Is Narcissism Self-love or Selfishness?

· October 16, 2017

People with a humble soul and a brave heart fascinate us. People who do not give up attract us. And we find inspiration in those who know where they’re going no matter how many obstacles they encounter. Above all we like those people who don’t know what it is to surrender, and who, at some point in their life, learned to love themselves. But, is narcissism self-love or selfishness?

If it is useful to have friends and family with this type of personality and attitude, it is even more important to become one of those people ourselves, people who know how to get what they want and feel that they deserve it. And yet in this society in which we live, if anyone dares to say these sort of things out loud, they could well be labelled a narcissist.

“If you have no self-love … what can you aspire for?”
Walter Riso

Loving oneself is possibly the most valuable foundation of our psychological well-being. This way of living guarantees our survival, both physically and emotionally. It is also this self-esteem that allows us to cope, with varying degrees of success, with the ups and downs in our lives and in this complex society, which has at least as many inconsistencies as we do.

However, sometimes we have the clear feeling that “to love oneself”, and to say out loud that we are deserving and capable of anything, is little more than an exaggerated act of bad taste. In the eyes of many we run the risk of coming across as conceited, selfish and of course, as narcissists.

The truth of the matter is that being altruistic, noble and humble is good and even necessary, but in order to have a balanced psychological health, it is necessary to invest in the other sometimes neglected aspects: self-respect, self-confidence, self-esteem and personal dignity.

self love or selfishness


Healthy narcissism, self-love we sometimes neglect

The word “narcissism” provokes an immediate rejection as soon as we hear it. However … what if we told you that there is a healthy aspect to it that we all need in some way? Curiously enough, each one of us comes into this world pre-programmed with the need to love ourselves. It is part of our genetics that, later on in life, and for many different reasons, we end up discarding or silencing so that it will not embarrass us.

To understand it better we only have to think about babies and children of 3 or 4 years old. In their behavior there is a type of narcissism engraved into them. Their only interest is to make sure that their basic needs, whether physical or emotional, are satisfied. They do not do it out of selfishness, they do it first of all to survive and then as part of their psychological and social development.

Later on, this instinct can take you on one of three very different routes:

  • The first is that the child starts to think that he is unworthy to receive love, based on his interaction with his surroundings. His emotional needs are not met and he slowly falls into a spiral of self-degradation where his self-esteem is completely destroyed. If you sense that others don’t love you, you won’t love yourself

  • The second aspect is equally negative: an exaggerated narcissism. This is where a child develops an extreme need to seek the attention and praise of an adult. He needs a persistent and continuous support to feel validated and get approval. Little by little as he grows up, this will continue to be his main need: he will always seek to be the center of attention and his only concern will be himself.
  • Finally, we have the healthiest path: the child or “preteen” who has been able to preserve a healthy narcissism and who understands that loving oneself is necessary to our survival. And so, instead of demanding constant attention and support to feel like he’s a valid person, he has managed to develop a strong self-esteem which makes him feel accomplished, worthy, courageous and deserving of getting what he wants.

People who love themselves get what they want

People who know how to get what they want are not selfish, narcissistic or conceited. They are, in fact, generally modest. They don’t usually announce their plans, nor do they carry banners proclaiming their virtues or their abilities as others would do: the ones who practice the most extreme narcissism, which is driven by outward appearances. These extreme narcissists say a lot but do little and they use others to get whatever they want.

 “There is something worse than death and suffering: the lack of self-love”
  Sándor Márai

People with good self-esteem, who love themselves in a fearless and healthy way, live their lives quietly and without attracting attention. Yet they always have their eyes on the horizon and strive to reach their goals, no matter what others say, think or do.

Neuroscience explains that the area of our brain where our life goals are generated and planned is the orbitofrontal cortex. This structure is, in turn, intricately linked to the emotions, but above all to the part of the brain that deals with our personality, favouring a personality that is strong and understands habits, persistence and personal effort.

All this shows us once again that only fearless personalities and those characterized by a good, strong self-esteem are those who, in the end, can reach the heavens. And at no time will they care what others say, because the energy for success is always present inside them, in that intimate area of our life that we must look after on a daily basis.

Images courtesy of Liz Clemens