There is much confusion surrounding narcissists and what makes a narcissist in the modern-day. Keep in mind that not everyone who experiences what I’m about to describe becomes a narcissist - everyone creates their own process to cope and survive. However, these characteristics are always present in what created the narcissist. I am not defending narcissists - the point is to show how they developed their characteristics.
- Adverse childhood experiences. There’s always neglect, abuse, abandonment. The attachment style in their childhood is chaotic and insecure. The parents could have been neglectful, over-protective, “helicopter” parents, and more. Overprotective parents lead to children being unable to regulate their emotions. Narcissists could have had entitled parents. Instead, the parents feel so worthless inside that they cannot bear their children experiencing anything negative, leading to narcissism. A great example is the recent college admissions scandal - this type of parenting can have serious negative effects on the children.
- Conditional love. If the child only has value if they do something that makes mom and dad feel good about themselves, narcissism can very likely develop.
- They were spoiled. Spoiling a child is not loving a child - it is essentially abandoning the child. The spoiled child never learns disappointment or how to regulate emotions. We want the child to make mistakes when they are young when the mistakes are just bruised knees. Spoiling is deprivation. Oftentimes, the parents will continue to enable the behavior into early adulthood and beyond.
- Social media. It’s becoming the new (external) way we validate ourselves.
- The parents were narcissists. A child will model what their parents do, so they are far more likely to become narcissistic if they grow up with narcissistic parents.
Each child responds differently, so children from the same adverse household may not all become narcissists. It’s the same with habits and addictions present in households. We all develop our own unique, dysfunctional coping skills and solutions to adverse childhoods.
There is an overwhelming collective denial in a society where many people think their childhood was “perfect.” That would mean your parents made zero mistakes - it’s impossible. We are all perfectly imperfect, and we all make mistakes as parents. Every single one of us has experienced adverse childhood experiences. Don’t blame or hate your parents - acknowledge and accept the truth. Nobody escapes childhood without pain. Nobody.
The final thing to touch on: genetics. While genetics can be a factor, genetics do not determine narcissism. In his groundbreaking research on genetics, Dr. Bruce Lipton pointed out that only three disorders or diseases can 100% be determined by genetics without any external factors, and narcissism is certainly not one. Genes are only activated when something triggers them in their environment. The emotional environment that the individual was raised in is the most important. If there’s a genetic predisposition in the family history for narcissism, but the parents don’t “turn it on” with their parenting style and emotional condition, the child will not become a narcissist. It’s like this with many other genetic ailments, like cancer.
What creates a narcissist is nearly always childhood and parenting. This is not to blame parents, but please remember: none of us have been raised by Jesus. We don’t blame our parents, but we accept the reality that they were perfectly imperfect. We must admit that and do the work to overcome it to reach our full potential.
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