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Narcissism is NOT High Self-esteem, Self-worth, Self-confidence (Role of Attribution Error)

Uploaded 3/2/2024, approx. 34 minute read

People are attracted to the narcissist because he exudes this self-confidence, a sense of secure base like in early childhood, a kind of emanation of safety and stability, reliability, a rock in turbulent waters.

So the narcissist becomes a pivot around which everyone revolves, attempting, often in vain, to benefit from this constant presence.

But it's all fake of course. The narcissist is the least confident person on earth. Internally, the narcissist is in mayhem, chaotic and subjected to the vagaries and cruelties of a harsh inner critic, sadistic super ego, a bad object, a constellation of voices that keep informing him, how bad he is, how unworthy he is, how inadequate, how ugly, how revolting, how stupid and so on and so forth.

Narcissism therefore is compensatory. It compensates for an inferiority complex with a display of ostentatious superiority. It compensates for constant failure, defeat for being a loser, for collapsing all the time. It compensates for all these with conspicuous accomplishments, alleged in most cases, confabulated.

And so this is the narcissist, a shimmering, shimmering facade, a projection beyond which and behind which there is nothing, the wizard of all.

And today's video deals with the question, what is the difference between self-confidence and narcissism, a high self-esteem and narcissism, a sense of self-worth and narcissism?

Because we tend to confuse these things. We tend to think that someone who is proud of his or her accomplishments is a narcissist.

If he's too confident, he's a narcissist. If he is a bit boastful, he's a narcissist.

That of course is wrong. And why it is wrong, I'm going to teach you or attempt to teach you in this video.


And who am I to teach you?

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I'm the great, great granddaddy of the narcissistic abuse field.

And I'm a former visiting professor of psychology and currently on the faculty of CEAP's Commonwealth Institute for Advanced Professional Studies.

Let us delve right in.


We all compare ourselves to internalized standards and expectations.

We all expect things from ourselves. We all hold ourselves to measure, compare ourselves to benchmarks, performance, standards of behaviors, and so on and so forth.

And this ongoing background of comparison determines how we feel about ourselves.

Now, perfectionism, when the internalized standards are such that you can never meet them, you can never measure up to your own standards. You're setting yourself up for failure.

Perfectionism is when you can never meet your own expectations because they are so unrealistic, so inflated, so grandiose, so divorced from reality, you're not grounded.

So perfectionism leads to narcissism, an eternal striving to match demanding voices, demanding inner expectations and standards, physical appearance, ability, achievement, peer acceptance, recognition, personal traits, and so on and so forth.

Harter, H-A-R-T-E-R, made a whole list in 1983.

So the first thing to realize is that healthy self-esteem involves self-acceptance and self-love.

And if you're a perfectionist, you never accept yourself. And you are able and incapable of loving yourself because you're never good enough. You're always inadequate. You always fail. You're always defeated by your own standards and internalized expectations.

But these voices inside you that keep telling you, you could do better. What's wrong with you? Why are you so under-accomplished? Push yourself harder. Work more. Study deeper. Don't let go. Don't relax. Don't enjoy life.

So perfectionism is a key difference between healthy self-esteem and narcissism.

A healthy sense of self-worth is regulated, is stable. You know what is your worth. You know how worthy you are. Of course, because it is grounded in reality, you're equally aware of your own shortcomings, deficiencies, lack of skills or talents, the limitations of your abilities, coupled with your strengths.

So a healthy sense of self-worth is like SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

And because it pertains to you, and because you are the world's foremost and leading authority on you, your sense of self-worth is stable and you're able to regulate it. It is modified, of course, by feedback from others. It is subject to the vicissitudes, the ups and downs and the cycles of experience.

Therefore, it is modifiable, this sense of self-worth, but without compromising or without altering the core identity.

There is something which is indeed rock-like, immutable, something that is you. And this something is untouchable by anything that comes from the outside.

Bednar, Wells and Peterson in 1988, 1989, I'm sorry, described what they called situated self-esteem.

They said that everyone has a sense of self-worth and self-esteem and so on and so forth.

But of course, it is reactive to different situations in different environments and in accordance with different circumstances.

So it is circumstantial in some ways, but it is still there, recognizable beyond all the circumstances.

