07/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ask Maddisen - Is Self Nurturing The Same As Narcissism?

Dear Maddisen:
I recently overheard some people in a restaurant talking about "self nurturing", and it really perked my interest. I sense that I need to take better care of myself, but I'm not sure how to do it without becoming a narcissist. Any advice?
Thanks, TR

Dear TR,

There is definitely a difference between self nurturing and narcissism, and your concern about this is in itself a strong indication that you do not fit into the latter category! My intention here is to provide some background about both behaviors, and then to offer a few suggestions for how you may begin taking better care of yourself in a healthy and fulfilling way.

Narcissism, in simple terms, is described as excessive, inauthentic self love that is ego-based rather than genuinely heartfelt. Many theories suggest that narcissism is a possible response to non-empathetic and inconsistent early childhood interactions. Individuals with narcissistic behavior may project a false sense of self admiration and self confidence, and habitually exhibit an excessive need for attention, admiration, affirmation, and applause from others. They very often subtly or overtly diminish the importance of others, especially those who are close to them. There's a lot of information about narcissism available on the web if you want to read more about it.

Self nurturing is a precondition for the experience and expression of heartfelt or authentic love. We cannot truly love others if we do not first love and care for our selves. Therefore, if you truly love and nurture yourself, you will most likely feel a natural and healthy urge to share that love and care with others - in which case, everybody wins, and nobody's labeled a narcissist!

Whether or not you are a product of a non-empathetic childhood that lacked or was void of consistent and unconditional parental-type love, rest assured it is NEVER TOO LATE for you to reclaim your innate quality of heartfelt and genuine Self Love. One very effective way to do this is through a consistent and steady practice of Self Nurturing.

Simple Self Nurturing Program

There are several key areas in which we can nurture ourselves: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual. Additionally, you may want to nurture yourself in specific areas such as Financial, Marriage or Partnership, your Business, etc. You may find overlap in categories as well, for example, when I practice yoga, I have the sense that I'm nurturing myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Here is a simple illustration of a Weekly Self Nurturing tracker. You can create it in MS Word or PowerPoint, or you can email me at and I'll send you a similar template.


Here's an example of one of my Weekly Self Nurturing trackers:


Notice the activities I included for each category, the desired frequencies, and my actual results. For example, I didn't have time to do the research on PhD programs, so I added that same action to my Self Nurturing tracker for the next week.

To develop consistent habits of self nurturing, fill out one of these Self Nurturing trackers every week for one full month, enjoying your self nurturing activities and honestly recording your results. Notice the positive changes you experience and see in your life. Continue using your tracker every week for as long as you like. Don't focus on quantity, but rather quality, and be realistic about what you can and want to accomplish with your self nurturing. This is all about nurturing your self, which means that this practice should be enjoyable and nourishing, and inspire you to continue doing more of the same! If you miss a day, or you don't get every action step accomplished, don't judge yourself, but instead practice self forgiveness and then pick it back up the next day. Finally, I suggest using your Self Nurturing trackers exclusively for self nurturing, maintaining your daily "to-do" or task lists separately.

In closing, dear TR, I sense that this is truly your time to celebrate who you are by taking better and better care of your self through a loving and consistent Self Nurturing program. Have fun with your Self Nurturing trackers! Reclaim your inherent quality of heartfelt and genuine Self Love! And as you nurture your self first, it's very likely that you'll have more energy than ever before to share love and nurturing with others.

Your Coach, Maddisen

You may submit your questions for ASK MADDISEN at