Is it self love or narcissism?
Self love is way more talked about on social media, which is great but when can this become toxic? If you’ve been doing what you’ve seen online: the bubble baths, the face masks, buying the luxury pjs and you still don’t feel like you can learn to love yourself… we have to talk about when what you’re being shown is actually self love or narcissism.
When it comes to practicing self love, specifically… narcissism is NOT self love. And self love is NOT narcissism.
If you google the definition of narcissism, you’ll probably find this definition at the top “excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance” and it’s easy to conclude that anyone who is confident in their skin and showing that off is a narcissist but…
A deeper meaning of narcissism can come from looking into the DSM which is a manual used by various healthcare professionals (clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, & more) to diagnose mental disorders.
Yes, narcissism is considered a mental disorder (NPD) in healthcare.
In the DSM-5, narcissism is defined as: “a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.”
Lack of empathy, from what I’ve been reading, is a big key factor. You can admire what your body looks like and be a highly empathetic person at the same time. But if you only knew the dictionary definition of narcissism, you might think you are one.
So when do you know when something is self love or narcissism?
I think it comes down to relationships. A true narcissist doesn’t feel good to be around because of the lack of empathy. People feel invisible around a narcissist so they tend to repel healthy relationships.
Does your self care allow you to love yourself and still make space in your life for the people that are important to you? Yes? Then that’s self love, not narcissism.
Does protecting your energy in the name of self love leave room for you to be compassionate towards other people and forms of life? Narcissists, because of their lack of empathy, find it easy to just cut people off when there is an argument or something significant happens without having a conversation about it or taking the time to really see and hear the side of the other person. It’s important to note that the same cutting-people-off thing can happen if you have unresolved trauma, and it is self love to have a look at that & change it.
Do you spend a lot of time alone but you also spend time with family/friends and you really know them? Yes? Then that’s self love, not narcissism. Narcissists aren’t very good listeners & are so self absorbed that they can’t really see you.
A key part of self love
If you don’t have close, nurturing relationships in your life, I would argue you are doing self love incorrectly. And that’s not a “bad” thing, you’re still worthy of love if you’re in this space. There’s just some learning and healing that might need to happen.
You see, self love, at least the way I define it, requires you to be your own parent. In a way where all of your needs are being met. And since you’re a human being, you have social needs.
If you don’t have time to be social with at least one person, it’ll be hard to be happy. You’ll feel like something is lacking because your body has been conditioned to know that survival & safety comes from having relationships.
This is how you were nurtured as a baby, this is how our ancient ancestors survived by living in tribes, you get the picture.
And I’m not saying you’re a narcissist if you don’t have close relationships, (all the narcissists already got mad at this blog post and left) it could be something else like:
- Having a parent or caretaker that was/is a narcissist
- Childhood trauma
- Sexual abuse
- Addiction (even to your phone or social media)
- & more
But what I am saying is relationships are a key part of self love because socializing with people who see you, love you, and make you feel good is one of your needs as a human being.
And also: self love is an important part of being able to even have the capacity to socialize. You have to fill your cup before you can give to others, we all know that, right?
Self love is about doing the work
It’s a consistent investment of time to yourself where you are purposely practicing something. It’s a nourishing action that you do again, and again, and again.
Like brushing your teeth for example, that’s self love. Because you’re caring for your dental health & your future self’s mouth.
But again to point to narcissism, self love goes much deeper than appearances. It’s totally fine to be into your looks, but narcissists will be more concerned about looking good even when things beneath the looks are a pile of shit because their self esteem is too low to be honest even with themselves.
Going deeper than putting on make up, taking that long luxurious bath… self love is about doing the work. The uncomfortable work that you want to avoid but that will make your life better. I’m talking therapy, mindset work, somatic work, owning up to your shit, having difficult conversations, etc.
In case you’re someone like me, anxious & recovering from having a narcissistic parent, I want to give you a simple, easy thing you can start doing right now.
This will slowly build your capacity to notice when you are acting in ways that isn’t in line with who you want to be. It will build your self esteem.
It will build your capacity to have healthier relationships. It will help grow your sense of security and safety so that you can do new things or go to therapy for the first time.
And that is starting a mindfulness practice. Again, self love is when you purposely take a nourishing action over and over again. Mindfulness is in my opinion one of the most nourishing actions you can take.
Because it sets the stage, literally it creates a strong foundation for you to stand on and create your life on purpose.
You can start a mindfulness practice right now with a 5 minute meditation. For some ideas check out this post how to meditate if you can’t sit still.
So is it self love or narcissism?
A period of time where you’re mostly isolated but doing the work might be just what you need to let other people into your heart. It doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist, it means you need to heal and relearn safety.
As long as the actions you take again and again for yourself are eventually going to led you to a place where you can be fulfilled socially, I think that’s self love.
But if you’re taking care of your body, your looks, and nothing else… that’s not self love. All your needs aren’t being met by you. And that’s your responsibility, not anyone elses.
If you want support with creating more self love and healthy relationships in your life, this is the main focus of my work. You can work with me 1:1, which you can find out about here or you can sign up for one of my courses here.
And if you think you might be a narcissist and you want help, find yourself a therapist. A great resource I like to use is Open Path Collective
Hey! I'm Cilia
Sex, Love, and Relationship coach for women who want to experience more pleasure and connection in self love & relationships
I help women ground, feel, & express freely through mindfulness, compassion, and sacred ritual so that they can feel confident, fulfilled, and HAWT!