So there's a core and there's a way the core manifests as the environment changes and that is healthy.

Narcissism, on the other hand, is totally reactive to the environment and we'll discuss it in a minute.

Narcissism involves also something called attribution errors.

A stable, regulated sense of self-worth doesn't do attribution errors and we will discuss attribution errors in the second part of this video.

Coming back to the environmental messages from the environment, the information, the cues, the stimuli that keep coming from the environment.

You remember that narcissism is compensatory, compensates for an inner emptiness, a sense of inadequacy, of being unlovable, obeyed, self-rejection, self-loathing.

So narcissism compensates for all this by pretending to be god-like. God is of course lovable, God is of course perfect, God is of course infallible, God is of course adequate, God is everything the narcissist is not, so the narcissist chooses to not be.

A sense of self-worth which is healthy and stable and regulated is not compensatory. It doesn't compensate for anything, it just is, it's innate.

Consequently, narcissism is totally reactive to the environment.

You remember we said earlier that a healthy sense of self-worth does react to the environment, can be modified by the environment, is sometimes situated or situational and circumstantial.

All this is true, a healthy sense of self-worth is grounded in reality and interacts with it.

A healthy sense of self-worth absorbs information from the environment and acts on this information.

In order to become more and more self-efficacious, we'll discuss Bandura's concept of self-efficacy a little later.

That's not the same in narcissism, whereas a healthy sense of self-worth reacts with the environment, reacts with reality, reacts with others in order to modify certain aspects within a core which is unchangeable and untouchable.

Narcissism is about recreating the appearance of a core on the fly, it's improvisation.

Narcissism is totally construed by the environment.

Narcissism comes into being through other people's gaze. It is externally regulated.

Narcissism's ups and downs, narcissism's convictions and beliefs and narcissism's conduct and choices and decisions and preferences and values, everything is determined, determined from the outside time and again and consequently there's no consistency, that's what we call identically disturbed, it's also common in borderline.

While self-esteem, healthy self-esteem, high self-esteem, self-confidence are only minimally determined by the environment and they are self-correcting, they are internally regulated, they are internal feedback mechanisms within healthy self-worth and healthy self-esteem and healthy self-confidence and these internal feedback mechanisms, feedback loops, self-rectify, recalibrate, self-modify, it all comes from the inside not from the outside.

Therefore someone with a healthy sense of self-worth is likely to have a very well developed conscience, voices that guide the individual, voices that tell you this is wrong and this is right.

Think of the consequences, not rush, voices that curb your impulses or help you to control them, inhibit you to some extent, this is healthy, this is very healthy and so narcissism is constructed on the fly via feedback from multiple sources from the outside, multiple external sources.


While a sense of self-worth which is healthy and stable and regulated is constructed from the inside taking into account out a feedback from the outside but adhering to a relatively rigid core of self-awareness. It's internally regulated and self-correcting whereas narcissism is externally regulated and has no mechanism for recalibration, introspection and self-correction.

When the narcissist misbehaves, when the narcissist fails or collapses, the narcissist's bed object flares up, triggered, is triggered and the bed object undermines or challenges the narcissist's grandiosity.

The narcissist's grandiosity informs the narcissist, it's a cognitive distortion, it tells the narcissist you're god-like, it's an inflated self-perception and self-image and here comes the bed object triggered by failure and defeat and mishap and misbehavior and its consequences.

Here comes the bed object and says to the narcissist it's all wrong, your grandiosity is all wrong, you're a nobody, you're a loser, you're a failure and so this creates dissonance, enormous dissonance and to preserve the grandiose self-image, to defend against shame and guilt and envy and antagonism, to restore his grandiosity, he's or her, half of all narcissists are women, to restore his grandiosity, the narcissist refrains and if necessary and when necessary confabulates, creates narratives and stories and fiction out of thin air to solve his wounds or incipient wounds, he casts himself sometimes as pro-social, altruistic, moral, the victim.

So narcissists are likely to say these ideas, this work is mine, I did not steal these ideas from anyone, I did not plagiarize anyone, when of course the truth is that the narcissist did or the narcissist would say I committed this crime because I had no choice, when of course he did have a choice or a narcissist would say I slept with my best friend's girlfriend because he trapped me into it, he made me do it, she seduced me or whatever, these are known as alloplastic defenses and they were first described long time ago, I'm referring to articles by Ruskin, Novacek and Hogan as early as 1991.

