It’s easy to confuse narcissism and high self-esteem. They both share similar traits, like confidence and pride. However, they’re not the same thing. So, how can you tell them apart, both in yourself and in others? A good place to start is to look at how you experience pride. In fact, how you experience pride indicates whether it’s narcissism or just a healthy dose of high self-esteem.
Author of Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success, Jessica Tracy, PhD, knows a thing or two about pride. In her research, she’s discovered that people experience two types of pride.
The first is “authentic pride”, and this is what people with high self-esteem usually experience. And when it comes time for them to describe something they’re proud of, they often refer to the effort and hard work their goal or task required. In short, authentic pride acknowledges that an accomplishment was earned, and that gives these individuals a high sense of self-esteem.
Yes, they’re proud, but it’s an authentic pride that can drive you to improve and set more goals.
The other type of pride, however, is something Tracy refers to as “hubristic pride”, which is “related to narcissistic traits like entitlement, arrogance and egotism.”
So, when a narcissistic person talks about what they’re proud of, they don’t tend to discuss hard work and effort. In fact, there may be very little of that sort of thing.
Instead, there’s a sense of unearned pride, based solely on how amazing the individual thinks they are, versus the efforts they took to accomplish their goals.
To sum things up, people with high self-esteem have authentic pride and they’re proud of all the work they’ve put into any given goal. In contrast, narcissism is ruled by hubristic pride, which keeps the individual infatuated with their “greatness”, rather than earned accomplishment.