Narcissism has been in the news a lot lately. Several famous individuals – including Kayne West, Donald Trump, and Mariah Carey – have been frequently referred to as narcissists, due to many different behaviors, including:
- Reaction to Threats
Whether or not any of them are actual narcissists should be left to their own personal caregivers. But it has thrust a common question into the spotlight – what is narcissism even about?
The answer is likely more complex than any one specific personality trait. For example, it is believed that many wealthy people can become narcissists because they start to see themselves as better than the people around them. Children of wealthy parents are more likely to be narcissists, and their wealthy may play a contributing role.
Social media may cause people to become narcissists because they provide constant positive feedback for self-absorption (post something about yourself, get likes and attention, feel as though you are more important, etc.).
So narcissism is more complex than any one factor. But one of the main contributors to narcissism is, in fact, insecurity. This is especially true of those whose narcissistic tendencies began as children. For children, narcissism can develop as a coping mechanism for issues like abuse, neglect, and a lack of fulfilling relationships. These create:
- Lack of Empathy – Abuse, emotional or otherwise, can contribute to a lack of empathy for others which is one of the hallmarks of narcissism.
- Prioritizing of Oneself – When others do not take care of you, you learn to prioritize yourself, and thus the world starts to revolve more around you.
- Invention of Worlds – No one wants to feel unimportant. So they alter their reality so that they are the most important, and that others are beneath them.
These are all tangentially related to insecurity. Individuals originally did not feel as though they were wanted, so they created a world for themselves where everyone wants to be them.
That is why narcissists tend to have issues with what’s known as narcissistic injury – when reality shows that they are not as loved or important as they believe they are, they experience a form of injury to their psyche. This causes an emotional pain, which often leads to them lashing out at those that caused that pain or taking actions that help them regain that sense of self.
Does narcissism only stem from insecurity? Likely not. It is a combination of many factors, especially if that narcissism developed later in life. But there are certainly links to insecurity, especially in children that were raised in environments that contributed to that pathology.