In discussing the concept of high self-esteem vs. low self-esteem we need to take into consideration the two different types of narcissism – left-wing authoritarianism and right-wing authoritarianism. Both are extremely psychologically driven, and their drivenness is motivated not only by the need for power, but also by a desire to maintain an illusion of their greatness. Both are psychologically parasitic – they seek to increase their share of the human race, at any cost.
The drive to spread Left-wing authoritarianism throughout society is what lies behind much of modern culture and politics, including the idea of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and a strong resistance to modern liberalization. This cultural thrust toward collectivism and increased social dominance has its origins in the advent of the industrial revolution and the spread of scientific socialism. In all these circumstances there was a push toward greater social control. The cultural influence of this movement can still be seen today in places such as Sweden and Germany, where the rule of the left over time has been strongly rooted in social-liberal values. This explains the psychological basis for much of the self-esteem gap between the West and the East.
Now consider the opposite tendency on the scale – low self-esteem or narcissism. Here we find an obvious genetic component to the human condition. Human beings are the product of a gene-based evolutionary history, and there are significant genetic differences between individuals who are highly left-wing and those who are highly right-wing. In fact the mirror image of these traits can be found in behavior genetics. Thus, people with a strong Left-wing orientation tend to be left-wing politically and to have a low self-esteem, while individuals who are right-wing tend to have a higher self-esteem and a stronger sense of social dominance.
Interestingly, the relationship between low self-esteem and narcissism is not that close. In fact, there are cases where narcissists tend to have low self-esteem or even lack a true sense of self. On the other hand, many left-wingers tend to have high self-esteem and an inflated sense of their own importance. Interestingly, both individuals prone to narcissism and those with a low self-image can be manipulative, which makes the relationship between narcissism and self-esteem a difficult one to draw. Narcissistic leaders who are also politicians are likely to have a thick skin, as well as a self-image that are based largely on grandiose fantasies of power.
The similarities and differences between narcissism and self-esteem are most apparent when one considers that narcissists usually have low self-image and an inflated sense of their own importance. On the other hand, politicians who are widely considered to be “mavericks” are also self-confident and pride themselves on being “immune to criticism.” These people seem to believe in the inherent principles of their politics even when people disagree.
Self-esteem and narcissism are also not far from each other when one considers that both are highly dependent on the acceptance of others. Both require a sense of social approval and respect from others. In fact, these qualities are required by humans in all groups. Even within the most basic of social groups, people with higher levels of self-esteem and narcissism tend to be more assertive and more willing to take risks. They have superior communication skills and, consequently, are better at getting others to do their bidding. Politicians, similarly, are able to get their fellow citizens to do whatever they want, including voting for them, if they have high self-esteem and a false sense of their own importance in the eyes of others.
The most important thing about narcissism and self-esteem is that they are mutually-exclusive traits. Anyone who possesses one is also automatically attached to those who possess the other. Those who are more compassionate and empathetic towards others have a low self-image and therefore are likely to lack self-confidence and be more prone to the expression of self-doubt and insecurity. Those with high narcissistic traits will also have a low self-image but are often very arrogant and self-confident. As political scientists have noted, those who have high levels of narcissism are indeed “radicals” because they have little regard for what other people think, feel, or choose to do.
The most important thing about narcissism and self-esteem is that they are not mutually exclusive traits. There are many people who have both a high degree of narcissism and a low level of self-esteem and this does not make them bad people. On the contrary, such people can be very effective in politics because politics is a place where people can confront each other and form coalitions. Having a healthy level of narcissism may be necessary if you want to become a powerful political leader.