These attempts to rewrite history, to recast oneself in the role of a good person, a good object, hyper-moral, amazingly just, incredibly on a crusade of fixing and healing and rescuing and saving people, all these denote or tell us that the narcissist is in a state of dissonance and he's attempting to resolve the dissonance by reinventing himself, lying to himself, cognitively distorting his reality and his perception, his thinking into grandiosity, which is the ultimate refuge not of the scoundrel but of the narcissist, not much of a difference mind you.

So this is one example of a compensatory mechanism in narcissism, this is a cognitive compensatory mechanism in narcissism and it demonstrates to us the difference between narcissism and a healthy sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, because a narcissist compensates by distorting reality, lying about himself and others and believing his own lies, confabulating, creating fantasy.

A narcissist goes through all these exercises precisely because he has no self-confidence, his self-esteem is low and easily challenged, he is fragile and the narcissist's sense of self-worth is labile, keeps fluctuating and he requires narcissistic supply to stabilize it and regulate it on an unrealistic plateau, unrealistic level.

The only way the narcissist has any sense of self-worth, any self-esteem and any self-confidence is when and if he is totally divorced from reality, when and if he is embedded 100,000% in a fantasy of his own making, shared or not shared, grandiose fantasy or shared fantasy, fantasy it is, the narcissist inhabits fantastic spaces, he is in never descends, he is never grounded, he never really interacts with reality, he is unable to perceive other people as external objects for Christ's sake, I mean that's the end of any attempt to somehow touch reality.

William James was the first to describe many many decades well over a century, William James was the first to describe the concepts of self-worth, of esteem, self-assurance, of regard and so on so forth in his work.

I mentioned the seminal studies by Bednar, Welles and Peterson and then he finds self-esteem as subjective and realistic self-approval, they pointed out that I'm quoting self-esteem reflects how the individual views and values the self at the most fundamental levels of psychological experiencing, they said that different aspects of the self create a profile of emotions associated with the various roles in which the person operates and that self-esteem is an enduring and effective sense of personal value based on accurate self-perceptions, the same author suggested that a theory of self-esteem must take into account the important role of an individual's self-talk and self-faults, these voices inside the individual that keep interacting with the individual, keep initiating dialogues or monologues among which is the self's authentic voice, the individual's authentic voice, the only voice which cannot be attributed to mother, father, neighbors, peers, role models, mass medias, social media and so on.

When you have eliminated these foreign imports, these voices, what you're left with is the authentic self or the authentic voice and this voice is engaged constantly in what the authors called self-talk and self-thoughts, they said that self-esteem is based on this self-talk as well as the perceived appraisal of other people, they concluded that high or low levels of self-esteem are the result and the reflection of the internal effective feedback the organism most commonly experiences and so a significant aspect in self-esteem, its evolution, its development, its maintenance is how you cope with feedback from the outside from others because this feedback feeds into your self-talk, anything you import from the outside immediately begins to interact synergetically with voices already inside your mind with prior experiences and convictions and beliefs and thoughts and so input from the outside tries to fit in already existing frameworks and if it doesn't, if it fails to fit in, it challenges them and breaks them and induces transformation inside you, that's a healthy process.

Healthy people react to positive feedback and negative feedback the same way, they have an internal compass, a guidance system, they have a core around which healthy, around which I'm sorry negative and positive feedback coalesce to form a cohesive structure, a functioning structure, so it is as if the core of the individual is like a giant magnet, it attracts information, some of it is positive, some of it is negative, all this information enhances the core, enhances it in a good sense, not grandiosely, makes it more coherent, makes it more cohesive, makes it more functional, makes it more reasonable, makes it more realistic, these are healthy things, even negative input, negative feedback has this impact of increasing mental health but in the narcissist, negative feedback from the outside feeds directly into the bed object in collaborates and colludes with the voices inside the narcissist that are harshly and sadistically negative, the enemy hostile antagonistic voices inside the narcissist, that one the narcissist is dead, that inducing the narcissist's self-loathing and self-rejection is ultimately self-defeat, it's self-destruction, negative feedback exposes the fault lines in the narcissist's fragile, brittle pseudo personality, wannabe personality and of course everything falls apart, reaction to negative feedback is a major differential test, if you react to negative feedback with equanimity yet you're open to the content and you modify and transform yourself accordingly, if you consider negative feedback as constructive regardless of its nature actually, you're healthy, if you react to negative feedback with rage, with aggression, with insecurity, with self-doubting, with other doubting, with devaluation of the source, with counter-attacks, with vengeance, with fury, with your narcissist.


