Understanding narcissists is important because it helps us protect ourselves and others from their damaging behaviors. So, how does narcissism develop? When does it begin? There is not a single, exact cause; narcissism may develop over time either due to genetics and personality traits, or it can stem from a traumatic childhood. Below is the first of three scenarios which can lead a child to develop a narcissistic personality as they mature.
Narcissism May Develop During Childhood Due To Immense Pressure From A Narcissistic Parent
Jenna is growing up with a narcissistic parent. She’s been working hard to maintain top marks in school and has won every spelling bee she’s entered since first grade. Most of her motivation is fueled by her narcissistic father, who constantly brags to everyone who’ll listen about how brilliant she is. Now that fifth grade has started to introduce algebra in math class, she’s beginning to struggle in class. Due to puberty and stress, Jenna’s acne is getting uncontrollable. Her father belittles her about her acne and refuses to speak to her until she once again comes home with straight A’s.
Jenna only feels valued by her father when she succeeds and looks “perfect” – in other words, when she is able to meet his unrealistic expectations. This may send her into a spiral of working even harder, which can lead to illness or injury. Now that Jenna is older, she feels that people should only be valued if they’re successful. To her, happiness equals success.
When Can Narcissism Develop?
Jenna may not assume narcissistic traits, but because of her father’s conditioning, there is a higher chance of them emerging. Skipping ahead to Jenna’s teen years, she may find herself living only to succeed. She expects nothing but perfection, which causes her to miss out on high school activities such as dances and sporting events. To her, there’s no joy in the world without coming out on top – she believes that attending a game to watch others play is a waste of time. She’s not the one winning on the field.
Jenna As A Narcissistic Adult
Jenna has seen it all. She has created a booming business career for herself and travels often. She knows her former childhood friends envy her success and she loves rubbing it in on social media and around town. However, she still lives under her father’s thumb – should her career falter or her appearance falter, she knows that if she doesn’t fix it right away, her father will have plenty to say. And while she has long since moved out, she knows he’s often watching.
So, now, nothing is ever enough. She strives to maintain that perfect world she’s created and lashes out at anyone who could possibly disturb it. Jenna, while not wanting to be at all like her father, now projects her narcissism onto her children. If her family isn’t perfect, that threatens her fantasy world.