You might have been told that people, like Narcissus, who love themselves, are egotistic and self-centered. The assumption is that you can care about yourself too much and that doing so makes you unkind. Nonetheless, countless people have the opposite problem and care for themselves too little. Upon never learning how to truly love themselves, they are unable to love others completely. In a similar manner to Narcissus, they are left gazing at their reflection longing for a sense of empowerment and self-worth. Could it be that the tale of Narcissus was not meant to portray self-love as vanity after all?
Narcissus was not free to love anyone else, since his main concern was to yearn for the love of himself that was never returned. If he had managed to experience genuine self-love instead of merely longing for love, perhaps he would have eventually met the right girl, settled down and produced water nymphs. In short, he may have led a full life and been happy.
Having genuine respect and positive regard for yourself is empowering. Indeed, if you do not care about yourself, you are left to pine for an essential ingredient of life that you cannot identify. You have been taught that you need high self-esteem, but you have not been shown how to generate such confidence. In fact, you have probably been steered away from loving yourself, which makes recognizing how to fulfill your needs extra hard.
Once you love yourself, you are free to stop relying on others to soothe your inner aches that stem from being incomplete. Instead of searching for someone to complete you, your other half, you can accept people as they are and stop being afraid that you will fall over if they do not prop you up. You no longer have a long list of requirements that you expect others to fulfill, since you are able to create your own joy.
Poor Narcissus was never really able to love himself. He experienced emotional angst until the end of his days as the part of himself he needed to nourish and cherish could never be reached. Unlike him, you can choose to integrate that part of you that deserves to be accepted and cared for by the most important person in your life, which is, of course, you.