Ben Darrin, Peterson and others suggested that if individuals avoid rather than cope with negative feedback they have to devote substantial effort to and I'm quoting "gain the approval of others by impression management" that is pretending to be what we believe is most acceptable to others and even if you as an individual you respond to negative feedback by striving, by constantly attempting to manage the impression that you make on others to gain their approval, affirmation, adulation to extract narcissistic supply, that's exhausting, that's taxing, that's depleting.

As Ben Darrin and others and his colleagues say you have to render most of the favorable feedback that you receive as untrustworthy, unbelievable, psychologically impotent because there is an internal awareness that you're working very hard to obtain it, that it's all of a sad, it's all for show, you know you're fake, you know you are faking it, you're not yourself in order to extract narcissistic supply and I'm talking now about the narcissist, yes, healthy people don't do that, healthy people don't manage impressions, healthy people, at least not to that extent, healthy people don't derive their sense of existence and identity from the reactions of others, they don't have a hive mind, healthy people, narcissists do and so never mind how much, how often and how regular narcissistic supply is, it's never enough because there's always a suspicion I succeeded to deceive them, I pulled the wool over their eyes, they're so stupid they can't see through me, so you need additional affirmation, you need to go to the next source and the next source and the next source, it's like constantly conducting an opinion poll in order to see how popular you are, how amazing you are, what a genius you are, how incredibly handsome you are, how Sam Vaknin-like you are, etc.

I love my jokes and my voice and you get a lot of both in my videos, my apologies and condolences.

So in a healthy person there's no external regulation, other regulation comes from the inside and it is reactive to feedback from the outside but not determined by it.

In a narcissist there is compulsive seeking of feedback from the outside because all regulation is external, there's nothing happening inside because there's nobody inside, there's nothing inside.

The narcissist therefore is a collection of appearances and assemblage a troupe, theater troupe of scenery and facades.

The first sentence I ever wrote on narcissism ever in the late 80s was the narcissist is a theater production and the scenery took over.

To the extent that one's self-esteem is based on competition, on comparison, on relative positioning, it can be enhanced by identifying with groups or with individuals and by denigrating and devaluing other groups and individuals as inferior to oneself in terms of status, in terms of birth, in terms of accomplishment, in terms of external appearance, internal, in terms of intellect etc.

So healthy people with well-structured, self-regulated sense of self-worth, high self-esteem, self-confidence that is grounded in reality, such healthy people they don't compare themselves to others, they don't compete with others.

It's a myth, they don't do that. If you're healthy you know how you know your worth, you know how good you are, you know how bad you are, you know your limitations, you know your limitations, you know your strengths, you know where to begin and when to stop, you know your boundaries, you don't need to compare yourself to anyone, you don't need to compete with anyone, you are you.

But if you're narcissist you constantly compare, you constantly compete, you constantly position yourself, you're very envious, envy drives you. You then have to cast everyone else as inferior to you and yourself as a divinity, a deity, godlike and superior.

According to research there's a phenomenon known as basking in reflected glory. It was first reported by Chaldini very early on in 1974-976. Lee expounded on it in 1985, Kowalski in 91 has been going on.

Basking in reflected glory is the tendency to strengthen an association with successful people, successful groups or collectives in order to feel that you are successful by proxy. This is a covert technique of course and distance yourself from people who have experienced failure and defeat from so-called losers.

So it's a technique of self-enhancement. Again people with healthy self-confidence, self-esteem and a self-regulated stable sense of self-worth don't choose friends because they're successful. They don't distance themselves from family members or colleagues because they have failed.

This is what narcissists do. Now I mentioned when we were all much younger that narcissists often commit attribution errors whereas healthy people don't.

Now what is an attribution error? There are various types. The fundamental attribution error in attribution theory is the tendency to overestimate the degree to which behavior is determined by the environment.

