Did you grow up feeling neglected, rejected, or chronically criticized?
Or perhaps you were unwanted or abandoned by your parents.
Growing up without feeling loved and valued can have long-lasting effects on the adult you become.
I feel for you – it can’t have been easy.
But you’ve come this far, and that’s proof that you can overcome this childhood influence and make changes in your life.
The first step towards this change is to recognize the habits you developed from growing up feeling unloved.
Once you recognize these habits and their root causes, you can start making the changes you need to improve your life.
1) Negative self-talk
Many people who grew up feeling unloved took a lot of criticism when they were children.
This is especially true in the case of kids with narcissistic parents who gave them love conditioned upon their behavior or performance.
When they did well, they were used to show off to other parents. When they did poorly, they were criticized, made to feel useless, and even disowned.
When you grow up taking criticism, it becomes your normality.
So when you become an adult, talking to yourself negatively seems perfectly normal, too.
You may have never thought how damaging and negative it could be to say to yourself things like, “You’re worthless,” and “I knew you would fail.”
But this negative self-talk is actually hugely damaging to your feeling of self-worth and is a habit that’s truly holding you back.
2) Trust issues
If you didn’t grow up in a situation where you felt safe, loved, and respected, you had to do something to protect yourself.
So, with your fragile child spirit, you erected walls around you to protect yourself from the pain and hurt that others could cause you. You learned to keep your guard up and not really trust anyone completely.
You developed an insecure attachment style characterized by a lack of trust and fear of intimacy.
Well, those walls are probably still there.
You may have been able to knock parts of them down by experiencing dependability in some of your relationships, but the foundations are still left behind.
Your instinct is to distrust people until they give you a reason to trust them and not the other way around.
3) Letting yourself be taken advantage of
If you grew up feeling unloved by your parents or caregivers, it’s likely that they didn’t give you much attention or take care of your emotional needs.
And they probably didn’t model boundaries well for you, either.
They may have shared nothing and been totally closed off emotionally. Or they may have shown no respect for your personal boundaries and could take anything from you at any time.
Either way, they didn’t show you how to set healthy boundaries.
So now that you’re an adult, you may have a very hard time knowing where to set boundaries and when to enforce them.
This can lead to you not knowing when to say no to others, and that means they can take advantage of you.
People could be using you again and again for your time, money, looks, or just your kindness because you never really learned how to stand up for yourself.
4) Taking advantage of others
On the other hand, you might not recognize the boundaries others set up.
Since you didn’t learn what healthy boundaries look like, they’re hard to see, and without really meaning to, you might come crashing right over those of others.
Rather than being the one who’s always taken advantage of, you could be taking advantage of others.
Do you do things like borrowing money and then not returning it exactly on time or asking people to cover for you at work a lot without really returning the favor equitably?
These could be signs that you’re pushing too far against other peoples’ boundaries.
Why don’t they just say no?
That can be hard for everyone because it puts their backs up against the wall. But learning to set and defend your boundaries is just as crucial as being able to recognize the boundaries of others.
5) Choosing toxic partners
When you grow up in a toxic environment, you just see toxicity as normal.
One of your parents could have been really toxic – negative, demeaning, even abusive – but the other stayed anyway.
Both your parents might have been equally toxic to each other, or else you could have been raised by a caregiver who was toxic.
However it happened, this gave you an example of what human relationships are like. That’s what you know, and that’s how you think things work.
So, what do you do as an adult?
You get into the types of relationships that were modeled for you.
You keep picking people who are bad for you because you didn’t learn what healthy relationships are built on.
6) Sticking with toxic friends
Maybe you’re single, or you’ve lucked out and partnered up with a person who’s actually good for you.
That doesn’t mean that you’re free and clear of toxic relationships in your life.
Not at all.
If you look at your friends really objectively, are there any of them who constantly make you feel bad? Do any of them use you or take advantage of you for their own gains?
Is there someone in your circle who lets you down again and again?
These people are toxic, and yet you stick with them even though you know deep down these relationships are causing you pain and suffering.
If it’s only loyalty that’s keeping you in these relationships, then what about loyalty to yourself and what you need for a happy life?
Sticking with toxic friends is only going to infect you.
7) Feeling insecure
Even when things are going well in your career and personal finances, you still feel insecure.
You’ve got a nice house, a good car, a job you like, and even a steady relationship.
But despite objectively seeming quite OK, you have this sneaking suspicion in the back of your mind that all of this could disappear in the blink of an eye.
As a child, you learned that good things like love, safety, affection, and attention were inconsistent. They could come and go without warning.
While that might mean you appreciate good things when you have them, you’re also left with insecurity and a lack of safety in your life.
You feel like your things and relationships could be taken away from you, so you do what you can to hold onto them.
You may come on too strong with people or be extremely possessive in your relationships. You might hoard physical things and even care more about them than you do about people.
These habits all stem from not feeling loved and secure as a child.
8) Imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome affects people who achieve a lot but have trouble accepting that it’s real.
Imagine you somehow land a great job or an amazing date, but you don’t see how you really deserve it.
You might even feel like it’s a fairy tale instead of being the result of your own effort or character.
This feeling of being a fraud has its roots in your lack of confidence and in your negative self-concept.
When you grew up feeling unloved and unvalued, you didn’t learn how to properly judge your own value – you just accepted yourself as unworthy.
So when you’re an adult, and you actually do achieve something, rather than feeling pride, you still feel unworthy.
You might just think you’ve fooled people into thinking you’re better than you are. And instead of feeling happy, you feel nervous that you could be found out at any minute.
9) Feeling alone
Without feeling loved as a child, you can grow up being very socially distant.
After all, what good are people if they don’t make you feel loved, safe, and supported?
Combined with a fear of trust, this experience makes a lot of people into loners or makes them aloof.
So it’s no surprise that people like this feel alone a lot of the time.
This includes loneliness, the feeling of missing other people in their lives, but also real deep-seated feelings of being alone in the world without anyone to care for or support them.
If you feel this way, it’s likely due to how you were brought up.
Mental health issues developed from growing up unloved
If you grew up unloved, you may have developed the nine habits I’ve listed above.
But it’s also possible that you’ve developed some more serious issues that could be affecting your mental health.
Anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol abuse, and even PTSD can also be linked to growing up in an environment that lacked love, safety, and consistency.
If you suspect you may have any of these conditions, don’t delay in speaking with a mental health care provider who may be able to get you the treatment you need.