Although narcissists feel superior to others they do not necessarily feel that good about themselves.
In contrast, people with high self-esteem naturally feel good about themselves but do not feel superior to others.
The difference is highlighted in a new paper which shows how narcissism and high self-esteem diverge.
Dr Eddie Brummelman, who led the research, said:
“At first blush, narcissism and self-esteem seem one and the same, but they differ in their very nature.
Narcissists feel superior to others but aren’t necessarily satisfied with themselves.”
Typically people who have high self-esteem see value in themselves but do not see themselves as more valuable than others.
Narcissists, meanwhile, have a desire to be admired by others and can easily become aggressive and angry.
The study’s authors explain that overvaluing children may cause high levels of narcissism:
“[Instead] parents and educators [should] express affection and appreciation to children without proclaiming them to be superior to others.
By doing so, parents and educators may help children feel happy with themselves without seeing themselves as better than others.
There are ways to help people with low self-esteem and to ‘nudge’ other individuals away from narcissistic self-beliefs:
“…nudging individuals away from their superiority beliefs (e.g., by having them think about what makes them similar to others) reduces narcissism levels.
Helping people internalize others’ appreciation (e.g., by having them describe the meaning and significance of others’ kind words) raises self-esteem levels, especially among those who need it the most: low self-esteemers.”
Dr Brummelman said:
“The distinction between narcissism and self-esteem has important implications for intervention efforts.
Over the past few decades, Western youth have become increasingly narcissistic.
It is therefore important to develop interventions that curb narcissism and raise self-esteem.”
The study was published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science (Brummelman et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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