Two things are often confused with self-esteem: a sense of self worth and narcissism. The narcissist’s need for admiration, power and control is in direct opposition to the self-esteem of the “bane of society.” However, when comparing self-esteem and narcissism the comparisons usually center around these two things. The difference between a person with high self-esteem and one who lack it is a matter of perception. In essence, the two are used to describe two different ways of looking at the world.
A common mistake made by narcissists themselves, when comparing their own self-esteem to that of other people, is to make the comparison based on what they see as the definition of success. They view themselves as having set goals and as having succeeded. Because they feel so good about themselves, they often fail to see how their behavior is affecting the lives of others. For them, it is normal to think that they are better people than those who do not live up to their lofty expectations. On the other hand, the democratic norms that guide normal people’s self-esteem generally require that we behave well in order to succeed.
This difference also plays into politics. Those who believe that they are right-wing authoritarianism are prone to believe that everyone else is wrong. By comparing themselves to an objectively justified high achiever, they justify their own feelings of self-worth. Self-esteem vs. narcissism therefore have to be thinking of from an emotional perspective not intellectual one.
Those who have low self-esteem or a lack of it are more likely to engage in socially aggressive behaviors like lying, manipulation, bullying and exclusion. narcissists on the other hand, use deception, manipulation and exclusion to gain power and influence. Narcissists and right-wing authoritarianism both rely on the same strategies to build their power base. Low self-esteem and a lack of it can make it easier for them to engage in these activities, but not impossible.
One of the differences between high self-esteem and high social dominance is the way they approach aggression. Narcissists are usually secretive about their intentions and frequently lie about their motives. In contrast, a person with a low self-esteem is not likely to lie. He or she may use subtle yet direct aggression when it is necessary. These characteristics are related to the personality characteristic of social dominance.
A high-altitude, right-wing authoritarianism also breeds social dominance. It is natural for people in this situation to disregard the feelings of others and seek to control their world. Because the narcissist lacks empathy, guilt or remorse, their needs are usually not met. Because the person does not feel remorse or empathy, their need to control is frequently unmet leading to anger and rage.
Narcissists and right-wing authoritarianism frequently engage in violent acts to assert their dominance. When these individuals are not using physical aggression, they often use verbal aggression such as name-calling and criticism to gain control. Low self-esteem and a lack of social dominance often lead to aggression.
Low self-esteem and a lack of social dominance are traits of a narcissistic personality disorder, which can often lead to violence. Physical aggression is not the only way that these personality disorders create dangerous situations. Understanding the narcissistic behaviors and personality traits can help you prevent an attack from occurring.
In most cases, narcissistic partners will brag about their accomplishments, excel at work, use their status to manipulate others, and tend to place a great importance on their relationships. As you know, such individuals often abuse alcohol and drugs to feel great about themselves. They also may engage in dangerous behavior such as frequent theft and workplace violence. Their lack of self-esteem and social dominance will make them susceptible to acting in ways that do not align with their values and intentions. For example, if they feel their partner has neglected them, they may pick fights or verbally abuse them in an attempt to get attention and validation.
Narcissistic partners also have little regard for other human beings and are often involved in sadistic relationships where physical harm is common. These individuals need constant affirmation that they are loved and will be protected – usually in the form of painful hurtful acts (hitting, yelling, inflicting pain). If they feel threatened by a partner, they will try to gain control over their partner through manipulative behavior (such as leaving the house without asking). Such individuals are envious of others and place a greater value on themselves than others. They often lack empathy and care about the feelings of others. They want to control everything – including their own emotions and self-respect.
In contrast, those who value human dignity and do not aspire to a lifestyle of power and control will often exhibit these characteristics more frequently. They will also be trustworthy, sensitive, and willing to listen to others. They will be confident and have a healthy self-image. Those with narcissistic traits will have a low self-esteem, but can still reach and maintain a healthy level of it. The solution to dealing with both types of personality is to realize that healthy self-esteem is a trait that can be learned and that everyone can develop it, so self-esteem does not depend on genetics or external circumstances.