Is Narcissism nature or environment?

Photo by cottonbro on

Narcissism is a tendency for a person (known as a narcissist) to be preoccupied with thoughts of how superior, important, and admirable he or she is. A narcissist has a false sense of importance, superiority, and dominance. He or she believes that they are better than most people, deserve to be treated better than most people, and should be admired for their perceived remarkable qualities. 

A narcissist can easily be identified from their interpersonal communications. They are addicted to speaking very highly about their own accomplishments or qualities, and belittling other people’s efforts and accomplishments. Since they think they are better than most people, they have no respect for people they consider to be inferior to them. Expecting to be treated like celebrities, they are very sensitive to what they perceive as disrespectful or derogatory, and may respond in an abusive manner.

Narcissists are only preoccupied with their own desires and needs. Their relationships, interactions, and endeavors have nothing to do with anyone other than themselves. A narcissistic man may date a very beautiful lady, not because he loves her, but because he sees her as a personal trophy (possession). In relationships, the narcissist often demands absolute faithfulness from his/her partner (although, the narcissist is an expert at being unfaithful), hence perceiving an act of unfaithfulness as a dirty slap to their face. He/she is bound to be abusive as a result of his or her inability to compromise, endure, and trust their partner. A narcissist could come off as being controlling, demanding, jealous, and insecure in their relationships. 

While the narcissist is not invulnerable to experiencing shame, he or she scarcely experiences guilt due to a lack of empathy. They easily do not care about other people’s feelings, and are therefore more inclined to be exploitative and deceitful in an effort to get what they want. To them, other people are not their equals, but are just mere objects- a means to an end. Appreciating other people for their kind acts and showing gratitude may seem too condescending a gesture to show for the narcissist. Still, one may wonder if these traits are inborn or a product of one’s experiences.

Where narcissism is concerned, both genetic and epigenetic (environmental factors) come into play. However, while the genetic factor keeps the narcissistic predisposition at its latent stage, unfavorable environmental factors (such as abuse or shaming) allows it to evolve. For most narcissists, they are likely to have experienced an emotional and character development interruption before the age of five, which may have been caused by a traumatic event of some sort (e.g. emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.) Narcissism is largely caused by being brought up in an abusive environment. 

Narcissism can also be caused by excessively praising a child (for example, idolizing them), in such a way that the child begins to deem himself/herself as superior to most people. This tends to make the child grow into an adult who comes to expect such excessive praises from others. For the young child, such attention becomes the normal, and lack of it thereof causes an injury. Not getting such attention becomes a negative environment for them, because they feel entitled to being given attention, and therefore justify any behavior to get it back. It’s like having a taste of something good, and then being starved of it later.

Narcissists are like seven years old that never consciously mature past that age. It’s almost as if the part of the brain that control emotions has been underdeveloped. Their excessive desire for attention and admiration makes them suffer from a delusion of grandeur, as they deem themselves as vital as the sun to the world. A child who has been shown unconditional love, even if he/she has latent narcissism within him/her, is bound to grow into a mentally healthy adult. Therefore, narcissism is both nature and environment. But with healthy and loving upbringing, the narcissism may not go past the latent stage.