Maybe you’ve heard the stereotypes before.
Only children sometimes have some pretty unfavorable labels attached to them.
They’re lonely, they’re jealous types, they’re selfish.
Well, let me instantly turn that one on its head by pointing out that Mahatma Gandhi was an only child — did he strike you as the self-centered type?
The order of our birth and whether we have siblings has long been attached to some cliched ideas.
Whilst some come with little proof, others do hold some weight.
Luckily it’s far from being all bad news for an only child.
You’ll be glad to hear they have some pretty special attributes that make them unique.
Let’s take a look at them!
1) They’re independent and know how to take care of themselves
You might have been told that growing up as an only child makes you more spoiled.
After all, without other siblings vying for your parent’s attention, you become the sole focus.
But that doesn’t mean you grow up waiting for everyone else to do things for you.
The reality is that our folks are never there 24-7. Besides, they have a different take on life than kids do.
So they’re not always going to be able to fulfill all of our needs. Yet without brothers and sisters to rely on, it’s all down to you.
The good news:
Children who grow up having to in part entertain themselves, play alone, and solve their own problems turn into self-sufficient and competent adults.
2) They’re outspoken in sharing their thoughts and opinions
I have a good friend who is an only child.
She often (in a self-deprecating way) jokes that this is why she is so bossy and vocal. But she is doing herself a huge disservice.
She’s actually excellent at pointing out her needs and wants to others. She is also clear about her ideas and shares them unashamedly.
It’s one of the reasons that only children can turn into great leaders.
When you’ve got siblings, you may notice that your feelings and thoughts get shot down quite a lot.
Whilst this can be valuable learning for navigating relationships in later life and dealing with people, it can also have another effect:
It can knock our confidence and make us more timid about speaking up.
Only children aren’t always exposed to the same harsh criticism and rejection that kids with brothers and sisters may receive growing up.
This gives them greater ease and self-assuredness in sharing what they think.
3) They’re an old soul
Here’s a gift that comes from plenty of adult company from such a young age:
Sure, you have friends and peers that are your own age. But in the home environment, you’re exposed to a lot of mature energy.
And that often rubs off.
You may have learned some very complex and grown-up emotional skills very early on.
- Thoughtfulness and awareness
- Senitive interpersonal skills
All of this comes together to create a well-rounded person who gives off wisdom beyond their years.
4) They have exacting standards that drive them to be high achievers
Okay, those exacting standards can sometimes spill over to make you occasionally demanding. But it goes just as much for yourself as it does for others. Perhaps more so.
Only children tend to have high expectations of themselves.
This starts young, and here’s why:
You get all of your parent’s focus as an only child. Whilst that brings with it many blessings, it can add pressure.
They’re intently focused on how well you do and your success in life. They want the best for you, and they have more time dedicated to just you to try to ensure that success.
From an early age, only children are taught to push themselves and excel.
‘Reach for the stars’ becomes their motto.
Of course, those lofty ambitions often mean that even if they don’t quite make it, they still land on the moon.
It’s no wonder that many of history’s success stories, including the likes of Leonardo De Vinci, John Lennon, Tiger Woods, Robert De Niro and many more are only kids.
5) They’re perfectly at peace in their own company
It makes sense, they’re used to it by now.
A lot of people feel very uncomfortable alone. They say that they feel bored or lonely.
I’m not an only child, but as an introvert I relish my alone time. But not necessarily in the same way as an only child does.
Because it’s not about needing to recharge your battery or hiding from overstimulation.
In fact, you can be an extroverted only child and still relish this time spent on your own. It’s simply that you’ve been exposed to the joys of solitude from a much younger age.
You never had to share a room. You couldn’t always rely on a sibling to keep you company. You had to make friends with yourself in a way.
As an adult, this has some real practical benefits.
Time alone offers us more time for self-reflection and self-discovery. It also gives you some space to balance your emotions and unwind.
In short: it can be a great sign of well-being.
6) They’re creative thinkers who are better at thinking outside the box
Guess what being an only child also does for you?
Gives your creativity levels a boost.
But don’t take my word for it, there is research to back it up.
One study scanned the brains of hundreds of university students. Half of them were only children. They also tested their personality, creativity, and intelligence.
What they discovered was that the only children outperformed the participants with siblings when it came to creativity.
They could see on the scans that only children had more grey matter in those areas of the brain associated with mental flexibility and imagination.
But you might be asking yourself, why?
The researchers hypothesized that it’s yet another consequence of more contact with their parents, combined with higher expectations placed on them.
Being an only child equips you with plenty of handy life skills
It’s understandable that how we grow up helps to shape who we are. And there is no denying that family life is a big part of that.
The absence of brothers and sisters in your world may not have always been something you’ve relished.
Perhaps more than once you have even longed for siblings to share your life with.
But the reality is that it has likely brought its own unique set of gifts into your life too.