What Separates Narcissism from Self-esteem? A Social-Cognitive Perspective



Psychologists claim that narcissists have inflated, exaggerated, or excessive self-esteem. Media reports state that narcissists suffer from self-esteem on steroids. The conclusion seems obvious: Narcissists have too much self-esteem. A growing body of research shows, however, that narcissism and self-esteem are only weakly related. What, then, separates narcissism from self-esteem? We argue that narcissism and self-esteem are rooted in distinct core beliefs—beliefs about the nature of the self, of others, and of the relationship between the self and others. These beliefs arise early in development, are cultivated by distinct socialization practices, and create unique behavioral patterns. Emerging experimental research shows that these beliefs can be changed through precise intervention, leading to changes at the level of narcissism and self-esteem. An important task for future research will be to develop interventions that simultaneously lower narcissism and raise self-esteem from an early age.


Narcissism Self-esteem Core beliefs Childhood Stability Socialization Intervention 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.University of SouthamptonSouthamptonThe Netherlands

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