so it stands to reason that both of these behaviors may overlap with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. Because the two types of narcissistic personality disorder share so many symptoms, it is important to be aware of the signs and seek professional help if one should appear.