Self-love and mental health go hand-in-hand. A healthy self-image enables almost anyone to meet life head-on and find their place and grounding in a world of others. Healthy self-love accepts one’s humanness and its challenges to be part of and to help shape a better world.
Healthy self-love does not inflate or distort or deceive. It is not blind to one’s limitations while accepting the responsibilities of life. Healthy self-love has non-myopic vision, wide open arms, and a heartbeat in sync with almost every other heart.
In narcissists self-love gets distorted. Their focus turns inward, fixating on Ego and one’s often subconscious neediness. Narcissus, in Greek mythology, falls in love with his own image, becoming unable to perceive anything or anyone else.
For psychologists, narcissists exhibit “grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration.” They are often perceived as “arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding.” They consistently focus on “their own success, beauty, brilliance … believe they are superior or special.”
Narcissists “seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them…[and] have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat, and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an ‘injury’ in the form of criticism or rejection.” (American Psychiatric Association)
Narcissists are Egocentric, perceiving the world only for what it offers them. They are takers who use others for their own purposes. For a narcissist, love of self at its extreme can be pathological: all-absorbing, ruthlessly seductive, and shamelessly manipulative, slashing out at others who dare to criticize.
Because of its fascination with celebrity and the explosion of social media, today’s world is a narcissist’s dream come true. There is no such thing as bad publicity for them, because any kind of media coverage becomes just another mirror for them.
Perhaps the best way to deal with one exhibiting this personality disorder is to keep one’s distance. Confrontation or criticism rarely registers in such a mindset except as another’s ignorance. Narcissists, of course, are perfect in their own eyes, living at the center of their own universe, thinking the entire universe revolves around them. Keeping one’s distance avoids feeding the neediness and adding Ego-bloat and turning the mirror into a magnifying one.
These days there is a challenge in this for all of us, especially the Media.