Have you noticed a media frenzy for the psychological condition, narcissism, a distorted self-worship, often confused with self-love? Well, I too have noticed a flurry of psychological articles focusing on young adults and children suffering from narcissism. We have heard about these narcissists taking provocative photographs of their bodies and posting on social media sites, such as Twitter and Face Book and you will also find articles on how to get rid of these narcissists from your social media feeds and followings.
Meanwhile in the new age communities, and especially with intuitive life coaches we hear about developing self-honoring and self-love. Some people confuse self-love with narcissism, but this is far from the case. So let’s discuss the difference between self-love (self-awareness, self-honoring, self-valuing) and narcissism, which has little to do with self-love and more to do with survival skills developed during an abusive or neglectful childhood. Sometimes narcissism develops because a child is spoiled and treated like royalty, but usually the condition develops because of abuse and neglect. And if you know of a narcissist, there is therapy available to heal their woundedness.
Self-love is part of our spiritual evolution and self-actualization process. Self-love means we stop belittling ourselves and allow our unique gifts and talents to shine forth in the world. Self-love is an inside job and we don’t get there by expecting other people to love us first. We don’t get there because we live in self-loathing and think that if we have a baby the baby will give us the love we obsessively crave nor will pursuing any emotional attachments such as love relationships or romantic conquests do the job. We know we’re stuck in self-loathing when we project our thoughts into the future with statements such as, “after I become a famous rock star or celebrity, then others will love and adore me so that I can love myself.” Sorry, this approach just lands us in deeper neurosis. If you don’t believe me, look at the divorce rate among celebrities and celebrated people.
While I promised myself I would not rehash my past and wallow in woundedology (term of Carolyn Myss), I will share a story of my 20s with you. In my 20s, I pursued a career as a rock musician hoping to acquire fame or at least recognition. I never received either, but I did learn a lesson about self-loathing and self-abuse and the deep abyss where that leads. Later in life, I learned that love is an inside job. You can’t give love to others unless you first give love to yourself. And consequently no one else can love you until you love yourself and project that on to the world. You also are incapable of loving another unless you fill yourself up to the brim with love and adoration for yourself.
So even though new age teachers joke about self-love sounding like narcissism, it’s not the same, not even close to the same thing. Self-love is about feeding yourself healthy food, it’s about keeping health conditions in check, it’s about taking quiet time out of each day for yourself in the form of a luxurious hot bath, meditation, yoga, deep breathing and toning or listening to your favorite music. Self-love is remembering to be gentle and patient with yourself and others. Self-love is about saying no when you feel violated or just pushed out of place, it is about setting appropriate boundaries and honoring your highest and best wishes. It is about standing up for yourself and speaking your truth while living authentically in the world. It’s about living in your dream home when your friends think that’s materialistic and it’s about not denying yourself a harmonious and healthy life while living in balance on the planet.
Narcissism on the other hand is self-destructive and these folks live in an illusion that eventually will come crashing down on them. While they obsessively stare into mirrors, like the mad witch of the Snow White story, ugliness stares back at them. As they tell others they always put themselves first, what they really mean is that they practice self-abuse and torment themselves by getting everyone else to love them, a futile task. Think of the pathetic Joan Crawford character played by Faye Dunaway in “Mommy Dearest” in the scene where she whacks her adopted daughter with hangers because she realizes she’s an aging movie star. That’s where narcissism leads to complete and utter madness and disillusionment.
So instead of falling into delusional love with a reflection in the mirror, practicing self-love is an inside job where perfectionism is tossed out and a person loves both their weaknesses and strengths. When we love ourselves, we love others and we take better care of the world. When we take better care of our planet, we can all live harmoniously and stop projecting darkness onto others. Ironically, narcissists heal themselves when they learn the true meaning of self-love which has nothing to do with adoring fans and everything to do with honoring one’s truth and life mission. The Beatles were right, Love is the answer and I add that no one can do this for you.