Thursday, September 27, 2007


How to Tell Healthy Self-Esteem from Narcissism

By Martha Beck

Try this: Go to the person in your life who reeks of self-esteem and ask, "In what ways do you think you need to grow or change?" If the person is psychologically healthy, the list will be as long as your leg. That's because real self-esteem is based on finding areas where we can improve ourselves and honestly working to overcome problems. Healthy people know that they are always a work in progress. Narcissists, on the other hand, will tell you they have nothing to change. Narcissists often live in anguish, while refusing to accept that their own behavior has anything to do with their discontent.

Have a Narcissist in Your Life?

To deal with narcissists, it helps to understand that they generally detest themselves at some level. They've fully incorporated the values of some highly judgmental social system (a family, a religion, a community), where love is given or withheld based on external criteria. (If you're beautiful, thin and smart, you'll be loved; if you're a fat, ugly grade-school dropout, forget it.) People who are socialized this way become addicted to status markers the way junkies are addicted to intoxicants; they crave praise because it's the closest they ever get to unconditional love.