This is a topic that I am also intrigued about and do a lot of research for my work, clients, and overall knowledge to give others.
A narcissist MAY have been raised by abusive parents, overly pressured to not only achieve but be the best, serve as a sort of trophy for the family, or be the back shadow on something of the sort. One peer figure may say nothing is good enough, another that everything they do is perfect. They’re often taught that even having needs for support, love, praise, guidance, discipline, and limits are weaknesses, things to be ashamed of. Because of this, I believe narcissists can develop a masked outer shell. I have heard confessions like “I just learned not to need anyone, I don’t need people” from the clients that come into my practice.
The small child inside running through like with a big personality(mask) is a lonely child that felt unlovable, that grew up with demands for performance. There’s often awkwardness in social interactions, which itself leads to bullying, and in adulthood, repeatedly pushing intimate connection away. They don’t really have friends. Because of their childhoods, they develop obsessive standards, where everything has to be the best — how else could they win the approval of Mom or Dad?
They develop compulsive behaviors to keep themselves distracted and stimulated. At the bottom of it all is a sense of defectiveness and shame, Such as “having been made to feel weak for wanting love and affection.” Because of their early experiences, they learn that they can’t count on other people to meet their needs, and to compensate for that, a sort pathological self-reliance takes root. The narcissist will work very hard to become super capable, super autonomous, so they won’t be beholden to anyone, and they won’t need anyone.
In adult life, that means they act “supremely entitled” to do what they want and have what they want, make the rules and break them as they see fit. They are masters of gaslighting by this point.They try to remain always head of spotlight and superior. As their families grow up, they may find new problems: Their spouse reads some books or gets some therapy, and takes a healthier stance in their relationship dynamic. The kids come of age, and they no longer have to put up with their neglect, demands, or criticism. Spouses divorce, children estrange. Again, the narcissist is alone. The loneliness, the emptiness, the sense of unlovability, the isolation continues. It’s a toxic unbroken cycle full of self sabotage.