Underestimate, I'm sorry let me rephrase this. Fundamental attribution error is the tendency to overestimate the degree to which an individual behavior is determined by personal characteristics, attitudes and beliefs and underestimates the contribution of the environment to specific behaviors.

So someone who commits a attribution error would observe a behavior in another person and would attribute this behavior to the personality of that other person, to the character, to the temperament of that other person. He would not attribute the behavior to the circumstances of that other person, to the environment, to the personal history of that other person, to this other person's experiences.

So this is an attribution error. It's to say that all behavior emanates and is the outcome and derives from who you are, not from your circumstances or environment.

So this tendency for attribution error, also known as correspondence bias, over attribution bias, and so on and so forth, was first described by Lee D. Ross, U.S. social psychologist.

So this tendency underlies a lot of narcissism. We'll come to it in a minute. We're discussing now fundamental attribution error and to remind you it's a tendency to attribute another person's actions to their character and personality while attributing your own behavior to external situational factors outside your control.

In other words, the narcissist cuts himself a break, cuts himself some slack while holding other people 100% accountable and responsible for their actions. The narcissist would say other people are misbehaving because they're even, they're bad, they're vicious, they are psychopathic, they're goal-oriented, they are something. It is their nature to misbehave. I am misbehaving because I have no choice, because I've been duped, because I'm a victim, because of circumstances, because I've been entrapped by someone. My misbehavior is not my fault. Other people's misbehavior is their fault because of who they are. They're misbehaving because of who they are, so they are irredeemable. There's nothing you can do about other people. It's who they are and they're going to continue to misbehave.

I am a good person. I'm a moral person, upstandingly moral, self-righteous, and if I've ever lapsed or misbehaved, it's 100% not my fault. They made me do it. Someone made me do it. Alloplastic defenses.

And this is the fundamental attribution error.


Nowupstandingly moral, self-righteous, and if I've ever lapsed or misbehaved, it's 100% not my fault. They made me do it. Someone made me do it.

Circumstances made me do it. Alloplastic defenses. And this is the fundamental attribution error.

Now, it involves something known as naive analysis of action.

Again, in attribution theory, it's the process of reasoning or intuiting by making naive assumptions about people, by regarding people as one-dimensional or two-dimensional.

Attribution theory, I keep mentioning attribution theory, it's a theoretical framework, proposition, about the processes by which people ascribe motives to their own behaviors and motives or motivations to other people's behaviors. And particularly, whether these motives are internal or external, personal or circumstantial, dispositional, out of disposition, proclivity or situation.

Harold Kelly identified three general principles of attribution.

The covariation principle, for a factor to be considered as a cause of behavior, it must be present when the behavior occurs and not present when the behavior does not occur.

The second factor is the discounting principle. It states that the role of a particular cause in producing a particular effect should be given less weight if other plausible causes are also present.

And then there's the augmentation principle. If someone performs an action when there are known constraints or cause or risks, then their motive for doing so must be stronger than any inhibitory motives or inhibitions.

So Kelly's work and other attribution theories, correspondence, correspondent interference theory, and naive analysis theory, and so on and so forth, they are at the core of attribution theory.

And I think narcissism to a very large extent is attribution error embedded in fantasy. Or put it differently, the narcissist's constant attribution errors, which are the outcomes of his need for alloplastic defense.

The narcissist needs to negate his bed object. The narcissist's bed object, the voices in the narcissist that keep informing the narcissist that his bed, unworthy, unlovable, a zero, a loser, failure, these voices are life threatening because they are conjuncted with, they're connected with primordial shame as a child. They are life threatening. The narcissist needs to negate this bed object. And the only way to negate it is by collecting external voices that contradict the internal voices. External voices known as narcissistic supply.

And to obtain narcissistic supply, to secure narcissistic supply, the narcissist needs to create a fantasy, confabulations, a facade, and sell it to others. And so to maintain this facade, to sustain the fantasy, the narcissist needs to believe some things about himself, and to believe other things about other people. He needs to believe that everything good is because of who he is, that his superiors are unique, amazing, godlike, perfect. So he needs to attribute everything positive to himself, as emanating from who he is, as reflective of his essence. And at the same time, he needs to attribute everything positive in other people, to circumstances, to situations, to the environment. So his accomplishments are because he's a genius. Other people's accomplishments are because they're lucky, or because they are plagiarists, or something. This is an example of attribution error.

