When someone calls you a narcissist, it's usually not meant as a compliment. The term is derived from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who was so in love with his own reflection that he sat down and stared at it until he died. Likewise, unhealthy narcissism is characterised by arrogance, insecurity, and obsessing over oneself while caring very little about anyone else.
But is there such a thing as healthy narcissism? According to modern psychology, yes, there is.
Healthy narcissism is about finding joy in aspects of yourself without arrogantly lording it over others. It benefits you and those around you and sets the stage for healthy relationships.
Want to know more? Find out all about healthy narcissism in the guide below.
What Is Healthy Narcissism?
Both healthy and unhealthy narcissism refer to how much you enjoy/like yourself.
Unhealthy narcissists have a puffed-up, exaggerated idea of how important they are. They see all others as less valuable than themselves.
Healthy narcissism starts with seeing yourself as accurately as possible. It means having an appropriate level of self-worth and not going overboard with it.
But, furthermore, it means feeling joy about your own value. Healthy narcissists are pleased by their appearance and satisfied with their talents; they feel good about a job well done. And they experience these joys without resorting to the devaluing of others.
Who Needs Healthy Narcissism?
There are two types of people on opposite sides of the self-worth spectrum who can benefit from healthy narcissism.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder view themselves as more important than other people. These unhealthy narcissists have an inaccurate self-image. They also have an inaccurate, unhealthy view of others.
This skewed perspective impairs their ability to have healthy relationships with others. They also live in an unhappy world where no one can live up to their expectations.
They are lonely and long for companionship, but no one is "good enough" for them. So they drive everyone away.
On the other hand, they're also attracted to unhealthy relationships. They enjoy the company of enablers who reinforce their exaggerated self-importance.
How Does Healthy Narcissism Help?
Healthy narcissism helps these narcissists to love themselves in a new way—one where they don't have to devalue others to feel good about themselves. An unhealthy narcissist's sense of self-worth is dependant on comparison to other people. They feel good about themselves when they think they're better than other people.
Healthy narcissism removes this need for comparison. It teaches one to enjoy one's own identity, personality, talents, and other characteristics independent of the characteristics of others.
This leads unhealthy narcissists to view others without comparison and see that everyone has things that make them valuable. Through this, they can develop compassion and empathy for others and be nicer, happier people.
People Who Have a Negative Self-Image
People with an inaccurately low sense of self-worth are unhappy and prone to being used and/or abused by others. Because they see others as more valuable than themselves, they let others walk all over them.
They are also easily manipulated by guilt. Others may shame them into doing their bidding.
With no hope in themselves or their abilities, they are unmotivated to try, follow through, or accomplish anything. They are prone to depression and anxiety and usually stay in a perpetual low mood. They may turn to some type of addiction to self-medicate.
How Does Healthy Narcissism Help?
Healthy narcissism can gradually erase these symptoms of low self-worth. If you feel good about your talents, about trying hard, and about your accomplishments, you begin to have joy in your life.
You'll have motivation to do more because you enjoy doing your best. You'll be more productive and start dreaming up goals for your life.
You'll be more secure about yourself and won't need the approval of others so desperately. You'll stand up for yourself because you like yourself.
You'll stop letting yourself be manipulated by those who guilt-trip you. Their harmful words won't affect you as much because you're pleased with who you are.
How to Develop Healthy Narcissism
Here are a few practical steps to developing healthy narcissism yourself.
Listen to People Who Care About You
Each of us has many people in our lives saying many different things about us. Many of us have an unhealthy habit of caring more about what is said than who's saying it.
Someone with low self-esteem hears only the degrading messages and disbelieves any compliments. An unhealthy narcissist ignores all criticism and takes only flattery to heart. Both of these are irrational, unhealthy reactions to others' opinions of us.
What we should care about is who's giving the opinion. The only praise or criticism that really matters is that which comes from someone who truly cares about you.
Those who love you know you well and give their honest opinion. When they tell you you're talented, or that you're wrong about something, don't immediately reject what is being said.
Don't Listen to the Rabble
The other part of this is, don't pay much heed to the other voices. If an acquaintance or stranger says you're not very smart, don't take it personally.
After all, what do they know about you anyway? Who are they to tell you who you are and what you should be?
Instead of letting it get to you, remember those who care about you and what they think about you. What would they have to say about this comment? Would they agree or disagree?
Furthermore, those who care about you can speak for themselves. You don't have to on speculate their answers, ask them!
Allow Yourself to Feel Unconditional Joy
A big obstacle to healthy narcissism is conditional joy. That is, many of us won't allow ourselves to feel joy unless certain conditions are met.
Unhealthy narcissists must be assured of their superiority over others to feel joy. Those with low self-esteem never allow feelings of joy because they think they're unworthy. They believe they are not "good enough" to deserve such positive feelings.
In order to feel joy about yourself the healthy way, you need to let go of any "conditions" for joy. Discard the idea that you need a reason to feel good. Practise allowing yourself to feel joy for no reason at all.
This erodes unhealthy pretences that govern how you feel.
Are You a Healthy Narcissist?
You are valuable and you should feel good about it. Remember carefully what you've learned here today and apply it. Experience the wholesome joys of healthy narcissism.
To learn more healthy habits, see our free self-help toolkits.