Narcissism is often thrown around as an insult to a narcissist. You might associate it with when someone is accused of being “full of themselves” or “too obsessed with their own image.” But it’s a psychological disorder. And it’s characterized by an excessive focus on oneself, a lack of empathy for others, and an inflated sense of self-importance. So why does someone become a narcissist? Psychologists and sociologists have explored that question for a long time.
It may be easy to dismiss narcissistic behavior as simply arrogance or vanity. But there are deeper psychological reasons why people become narcissists. Understanding why someone can become a narcissist is an essential research topic. This is thoroughly studied in the fields of psychology and sociology. Some possible factors contributing to narcissism’s development include childhood experiences, genetics, personality traits, social and cultural factors, and trauma.
Power, success, and environmental factors are also often associated with narcissism. Examining these underlying factors is vital for better understanding this disorder. Psychology focuses on understanding the complex psychological and social mechanisms that lead individuals to develop narcissistic behaviors. This is done to work towards preventing and treating these behaviors more effectively.
But it’s just as important for everyone to understand the roots of this issue for themselves. This can help you spot the signs if you are dealing with such a thing. Or, even more importantly, it can help you spot it in others. You’ll be better equipped to deal with a potentially selfish friend or partner.
7 Factors That Can Cause Someone to Become a Narcissist
1. Childhood Experiences
Narcissism can often develop because of experiences in childhood, such as neglect, abuse, or excessive praise or criticism. The nature of the experiences matters just as much as their frequency. For example, neglected or abused children may develop narcissistic tendencies to cope with insecurity and low self-worth. By focusing excessively on themselves, they can shield themselves from the pain and trauma of their past experiences.
On the other hand, children who are excessively praised or criticized can also be at risk of becoming narcissists. When children receive too much praise, they may believe they are superior. This is especially true if parents don’t care to teach them to value the effort behind their accomplishments.
This mentality often leads to them feeling entitled to special treatment. Similarly, when children are constantly criticized without constructive feedback or positive reinforcement, they may develop low self-esteem and a need for validation that can manifest as narcissism later in life.
Genetics’ role in narcissism’s development is not yet fully understood. But recent research suggests that there may be a genetic component to the disorder. Studies have shown that individuals with a family history of narcissistic traits are likelier to exhibit similar behaviors. This strongly suggests that there may be a genetic link to the disorder. This is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
One possible explanation for this link is that certain genes may increase the likelihood of developing narcissistic traits. For example, research has identified specific genes associated with personality traits such as impulsivity and risk-taking. These genes are also commonly associated with narcissism.
Variations in these genes may predispose individuals to develop narcissistic tendencies. Or it might be the case that specific genes may increase the likelihood of developing narcissistic traits only if triggered. These genes may only be expressed in certain environmental triggers, such as childhood trauma or social and cultural factors.
3. Personality Traits
Personality traits are essential in developing narcissism, as in many other aspects of your life. Individuals who exhibit certain traits may be more susceptible to developing narcissistic tendencies. The traits that can lead to narcissism are often tied to low self-esteem, insecurity, and a need for validation and attention.
Low self-esteem, in particular, is strongly linked to narcissists. Individuals with low self-esteem may feel a deep sense of insecurity and need validation from others. To compensate for these feelings of inadequacy, they may develop an excessive focus on themselves and their achievements.
This can often manifest as narcissistic tendencies. Similarly, highly insecure individuals may also be at risk for developing narcissistic tendencies. They may constantly seek attention and validation from others. This is because they believe they are not worthy of love and respect unless they are in the spotlight.
4. Social and Cultural Factors
Social and cultural factors also play a significant role in the development of narcissism. Societal and cultural factors can shape how individuals perceive themselves and their relationships with others. So, they can contribute to the development of narcissistic tendencies.
One example of a social factor that can contribute to narcissism is the rise of social media. Social media platforms provide individuals with a tool to seek validation and attention from others, which can exacerbate narcissistic tendencies. Individuals use social media to present an idealized version of themselves to the world. And this is all done in the pursuit of likes and comments as a form of validation.
