- Separating narcissism from self-esteem
- Current Directions in Psychological Science
- Volume | Issue number
- 25 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by a sense of superiority and a desire for respect and admiration from others. A common belief, both in psychology and in popular culture, is that narcissism represents a form of excessive self-esteem. Psychologists, including ourselves, have labeled narcissism as “an exaggerated form of high self-esteem,” “inflated self-esteem,” and “defensive high self-esteem.” We review research that challenges this belief by showing that narcissism differs markedly from self-esteem in its phenotype, its consequences, its development, and its origins. Drawing on emerging developmental-psychological evidence, we propose a distinction between narcissism and self-esteem that is based on the divergent socialization experiences that give rise to them. This proposal clarifies previous findings, stimulates theory development, and creates opportunities for intervention to concurrently raise self-esteem and curtail narcissism from an early age.
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