How Are Narcissists Made?

First thing’s first – no answer will ever justify the narcissist’s behavior, however, it is always interesting to help you understand the patterns of their behavior and where the narcissist created their destructive tools.

Knowing how narcissists are made is intended for you to see where they learned how to be so heartless, and to treat others with such contempt. 

Being mistreated by a narcissist often leads the people who fall victim to learn the background and history – but where does the fault lie?

Interestingly, it started way before they met you, so as a head’s up – you are not the cause of their problems – you’re simply the latest prey.

The Childhood of the Narcissist

What happened to the narcissist as they developed from the day they were born?

Narcissistic personality styles are heavily suggested to be a consequence of being exposed to narcissism as a child, or to experience adversity from a young age.

I want to stop there for a moment, as it’s important to understand that not every person exposed to these things will turn out the other end with narcissistic characteristics, but this is where and how narcissism is created – because it appears to be passed on.

If you think about it – are the narcissists in your life born from the same cut of bread? Think about their family dynamics momentarily, and ask yourself where the patterns are.

How is Narcissism shaped?

Neglect is the first thing to consider when you begin to see how narcissists are made. With needs not being met and parents of caregivers failing to meet their children’s needs – the child will soon start to look for other ways to gain validation and self-esteem – and that usually ends up through being stolen from other people (as narcissists are so good at doing).

Inconsistency is another way narcissism can be shaped in childhood. One day your parents or caregiver loves you more than anything, the next day they ignore you as if you don’t exist.

Soon enough – you crave attention – and the older you get, the more you rely on any attention, realizing you can manipulate people into offering it to you. 

Abuse affects people in many ways, but shows up in narcissism by way of heavy injustice, with people wanting to spend the rest of their lives wanting to make people feel as miserable or unloved as they were made to feel. It isn’t necessarily a conscious choice, but it’s all they know, and all they live by as narcissists. 


Wouldn’t it be nice if we all received the gold-standard secure attachment as children? It’s what happens when emotionally and mentally stable and healthy people offer their children, raising them in a safe and loving environment.

Consistent and available caregivers teach and encourage emotional regulation.

When that doesn’t happen, anxious and avoidant attachment styles occur and result in people never feeling safe. 

Are you in this, or out?

There is no capacity for closeness, and that’s where challenges begin. 

Not all people raised this way will grow and develop narcissistic traits, but most who are, will find it difficult to set boundaries or walk away from those who have grown up in that kind of household. 

This is not a path you are guaranteed to walk along with a history of insecure attachment, but it is where we notice and understand many narcissistic people derive from.


Believed to be inherited, temperament looks at how a child is as a child.

Are they easier to soothe?

Do they appear to be more unsettled or agitated?

Do they seek more attention?

A child with more challenging temperament may look to continue those traits through adolescence and adulthood. 

Think about all the difficult people you knew, or know now. Do people like them? Were they liked at school, or looked at as a pain? These clashes with others are constantly invalidated by all who meet them.

Temperament impacts a child’s childhood, so it can be likely that narcissists as adults had a difficult time with their tendencies as kids. 

Over or Underindulgence?

Narcissists were once children who were spoiled with all the things that don’t really matter in the long run.

Money, clothes, fancy holidays, the latest tech gadgets or phones—none of these things enhance or improve their emotional worlds. In fact, they can diminish the already-lacking quality of their emotional worlds, making them severely lacking in that area.

Imagine always eating food that’s bad for you. You won’t necessarily be hungry, but you wouldn’t be nourished either. 

The child who grows to be a narcissist has their material needs met, but their emotional needs completely destroyed. They aren’t even taught how to nurture their emotions, and instead will be shamed.

Self-Regulation Through Modelling

A child in a healthy home will model their regulation on their caregiver or parent. 

Emotions will exist, but in ways that allow for reflection and growth. 

Children copy what they see, so if all they see is anger, entitlement, yelling at people for no reason, or demanding behavior, they will assume this is what people do to get what they want. They assume that to get their point across, they need to be rude and raise their voice. 

We all know this isn’t right – but in the child, they may mirror this, accompanied by bad boundaries. 

Emotions Expressed Don’t Matter

Children who may go on to develop narcissism will never have their problems recognized. In fact – it’s common for the unhealthy parent to see their child’s concern or unhappiness, and make it about them instead. 

Mom, I feel so sad.

Oh no. That makes me feel sad, because when there’s something wrong with you, that means there’s something wrong with me.

No… it shouldn’t work that way. Children need to be heard and have their own feelings in their own space, so those feelings can be validated.

Narcissists were unlikely to have had that opportunity growing up, so they can mirror that in partners they find.

I’ve had a bad day.

You’ve had a bad day? I can guarantee my day was even worse!

And so on. 

Emotions are not a problem, but they can appear to be as a child, and bringing that into adulthood can turn a person into somebody who isn’t willing to see how their emotions impact others, and not having an understanding of how others might be feeling. 

I Love You If…

There should be no ‘ifs or buts’ when a parent says they love you. Conditional love shouldn’t exist, and any child who is made to feel loved only when they do something that parents approve of or like is going to be modeled to them that love is not something you should feel or show all the time. 

Take that into adult relationships, and you’ve got yourself a situation that is built on abuse and manipulation, ticking several narcissistic trait boxes.

Narcissists are made to see love as something you need to gain from them, rather than be freely given, and this is learned through how they are raised in childhood. 

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