While I was several weeks into my hiatus this summer a new reader of this blog posed a great question I couldn't resist making an effort at answering despite my being on vacation. Because the question was in the comment section of an old post I thought I would re-post it...and my response...here on the front page. I think it was substantive enough of an answer that it deserves front and center placement.

Perhaps you could write about how it is that Ns can simultaneously "love" themselves and have low self-esteem.

Self-love which is not based on self-respect is the conundrum of the malignant narcissist. This conundrum explains why they can have "low self-esteem" and yet love themselves supremely. They are breathing examples of the consequences of always putting themselves first (which is the Biblical definition of self-love i.e. the one I use.) They are the living proof that self-love doesn't translate into true self-respect and reality-based feelings of liking oneself or at least being able to live with looking at yourself in the mirror.

Some people confuse self-love as feelings of affection for oneself. That is not correct. Self-love is defined by behavior. It is comprised of the behaviors of always thinking of and acting for oneself as if you are everyone's primary concern as well as your own primary concern. As if your wants and needs should supersede anyone else's wants or needs. This is intimately linked with a huge sense of entitlement. This is a self-love which is bereft of self-respect and honest good feelings about the self because it must trample on everyone else in order to exist.

How is self-respect gained? Self-respect is the result of self-discipline (which includes self-denial and putting off gratification) with the eye to future benefit (not only for the self, but also for others) resulting from these things. Self-respect has to be earned. We have to prove to ourselves that we deserve to respect ourselves. Constructive self-discipline is anathema to the malignant narcissist. If they were self-disciplined they would likely not be malignant narcissists.

Another way we could say it is "self-control". Self-discipline is self-control. MNs only use enough self-control to keep themselves from being caught in their crimes. They use just enough self-control to make sure only their victims see Mr. Hyde come out. That is not a constructive use of self-control; neither is it a self-control with any endurance. It is short term self-control used for selfish ends. I give them no credit for their occasional use of self-control. Any use of self-control by the narcissist is, once again, all about getting them what they want. Not about doing the right thing. Their limited use of self-control for their selfish ends only further corrupts them and their environment.

The narcissist doesn't do anything in the moral realm to earn self-respect therefore they tend to loathe themselves when they are forced to moments of introspection. If you've been in a long-term relationship with a narcissist be they parent or lover you've likely witnessed at least one of these moments when they seem black with the despair of their self-loathing. You've also likely been frightened to see the depth of their spiral into the blackness of their own souls. It can evoke great pity from the decent, but the reality is those moments are the dues they are paying to their demons. Every ounce of their self-loathing is earned. They deserve to feel like the pieces of crap they are. Yet it is likely someone will intervene with the necessary praise and comfort to lift these pieces of human debris from the hell of their own making without the narcissist truly having to grapple who they are and making a determined effort to come clean.

The narcissist's dependence on the praise of others is how they try to compensate for their lack of self-respect. The unmerited praise of others never has the ring of truth to it to the ear of the despicable one. Some part of their mind tells them these people are either lacking in full information and therefore are deceived, or they want something from the narcissist. But the more forceful part of their mind overrules these concerns and laps up the unmerited praise as their due. The narcissist is constantly forced to pursue more of the cheap imitation (self-love) to overcome the lack of the genuine article (self-respect). Their bad feelings about themselves may start to surface causing them to demand that their sources of supply release some of the sweet nectar of adulation to overcome the threat of self-knowledge.

Narcissists are living proof that self-love is not something to be desired or pursued. Self-love doesn't make us happy or make us better people. SELF-RESPECT should be the goal and aim for lasting happiness, contentment and true accomplishment in the life. Self-respect means you think well enough of yourself not to mistreat yourself. It doesn't mean you think you are better than others.

The narcissist's life proves you can't possibly 'love yourself' enough to overcome or compensate for the need for self-respect.

Self-love requires no moral accomplishment. Self-respect does require moral accomplishment. Anything worth having has to be worked for. The narcissist is not willing to put forth honest and good labor to make themselves into decent people. So they settle for loving themselves above all others...you can see where that takes them. Down the path of evil...

Self-love is as over-rated in our society as self-respect is under-rated. Time to get things into their proper order.

In the movie "An American Psychopath" starring Christian Bale the psychopath's anthem was "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston. It was the song the psychopath said summed up all of the truth of life itself. "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all". This was one of many truths of the narcissistically psychopathic mind portrayed well in this very disturbing movie. Where did self-love take the psychopath? On the path of ultimate entitlement. An entitlement which meant that depriving others of their lives was a worthy sacrifice to his self-love.

Self-love is not a virtue. Pursuing feelings of loving yourself will make a shipwreck of your soul. The narcissist is living proof of this reality.

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