Loving Yourself Vs. Narcissism

Loving Yourself Vs. Narcissism

Whether I am talking about loving myself, loving yourself or how someone should love themselves first, I am so freaking sick of some asshole piping up and saying how selfish that is. Or better yet, how narcissistic it is. What?

Then instead of having some sweet inspirational Facebook post I spent 12.5 minutes coming up with and wording properly—I end up in a debate about the difference between loving yourself and narcissism with some idiot who still can’t tell the difference.


Merriam-Webster defines narcissism as being egocentric. Being egocentric is defined as: caring too much about yourself and not other people.

Okay, so that’s what narcissism is. So that means narcissism is not:

  • Caring too much about yourself and caring too much about other people
  • Caring about yourself and caring too much about other people
  • Caring about yourself and caring about other people
  • Not caring about yourself and caring too much about other people
  • Not caring about yourself and caring about other people
  • Not caring about yourself and not caring about other people

Lots of wiggle room there!

Loving Yourself

Now that we’ve established what narcissism is and isn’t, let’s talk about loving yourself.

You know how on airplanes they make a big deal about putting your oxygen mask on first before assisting children and other passengers? That’s because until you’ve helped yourself it’s far more difficult to help someone else. And if you sit there and struggle to help someone else before you’ve helped yourself—you could die.

Think about that on the very most basic level. You are losing oxygen to your brain. You are expected to remedy that before you can help others. It’s not necessary to die, or go brain dead, in order to save someone else. Sorry but that’s stupid, not virtuous. Sure, you could get a medal for it, but what’s a hunk of tin compared to your life? You’re both better served if you do what they say and help yourself before you help someone else.

  • You are not a narcissist for putting on your mask first and then helping others.
  • You are a narcissist if you put on your mask first and don’t bother to help others.
  • You are just plain stupid if you don’t put on your mask first before assisting others.

So let’s be clear on that—loving yourself is like securing your own oxygen mask before you attempt to help others with theirs, while narcissism is like securing your own oxygen mask and not caring if everybody dies.

Let’s relate this newfound knowledge bomb to real life, shall we?

Work Burn-Out

So you’re overworked. You have a list of 45 things you need to do, your boyfriend feels neglected, and the laundry isn’t done (amongst a million other things). You feel like if you take a break, you’ll be even more behind, but you also feel wound tighter than a librarian’s bun.

Narcissism: Screw everyone! You work too hard for this BS! Take a day off from everything and everyone including your significant other. You totally deserve YOU time.

Stupid: Just keep working, burn out and watch your world crash down around you.

Oxygen Mask: Obviously make sure all pressing matters are handled, then take a day/night off and break it up. Pick one thing on the list to knock off– like the dishes or a load or two of laundry. Then spend some time doing something to recharge: Yoga, time with family, read a book etc. And then go spend some time with him, whether it be watching a couple of your shows, making dinner together or going out. Put your work on the back-burner. It’ll be there when you return and you’ll be refreshed and more productive when you do.

Relationship Hell

Things with your man are shit. Like absolute shit. You love each other and the relationship was good at one point, but now you have simply hit a massive rock in the road and aren’t quite in the repair stages yet. You know that you need some time to sort things out both together and separately. Meanwhile, your good friend is having troubles with her relationship too and constantly calling you and asking for your advice.

Narcissism: Screw her! How dare she whine to you about her problems when you have too many of your own? Just avoid her calls. She’ll drop off eventually.

Stupid: Answer every call and talk to her until 3am every night if that’s what it takes. Just because you can’t figure out your own shit doesn’t mean you can’t be a good friend and help her with hers, right?

Oxygen Mask: Seek some clarity from an outside source, perhaps your therapist or a friend with a relationship you admire. Talk things out (productively) with your significant other when possible. Listen, talk, and listen some more. Start to figure out the problem and take baby steps towards solving it. Then support your friend by telling her that you’re having a hard time as well, and while you aren’t the best person for advice at the moment, you’re happy to listen. Set boundaries up front so she knows that she needs to find additional people to lean on.

Financial Woes

Money is tight, and while you’re doing okay getting by, you have some important things coming up that you’re saving for. Your sister on the other hand is struggling pretty hard with money. She asks you for help this month with rent, but she’s notorious for never paying you back.

Narcissism: Sorry but she’s on her own. If you lend her money you’ll never see it again, which will totally screw you over with what you’re saving for.

Stupid: Lend her the money. Maybe this time she’ll pay you back…

Oxygen Mask: Make sure your finances are straight before you even consider lending her money. If you review and you have a little to spare– it’s up to you whether you want to give it to her or not, but it’s not your responsibility to take care of her finances. Instead, help her brainstorm ways she can get ahead. Maybe she could sell some things on eBay or you can have a joint yard sale. Reach out to your network and see if anyone knows of some part time work she’d be good for or even something full time that would be better than what she’s doing.

Ways to Start Loving Yourself

Sure those examples were major cornerstones of your life, but there are plenty of smaller ways to snap on that oxygen mask and love yourself. Try some of these and let the self-love begin.

  • Schedule in “you time” to avoid burn out. Yes, actually put these things on your calendar, whether it’s a workout class or knitting for an hour.
  • Have regular check-ins with yourself and ask these questions: Am I happy? Is there something I wish I was doing or doing more of? Am I taking care of myself the way I know I should be?
  • Take steps to improve upon anything that comes up in a check-in.
  • Set boundaries. Boundaries are best upheld when you set them in the beginning. If there’s something that you know will compromise you, don’t do it. Make sure others know what you will and won’t do.
  • Don’t “do” for people who can’t help themselves. If you fix other people’s problems for them, rather than helping them to solve them on their own, they’re just going to keep coming back. The best help is helping someone to be self-sufficient.
  • Look in the mirror and say nice things to that girl. Sounds cheesy, but the nicer you are to yourself, the more self-love will foster and grow.

 How do you go about loving yourself? Have you ever had the narcissism debate?

Image credit: Shutterstock 

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Chrystal Rose
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