Narcissists Love Themselves Too Little
Most people view narcissists as confident, preening, self-centered jerks who like being the center of attention. While there is a certain level of spite directed towards them, there’s also usually some jealousy, maybe even the secret wish to trade places, since the narcissistic attitude seems to be the result of desirable traits and abilities. If it weren’t, narcissistic behavior would cease to be reinforced by the environment and would just look foolish.
It may surprise you to hear then that, as Erich From put it, from the psychological point of view narcissists don’t love themselves too much they love themselves too little. In this sense narcissistic behavior is a compensatory strategy meant to try to make up for what is felt to be lacking.
We can let go of the jealousy and spite and replace our negative feelings with compassion when we see that narcissists are suffering, they feel unlovable and insignificant. The outer bravado is a sort of reaction formation to combat these inner feelings. They’re trying to fill up a hole as best they can. They don’t feel whole.
The paradox of authentic self-love is that it makes people capable of loving others, of being in a position to give freely of themselves. They don’t start from a down position so they don’t feel the same compulsion to take from the environment, to constantly worry about getting their own needs met first. And so we see that narcissism is not about self-love, it’s about a lack of self-love, and this very lack is what prompts the self-centered, egotistical behavior.