This article proposes that the majority of people do not love themselves, and that this leads them to develop some form of personality disorder, which in turn leaves them open to manipulation because they develop a deep attachment to personal validation from the external world.
Firstly, let’s look at self-love. There are many theories about what exactly this is, but for this article, I’ll try to keep it simple and state:
“Self-love occurs when an individual knows all of the self and is happy that the whole-self that they know is 100% working for them”
I propose that each of us starts our lives in a state of self-love. That is, from birth all we know is self, and for most of us, we know nothing else but acceptance of the whole self that we know.
However, I propose that the vast majority of us, in one form or another, come to reject aspects of self as we grow up. This is due to many factors. In some cases, it is trauma, where we are told off for “misbehaving”; however, I also suggest that this idea of childhood trauma extends in numerous instances to simply being corrected, as part of education etc. As we get up, society, including our parents, friends, acquaintances, educators, strangers etc. moulds us, we change, and all too often, this act of being educated results in each of us rejecting aspects of self. We deny our true-self and adopt the self that society wants.
These self-rejections carry on through our childhood, and have a cumulative effect, increasingly, whilst society tells us we are loved, because of our conformance. The reality is that we are losing more and more of our true-self, we send aspects of this true-self into the shadow of our unconscious mind.
Thus, virtually all of us end up in adolescence in a state where we are no longer in direct contact with the totality of self and, as a result, we cannot truly love ourselves. Most of us, however, look to apply logic to the situation, we ask ourselves; “Do my parents love me?”, “Do I have many friends?”, “Am I doing well at school?”. All of these questions seek to prove to ourselves that we are capable of being loved, and we apply the logic that if the world can love us, then we can form the conviction that we can love ourselves too.
Unfortunately, although there is much support for this approach in the outside world, this decision to be “happy” because the world loves us. This does not get away from the basic fact that we have lost touch with aspects of self, and therefore cannot truly love self.
Many adolescents realise there is something wrong. They complain of feeling empty, loveless, joyless, with low self-esteem, and it is these that can tend to go on to develop the most extreme of personality disorders.
However, I propose that often, those of us that have successfully applied that logical “fix” of proving to themselves that the world loves them, and think of themselves as happy, are also going to go on to develop those same personality disorders, only, they will use logic throughout life to mask these issues, even to themselves.
Failure to love self and personality disorders
Whether self-love is related to personality disorders is a complex and controversial one. There is no definitive answer, but some researchers have proposed various theories and hypotheses to explain the possible link. One of the most influential models is the self-discrepancy theory, which suggests that people who have a large gap between their actual self and their ideal self are more likely to experience negative emotions, such as shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. These emotions can impair their self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-compassion, leading to a lack of self-love. According to this theory, people who do not love themselves may develop maladaptive coping strategies, such as denial, projection, rationalization, and dissociation, to avoid facing their self-discrepancies. These strategies can result in distorted perceptions of reality, an unstable sense of identity, impaired interpersonal relationships, and difficulty regulating emotions. These are some of the core features of personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Therefore, the self-discrepancy theory provides some evidence to support the conjecture that a person who does not love themselves will develop a personality disorder.
Whilst the above theory, may seem to apply to a small percentage of the population, there is an argument that most of us are suffering from milder forms of personality disorder. Driven by our need for validation from the outside world, and that the personality we develop is false, and therefore a mild form of disorder.
How we are manipulated
This leads to the concept that we tend to be easily manipulated by society.
One of the psychological consequences of low self-esteem is the tendency to seek external validation from others, rather than relying on one’s own inner resources and values. This can make people more susceptible to social influence and manipulation, as they may conform to the expectations and norms of their perceived reference groups, even if they are harmful or inconsistent with their true selves. For example, people who do not love themselves may adopt behaviours that they feel will make them accepted by their own personal societal view, such as following trends, engaging in risky or unhealthy activities, or suppressing their own opinions and emotions. However, this can lead to further dissatisfaction and alienation, as they may lose touch with their authentic identity and values, and compromise their wellbeing and happiness. In this context, the evidence for this phenomenon can be found in various sources, such as psychological theories, empirical studies, clinical observations, and personal testimonies. Some of the relevant concepts and frameworks that can be used to explain and understand this phenomenon are:
The theory of self-discrepancy
The theory of self-discrepancy, which posits that people experience negative emotions when there is a gap between their actual self (how they see themselves), their ideal self (how they would like to be), and their ought self (how they think they should be).
The theory of social identity, which suggests that people derive a sense of belonging and self-esteem from their membership in social groups, and may conform to the norms and values of those groups, even if they conflict with their personal preferences or interests.
Theory of cognitive dissonance
The theory of cognitive dissonance, which proposes that people experience psychological discomfort when they hold contradictory beliefs or attitudes, or when they behave in ways that are inconsistent with their beliefs or attitudes. To reduce this discomfort, people may rationalize or justify their behaviour, or change their beliefs or attitudes to align with their behaviour. This means that for many people, a lacking of self-esteem means they become more influenceable, in so much as they will sacrifice their own “truth” to conform to what they perceive as societal norms.
The theory suggests that people are motivated to maintain or enhance their relational value, and that self-esteem serves as a feedback mechanism that signals the need for social adjustment when relational value is threatened or diminished. This implies, that we join social groups to enhance our sense of self-worth as a response to finding this value lacking within ourselves. The inference can therefore be implied that once we are in a situation where a social connection is boosting our self-esteem, we become inherently manipulable by the concept of potential future exclusion from that group. We will therefore change our views and beliefs to maintain that social connection, along with those self-esteem benefits.
The terror management theory
The terror management theory suggests that a significant driver for the behaviour of individuals in the concept that low self-esteem increases our fear of mortality, and this causes many people to latch onto and defend as a matter of life and death certain beliefs which alleviate their fear of death. Thus, many people become strongly attached to certain scientific, religious and other beliefs which relieve their internal and often suppressed fear of death. It also suggests that once committed to such a belief, they will attack any threat to this belief, indeed the theory has been used to understand the minds of terrorists, for example. It strongly suggests that we can often follow blindly a belief that alleviates our lack of self-esteem, and once we have committed ourselves to that belief, we will defend against any perceived threat to it, sometimes with our lives. Thus, society only has to create and promote such beliefs, then suggest threats to those beliefs, to manipulate us.
These observations suggest that those people who control information sources that are deemed authoritative by the masses, are in a position of control of the masses and that the majority are, for the most part, addicted to that control because their entire sense of self-worth is dependent on compliance with the authority. Even those individuals who reject primary authorities, will still seek to comply with other authorities. In order words, the leaders of society, who are aware of this, will tend to win.
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