Another type of attribution error in narcissism is to say that everything negative in the narcissist is the outcome of circumstances. It's the result of the environment comes from the outside, is imposed on the narcissist. Other people make him do it. Other people entrap him. Other people coerced him. He was not, he's not guilty of anything negative.

So anything positive with an narcissist is dispositional, has to do with him. And anythingnegative with people is because of who they are. He devalues other people. He holds them as inferior, evil, wicked, sinful, stupid.

So this is mirror image fundamental attribution error in narcissism.

The narcissist's dispositional attribution, he ascribes to himself internal psychological personal causes when the outcomes are positive.

And he ascribes to others internal personal psychological causes when their behaviors or outcomes are negative. He says their traits, the stupid, their moods, their attitudes, their decisions, their judgments, their abilities, the lack of effort, their lazy, they're there to blame for their negative, for the negative outcomes in their lives.

I'm not to blame for the negative outcomes in my life because I've been victimized. I've been manipulated. I've been entrapped. I've been deceived. I'm all good. Others are all bad.

Yes, the famous splitting mechanism, internal attribution, personal attribution, dispositional attribution, coupled with situational attribution in narcissism in the way that I've described.

There's another theory of attribution. It's known as correspondent inference theory. This model describes how people form inferences, assumptions about other people's stable personality characteristics by observing their behaviors.

We observe other people's behaviors and then we say, okay, this behavior is so consistent, so regular, so often repeats itself that it must be indicative, probably teaches us about the perpetrators or the agent's personality.

We learn about someone's personality, character, temperament from the way they behave. All we have is our observations of behaviors. We have no access to anyone's mind. We have to rely on self-reporting by people and we have to observe their behaviors.

Action speaks louder than words, said some sages long ago.

So the correspondence between behaviors and traits is more likely to be inferred if the actor is judged to have acted freely, intentionally, and in a way that is unusual for someone in that situation, and also in a way that does not usually bring rewards or social approval of any kind.

Anyhow, that's another attribution theory. It was first proposed by social psychologist Edward Johnson, Keith Davis.

So what is ultimately self-worth? It's the individual's evaluation of themselves as valuable, capable human beings, deserving of respect and consideration.

Positive feelings of self-worth tend to be associated with a high degree of self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-regard.

I have a video dedicated to the Four Pillars of Self-Love, which goes, that video goes much deeper into these topics.

Self-acceptance is a relatively subjective sense, sorry, of objective recognition of one's abilities and achievements, together with the acknowledgement and acceptance of one's limitations.

As I said earlier, self-acceptance is not stupid, "I'm great." Stupid "I'm great" is grandiosity, not self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is often viewed as a major component of mental health.

So the opposite of self-acceptance is grandiosity, as grandiosity says, "I am perfect. I reject my imperfections. I project them onto others. I reject big parts of myself because they're not perfect, because they're not superior, because they're not Godlike, because they're not supreme."

Narcissism is another name for self-rejection and the desperate attempt to overcome self-rejection by becoming someone else.

Self-esteem is the false self. Self-esteem is a degree to which the qualities and characteristics in one's self-concept are perceived to be positive.

Everyone has a self-concept, the way they perceive themselves. If most of the elements in this self-concept are positive, then you have a high self-esteem, which is healthy. A high self-esteem is not narcissism. It's healthy. It reflects a person's physical self-image, view of accomplishments and capabilities, values, perceived success in giving up to values, integrity, personal integrity.

Did you betray yourself or not? Did you respect yourself or not? Did you insist on being respected or not? Do you have proper boundaries? Are you bound-read?

When you integrate all this, including input from the outside, which indicates to you how successful you are at maintaining your self-esteem, when you integrate all this, then you're bound to have a high self-esteem. The more positive the cumulative perception of these qualities and characteristics, the higher your self-esteem is bound to be.

When you have a high degree of self-esteem, it's an important ingredient in mental health.

Low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, bad object, this is a science of mental illness. They're very common in depression, for example, but they're also common in narcissism.

