The Difference Between Healthy Self-Love and Narcissism
Self-love gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. Genuine, healthy self-love is simply the recognition of one’s true abilities—be they abilities related to creativity, courage, compassion or anything else. Self-love doesn’t require a runaway ego; it requires witnessing one’s own potential. A person need not even “take credit” for that potential. It simply is. It exists. It is a gift.
In this way, self-love is not different from love of the Universe or of God or of Nature. We are all inseparable from All of what exists in this world. Being grateful for one’s intelligence or curiosity or talent or temperament is no different than being grateful for other miracle.
When we allow ourselves healthy self-love, we also take on a responsibility. Because resonating with and embracing our own deepest possibilities implies that we will manifest them. And that means that others will benefit from them.
See, genuine self-love never remains with the individual who feels it. It emanates from that person, quite naturally. Others recognize the products of it, right away. That’s why art created by one individual sometimes speaks to so many people at the same time—sometimes, millions of people. That’s why a single impassioned speech from one’s heart can move a whole audience or even a whole nation. It’s why a business built out of an authentic need to manifest something can grow to enormous proportions, serve the needs of many people and employ many, too.
Narcissism is the opposite of genuine self-love. It is a thin, synthetic, fake form of personal energy that is generated as a substitute for self-love, but it never feels the same to the person generating it or is received in the same way by others exposed to it. It misses its mark—always. Those who experience the genuine self-love of another feel something wonderful has been shared and that they have received it. And they have. Those who experience the narcissism of another feel (and rightfully so) that something has been taken from them. They feel used. Emptied out. The transfusion of energy is running in the wrong direction.
Seeking and finding real self-love actually dissolves one’s narcissism. The armor of false self-regard can be dropped. That is the path each of us should be on—for ourSELVES and for everyone who can know our real selves and be enriched by what we have—truly—to offer.
Dr. Keith Ablow