“I love myself” and where it goes wrong: Self-love vs narcissism

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Do you accept and love yourself or are you the King of the world? Let you be the better judge by reading down below, the difference between self-love and narcissism.

Mein apni favourite hoon”, a phrase you would have heard a million times over, and with assurity said it out loud yourself. Irregardless of the fact that this dialogue is iconic or not, what really brings the matter to light here is the difference which has never been understood- the parallels of self-love and narcissism. Why are they considered one and the same thing by many and how and why there is a major difference between the two. Let us figure it out, through the course of this article.

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Let us focus on the primary word- love. Films and novellas have bruised and ruptured the core ideal of love. It was always a metatheatre for the viewers, love was described as objective, through someone else’s gaze, through shimmery red lipsticks and an elegant pearl choker or through a well-suited tuxedo and a steady walk or ballrooms. This is not all love entails. Love has always been described as a feeling of mutuality between two individuals. But what about loving yourself? Where does that fit in this frame?

This is where the concept of self-love emerges. I feel it is a subjective term, to each individual, his or her own. For myself, it is a feeling of accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and strengths alike. And it is tough, it is not a measure to see how perfect you are, but being true to yourself and making peace with yourself. Self-love is correlated with self-esteem as well, it determines your outlook towards things, your acceptance for what goes on in life and a strive to become better. This is the purest form of self-love. Now let us talk about how it gets marketed in our lives. Having scars, not being the perfect figure, being too tall or too short, too pale or too dark, to shy or too strong, all of these are among the innumerable categories under which we can bring self-love to.

I also feel, it is safe to say that it is the 21st century when the core ideals of self-love began, when all of us got knit into the internet and when the personal got broadcast to a global audience. The reason this concept or philosophy got such a big response is because how vernacular it felt to each and every one. a sense of being able to relate arose and with that arose the feeling that you are not the only one who lives with insecurities, you outgrow them or you accept them and move on to become better. If self-love is such a simple concept, tough to follow, I agree, then why is it misinterpreted as narcissism?

keerat kaur

Narcissism on the other hand is this obsessive and excessive admiration one holds towards themselves, such as idealizing their physical appearance, outlook and developing a sense of entitlement. If you see Miranda Priestly storming out of her office with an excessively entitled opinion and a mood to shred you to pieces on how you dress yourself, you know you are facing a narcissist. A narcissist develops a ‘mental hierarchy’ giving him or her, a sense of complacency, and this undying need to seek validation for everything.

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Heena Garg, a literature student from Maitreyi College says, “as entertaining as it is to watch a portrayal of such a self-absorbed person in films, in reality, it is really difficult to deal with such a person. Having had such a friendship with someone before, it sometimes feels like a one-sided effort, as the other person just sees themselves, everywhere”. Taking a cue from Bollywood films, the iconic Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum or Anil Kapoor in Dil Dhadakne Do present a deeper insight, which we wishfully ignore in attempts to enjoy the film, rather than decode the characters. Sometimes, portrayals of such characters are impressionable on the minds of the youth. The line, “kaun hai yeh, jisne dubara mudke mujhe nahi dekha”, by Kareena Kapoor, may provide a sense of hilariousness, but deep down, it also reflects the dire need to be seen and attract the attention of others, especially the one from the opposite sex. While self-love is about cleansing yourself of the negative, narcissism becomes the engulfment of so many negative thoughts. The insecurity with which one lives in soon turns into spite, competition with others, even your loved and cherished ones and a constant need for approval.

Studies showcase how it is people with narcissism who face a really low self-esteem and in order to compensate for the same, accept and create a virtual atmosphere around them where they are the only perfect or best people around. Gargi Singh, a psychology student in Delhi University says, “narcissism tends to arise in cases where the parent-child relationships is either filled with excessive adoration or excessive criticism leading to this inflated sense of the self”. The childhood and the adolescent shape how the future for us goes and as in a lot of philosophical arguments, the childhood is the most important stage in anyone’s life as it lays the psychological groundwork for us for the future as well.

Hence, sit down and relax. When you say “I love myself”, do you really mean it as a sense of accepting who you truly are or as a way to establish a sense of superiority to settle a trigger? Think more, breathe mire and introspect. I’ll take off now.

Image credits: Keerat Kaur, Tumblr and IDiva

Avnika Chhikara
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