Narcissism is a reaction to these things, a reaction to these things and to CPTSD. So to be ostentatiously modest is known as pseudo-humility, humble brag. You know what I mean? You know these people on YouTube who are constantly humble and modest and self-deprecating and suspect them immediately of being narcissists.

Covert narcissist in the majority of cases. Self-esteem as opposed to narcissism or narcissistic grandiosity is stable. Stability is a key feature.

Narcissism is volatile. Narcissism is labor. Narcissism is dysregulated. Sense of self-worth, the derives from narcissism, the reaction within the narcissist to narcissistic supply, kind of narcissistic elation, these are all unstable.

Self-esteem in healthy people doesn't fluctuate much. The magnitude of short-term fluctuations around atypical or baseline degree of self-esteem is minimal. The self-esteem level could be high, it could be low. That's a global measure. It endures usually over time, but the fluctuations around this fixed point of self-esteem are also very important.

So even someone with a low self-esteem, but the self-esteem is stable, doesn't fluctuate much, is healthier than someone with a high self-esteem who constantly fluctuates, constantly labile.

In other words, stability is crucial. Stability of self-esteem, stability related fluctuations are usually responsive.

There are a reaction to external environmentally based events, for example receiving negative feedback or positive feedback or whatever. Internal events also affect self-esteem when you reflect on your progress, when you're faced with a failure, internal failure, etc. etc. That affects your self-esteem, but the core is there, the baseline is there, the fluctuations are minimal and they are corrective, self-correcting and corrective. They're transformative.

Individuals with unstable self-esteem tend to be particularly susceptible to perceived threats to self-esteem, also known as narcissistic injury and narcissistic modification.

The environment becomes threatening, hostile because it can always push back. Reality can always challenge and undermine the self-esteem if it is fragile, if it is brittle, if it is unstable, if it is volatile.

Narcissism and depression are very common among these kind of people.


Finally, what is self-confidence?

Self-confidence is self-assurance. You trust your abilities, your capacities, your judgment, because you know yourself well. It's a positive attitude and bolstering self-confidence is never wrong. It's not such thing. Self-confidence, healthy self-confidence, never becomes narcissism because narcissism is a lack of self-confidence. Narcissism is compensatory. It's faking it because you're not making it.

The belief that one is capable of successfully meeting demands, extracting beneficial outcomes, and so on and so forth, this is intimately connected to Bandura's 1989 concept of self-efficacy. Bandura suggested that there's a cyclic formulation of self-esteem.

He said that self-efficacy, these are processes by which perceptions of one's own capacities and capabilities and effective action affect each other bidirectionally.

What Bandura said, to translate him to English, is that if you're self-efficacious, if you're relatively successful at extracting beneficial outcomes from the environment, if you're good at acting in your circumstances and on your circumstances, if you're great at collaborating with other people, interacting with them, etc, etc, your self-esteem will rise. And once your self-esteem is higher, this would affect your performance. It would allow you to become even more self-efficacious.

So self-efficacy breeds high self-esteem and high self-esteem gives rise to enhanced increased magnified self-efficacy. It's a positive cycle, not a vicious cycle, but the opposite, a virtuous cycle.

Effective action makes it possible to see oneself as competent, and this leads to effective action, which then renders you really competent and increases your self-confidence.

Same cycle applies to self-perceptions of incompetence, of course.

That's why the bad object is very dangerous, because it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's self-perpetuating. A bad object would tell you, you're a loser, you're a failure, you can't do it. You're not up to the task, you're an adequate, so you will fail. You will fail, it sets you up for failure.

Bandura warned that a sense of personal efficacy does not arise simply from the incantation of capability. It's not enough to go around saying, "I'm a genius, I can do this, I'm great, there's a giant within me. If I put my mind to it, there's nothing I can do." He warned, against magical thinking, which is in the core of most coaching in Western world today.

Horrible. Horrible because it's not true. Saying something should not be confused with believing it. And believing it should not be confused with actual effective action.

That you say something, that you wish something very hard, that you think about something constantly, that you contemplate something, that you dream about something doesn't make it come true. Period.

And no, it's not true that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything and everything. You have your limitations. We all do. We all have limitations.

It is the acceptance of your limitations which is healthy, not the praising of your alleged capabilities.

Simply saying that you are capable is not self-convincing usually. And if it does convince you, then you are both gullible and probably narcissistic.

