Narcissism 101

Are Narcissists Born or Made?


In our society, narcissism is rewarded. Antagonists and narcissists seem to earn more or do better financially. Greater and unhealthy degrees of these traits are becoming a common occurrence. All of us have encountered someone with narcissistic behaviors. With regard to this, it’s important to remember that narcissism is a spectrum. A healthy individual has narcissistic traits to some degree. It enables them to take pride in their accomplishments and to be comfortable with recognition, none of which are bad things.

A narcissistic personality disorder is on the extreme end of the spectrum. It’s rare to encounter people clinically diagnosed with this disorder. In fact, only one in two hundred people have this personality disorder statistically. Hopefully, this definition helps you learn the difference between the disorder and regular narcissistic traits. And with this distinction, you’ll be able to better understand issues that are allegedly related to narcissism. We’ve used the word allegedly because many of the things we’ll discuss aren’t set in stone.

In other words, they aren’t intended to give you definite answers but point to how narcissism develops. Usually when you ask, “Are people born narcissists?” you unconsciously want to find out if it’s possible to reverse it. It’s not. Narcissism develops from childhood and that’s not something you can reverse. Maybe you’re a parent to a narcissist and you’re wondering what you did wrong. Or you’re a sibling to a narcissist and you’re thinking about why you didn’t turn out that way.

While this article aims to help you understand these traits, we hope that it’ll trigger a more informed way to deal with them rather than blame or responsibility to fix them. Only a personal initiative by the narcissist will make them better.

 Number 1: Narcissistic personality disorder can be inherited.

People with narcissistic personality disorder might have been born with defective genes. Research indicates that a person is more likely to develop NPD if it occurs in the medical history of their family. The common and dormant traits of NPD can be passed on genetically up to 71% of the time. Another study discovered that, more specifically, the sense of entitlement is 35% heritable while the tendency towards self-importance is 23% heritable.

This, however, doesn’t fully justify narcissistic traits. In fact, narcissism in itself is something that is progressively developmental more than a factor of genes. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at occurrences that can encourage or worsen these otherwise healthy tendencies.

 Number 2: There are a lot of factors in childhood development that contribute to increased narcissistic traits.

 The narcissist personality that’s evident in adulthood is usually developed in childhood or adolescence and sets in during the early to mid-twenties. In today’s culture, children no longer play on their own or without adult supervision. When children play with other children on their own, they demonstrate more empathy. They’re able to understand their own emotions and the perspectives of others. Lack of freedom for children and opportunities to play increases the risk of this disorder later in life. When they become adolescents, they’re subjected to a lot of pressure to achieve academically, look good, and fit in.

We also have social media where teenagers are minting money through entertainment and content. Parents struggle to reprimand such children unconsciously building a more self-centered approach to things. On the other hand, developmental experiences that are negative in nature, such as being rejected as a child, also contribute to the occurrence of NPD in adulthood.

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Number 3: Childhood rejection is a top-of-the-list cause of narcissism.

 Patterns of these behaviors are shaped by neglect and inconsistent caregiving which are usually established in early childhood. Without that sense of secure attachment, children grow up incapable of establishing real relationships.

Most of the time, we describe narcissists in a romantic relationship kind of set-up. However, these people are siblings, their parents, their employers, and their bosses. Even in such capacities, narcissists struggle to have a deeply close relationship.

With a history of neglect, it’s not uncommon to develop a sense of self-importance. Feeling unwanted builds a pattern of “getting what you want on your own” which results in a disregard for other people’s needs. Some people who’ve gone through the same unwanted situation turn out totally different.

 Number 4: Narcissistic traits also develop as a result of a history of trauma.

 Traumatized people can build an identity around the bad things that happened to them. They feel entitled and they’ll always be waiting for others to fulfill their needs. Their thought processes revolve around, “I was the one who was abused, not them”. This makes whatever support you give them “not enough” because they view it based on their bad experience.

You may also want to read this:

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Number 5: There is a second group of people that can develop narcissistic features due to excessive parental pampering.

In a bid to be supportive and protective of children, parents try to shield their children from disappointment. It’s an easy trap to try to overcompensate for what they think their own parents didn’t do for them. For such children, their material needs are met but they’re not given an opportunity to learn or express their emotions. They grow up thinking that everything should work out for them. These kids in adulthood find it hard to trace the source of their struggles to their childhood. They may not understand why they have certain socializing problems. To them, they had very supportive parents.

 Number 6: Permissive Parenting.

The Internet and social media encourage young people to obsess over their public image. Did you know that 11% of teenagers want to be famous? Adolescents or teenagers are in the midst of forming their identities. They’ll tend to be self-obsessed and oversensitive. None of these things are wrong. However, they can work against a teenager who has unregulated access to the internet and social media.

A Book: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.

 Number 7: What if either of the parents is narcissistic?

Narcissistic parents treat their children the way they wanted to be treated when they were kids. For example, they can choose activities for the children, so the children don’t choose the activities they like. And that’s also another form of hindering them from fully expressing themselves. They’re not emotionally available to their kids.

They have a way of placing unrealistic expectations on children by imposing their own needs and expectations on them. This cuts across all personality disorders in parents, especially cluster B personality disorders.

The main characteristic of cluster B disorders is overly emotional and unpredictable behavior that disregards the needs of others, for example, frequent arguments with the neighbors. Children learn by observation. They more often than not mirror these negative behaviors of their parents in adulthood.

Number 8: Narcissism is statistically more of a men’s thing.

75% of the total population of narcissists are men. Why so? Men are socialized under extreme and restricting views of masculinity. Under such circumstances, they struggle to healthily express feelings of loss and rejection. They are taught to be tough and to win; they’re our little soldiers, making them more vulnerable to narcissism.

Recommended: Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse.

Number 9: Speaking of soldiers.

 Certain organizational structures encourage narcissistic traits. Hierarchical structures are home to the narcissist. They are naturally drawn to such professions because it validates their need for superiority and authority. A couple of professions fulfill this need, including the military, medicine, priesthood, politics, and sports. The actual disorder as well as the traits thrive in these environments.

 Number 10: It’s not always about the sense of authority.

Some people develop narcissistic traits because they were subject to conditional love. Their parents would show up when they did well and almost disown them when they failed. So, their sense of acceptance comes from their achievements. The child grows up believing they’re defined by the titles and the accolades rather than who they are. We can blame the parents – yet again not all children in such environments go on to become narcissists.

Read More: 10 Mental Illnesses You Get From Narcissists.

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