This can lead to a need for constant attention and admiration from others. Cultural factors can also contribute to the development of narcissism. In some cultures, individual achievement and success are highly valued. This concentrates the focus on personal achievement and status-seeking. In these cultures, individuals may constantly feel pressure to strive for success and recognition. This pressure can, unfortunately, lead to the development of narcissistic tendencies.
Trauma is another one of the causes of narcissism. Unfortunately, individuals sometimes experience significant loss or endure extremely difficult life events. And it can be incredibly challenging to process and cope with these experiences. In some cases, individuals may develop narcissistic tendencies as a coping mechanism.
For example, individuals who experience trauma may feel a deep sense of insecurity and a need for control. So, they develop a focus on the self and an excessive need for attention and admiration. This is done to cope with these feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability. They may also use narcissistic tendencies to avoid painful emotions or memories associated with the trauma.
However, not all individuals who experience such emotional wounds will become narcissists. Many individuals can cope with trauma in healthy and adaptive ways without developing harmful behaviors or thought patterns. Nonetheless, trauma can be a risk factor for developing narcissistic tendencies, mainly if it is not properly addressed and treated.
6. Power and Success
Another factor that can contribute to the development of narcissism is achieving a high level of success. Or even gaining a significant amount of power leads to similar outcomes. When individuals achieve success or gain power, they may receive much attention and admiration from others. This can create an environment that reinforces narcissistic tendencies.
These individuals may believe their success and power result from their inherent superiority. Sometimes, people may begin to think they’re entitled to special treatment or privileges because of their success or power. They may become increasingly focused on their achievements and less concerned with the needs or feelings of others.
They may believe that they are above the rules or expectations that apply to others. Plus, individuals in positions of authority tend to have more control over their environment and the people around them. This can further reinforce narcissistic tendencies. This makes them lose empathy, as they begin disregarding how others feel as long as they can control them.
7. Environmental Factors
Environmental factors can significantly impact the development of narcissistic tendencies in individuals. Competitive environments, such as those in certain professions, can create a culture that values achievement above all else. Individuals who grow up or work in these environments may develop a strong need for validation and recognition.
Along with that, they will gain a belief that their worth as a person is tied to their achievements and status. As individuals become focused on promoting their interests at the expense of others, they will become increasingly more narcissistic. In addition to competitive environments, exposure to toxic environments can contribute to developing narcissistic tendencies.
Individuals who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other forms of trauma may develop a heightened sense of self-importance. This is usually a means of coping with the trauma. In some cases, individuals who have experienced trauma may even use narcissistic behaviors as a defense mechanism. They protect themselves from further harm by distancing themselves emotionally from others.
These environments can create a culture that reinforces narcissistic behaviors and thought patterns. This is particularly true if individuals are not careful to maintain a healthy perspective on their achievements and interactions with others.
Final Thoughts on Some Factors That Can Cause Someone to Become a Narcissist
Understanding the various factors contributing to developing narcissistic tendencies is vital. It is the primary way to prevent the harmful impact of this personality trait on individuals and society. It is worth noting that not all individuals who exhibit narcissistic tendencies are classified as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
But, even if someone does not have this diagnosis, they may still need help. It is essential to seek professional help if an individual’s behavior is causing significant distress to themselves or others. In today’s society, where people rely on social media, it is essential to understand how it can exacerbate narcissistic tendencies.
Social media platforms provide an easy outlet for individuals to seek validation and attention. This can further reinforce a sense of entitlement and self-importance. Maintaining a healthy perspective is crucial as not allowing social media to become the sole source of self-worth. Furthermore, creating supportive environments can go a long way in reducing the prevalence of narcissistic tendencies.
Emphasizing the value of hard work and empathy is crucial in preventing the development of harmful behaviors. And so is providing support for those who have experienced trauma. By understanding the various factors that can cause someone to become a narcissist, we can take steps to help them and ourselves.