Simply saying that you are capable, especially if it contradicts pre-existing beliefs, firm beliefs, means that you're going down the narcissistic garden path.


Finally, we need to mention culture and society.

Markus and Kitayama, 91 and later, point out that the very concept of self is culturally bound.

Culture bound means it depends on specific culture, specific society, specific periods in history.

Americans and more generally Western civilization, they regard the self as some kind of independent, rounded, unitary, stable entity. It's internal and private.

And of course, it's a nonsensical view.

Counterfactual. I've dealt with it with many of my videos, but that's the Western view.

We teach to this very day in Western universities about the self, about personality, about other total counterfactuals, totally imaginary, fantastic entities that fly in the face of practice with human beings.

Any practitioner and clinician would tell you there's no such thing as self or personality. Everything is in flux all the time.

Non-Western cultures are closer to the mark in my view, cultures in Asia and Africa.

The self in these cultures is construed as interdependent, relational, connected with social context, flexible, variable, largely determined from the outside and public.

That's also the view of Lacan by the way.

Westerners consider the self a kind of autonomous agent or independent entity. It's a unique configuration of traits, motives, values and behaviors with emphasis on uniqueness, which is highly narcissistic, highly narcissistic emphasis.

The Asian view, the African view, is that the self exists primarily, if not only, when it interacts with others in relation to others, it's relational and it changes in specific social contexts. It adjusts. These adaptations are not identity disturbance, they're just reactive to changing environments, circumstances, challenges. It's intended to maintain a kind of internal harmony, exercise restraint, to minimize threatening social disruption and its punitive consequences.

According to Markus and Kitayama, culture-bound construals of the self have significant consequences for cognition, affect and motivation.

The sources of self-esteem are therefore very different in the West and in the East.

For Westerners, independent self-esteem is achieved by actualizing attributes, potentials, mass loss, self-actualization.

You must have your accomplishments validated by other people. You must compare yourself to other people favorably.

That's the source of self-esteem and it's highly unhealthy, extremely narcissistic.

In Asian and other non-Western cultures, self-esteem is related to your social functioning, the way you relate and interact with other people. Self-restraint, modesty, connectedness with others.

Stevenson, Lai, Chen, Lomis, Stigler, Fan, Ge, Kitamura, Su, a million, I mean there's a lot, many scholars noted that the positive conceptions in the West are higher, more emphasized than positive conceptions in the East, more precisely in Asia.

Even though actual accomplishments and performance in Asia is higher than in the West, this gap is what I call the grandiosity gap, prime indicator of nascent emerging narcissism.

So these cultural differences are very important, very crucial.

To a theme of, to Yandish, Gotoh, distinguish between private and collective aspects of the self.

They said that the private self is emphasized in individualistic cultures, such as North America, while collective aspects of the self are emphasized in collectivist cultures such as Japan and so on.

So self-esteem can be derived from the collective, from your affiliation, allegiance, from your belonging. It doesn't have to come from the inside, but the process of internalization is crucial.

Even when it does come from the outside, it must be interjected and incorporated and that's when narcissists fail. They fail even in collectivist societies.

Lash in as early as 1979, Wallach and Wallach, Loewen, who has written the pioneering work on narcissism in 1985, they attributed narcissism to social context.

They placed it in the social context.

Loewen says that when success is more important than self-respect, the culture itself overvalues images and is narcissistic. He said that narcissism denotes a degree of unreality in individuals and the culture.

Our culture seems almost obsessed with the image one projects to others. Many of our political leaders use expressions like not wanting their actions to appear to be improper rather than not wanting them to be improper, etc.

I will not go too much into this, cultural society and so on and so forth.

I hope the gist of my message is clear.

Narcissism comes from the outside. It's not stable. It's compensatory. It's not self-regulated. It's a totally external phenomenon while high self-esteem, self-confidence and a stable sense of self-worth depend crucially on self-awareness, self-acceptance of what you know about yourself, self-regard, self-love and self-regulation.

Self, the key word is self and narcissism ironically self-less.

Narcissism is a disruption in the formation, constellation and integration of a functioning self and nowhere is this more evident than in the narcissist's inability to generate a sense of self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence, maintain them, stabilize them, adhere to them and leverage them to feel good about themselves.

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