Distorted Self Appraisal and Narcissism

Self Appraisal and Narcissism

Distorted self appraisal is a cardinal feature of narcissism. How narcissists think of themselves and their abilities is troublingly out of whack. Most of the time, narcissists engage in grandiose self appraisal. They think far too much of themselves. And they also overestimate their capabilities.

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Traditional Explanations and Their Shortcomings

Traditional thinking on narcissistic personalities has always had its shortcomings. But those shortcomings are more glaring and more problematic in today’s world. That’s because we live in an age of more widespread narcissism and other forms of character dysfunction. And traditional explanations about what underlies narcissistic behavior have all but completely lost their usefulness.

Traditional psychology has always viewed narcissistic grandiosity as an unconscious “compensation” for underlying feelings of low self-worth. And while this can sometimes be the case, in our times it’s less and less so. That’s why it’s so important to accept such notions skeptically.

Traditional perspectives often fail to consider a crucial and all-important point:

While it’s true that folks with underlying feelings of low self-worth can sometimes try to prove themselves by overstating their value and capabilities, the exact opposite is also true!

That is, folks who chronically overestimate their worth, exaggerate their abilities and accomplishments, etc. have big trouble developing a legitimate sense of self-worth. And that’s what so often goes wrong in the lives of the overly indulged, overly praised, and highly touted among us. (See: How to Inflate an Ego in Three Easy Steps.) It’s not so much that such folks developed inflated egos because underneath it all they always really felt inadquate. Rather, it’s that in their chronic, grandiose self appraisal, they can’t possibly cultivate a sound, balanced, healthy sense of self. They might be very well be smart, but will insist that they’re smarter than they are. And they might very well have accomplished some remarkable things, but still overstate their accomplishments. This is the heart of distorted self appraisal: feeling too “special” for too long.

Reality: The Great Leveler

Often, a proper reality check reveals both the grandiose character’s actual inadequacy and how long the’ve overstated things (both to themselves and others). And this is what makes some misguided souls surmise that longstanding low self-esteem is to blame. But in actuality it’s their distorted self appraisal that is the culprit from the beginning, leading them to develop problematically inflated self-esteem, while cultivating virtually no legitimate self-respect. (All my books and many of my articles speak to this issue and describe the important difference between self-esteem and self-respect.)

(See also: Grandiosity and the Heart of Narcissism and Grandiose Narcissists Are Legends in Their Own Minds.)

Healthy Self Appraisal

As I’ve emphasized in numerous articles and in Essentials for the Journey, a heathy sense of self is crucial to developing solid character. (See also: Cultivating Healthy Self Worth.) I’ve also talked about narcissism and its roots in numerous seminars and on some videos and podcasts. Distorted self appraisal is part and parcel of narcissism. But an accurate understanding of this characteristic eludes and misleads many. So, the next time you see someone who acts “all that,” don’t assume they’re necessarily compensating for insecurity. They might very well have been thinking far too much of themselves for a long time. And that will not bode well for your welfare in a relationship with them.

I discuss this issue more on the latest Character Matters podcast and in my latest book.


One thought on “Distorted Self Appraisal and Narcissism

  1. “The world is my country, the mind is my church, and to do good is my religion.” –

    Thomas Paine

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