People who grew up with controlling parents usually develop these 9 traits later in life

Growing up with controlling parents can deeply impact your personality traits and behaviors as an adult.

It’s not an easy journey, and the repercussions of this upbringing can manifest in various ways. 

From my experience and research, I’ve found that there are 9 common traits that often develop in individuals who have experienced a childhood dominated by controlling parents.

Some of these traits can be self-protective, while others might become obstacles to personal growth and healthy relationships.

So let’s explore what these traits are likely to be, how they might present themselves in adult life, and most importantly, how you can work towards overcoming their negative impacts.

1) Fear of making decisions

Growing up with controlling parents often means that most decisions, big or small, were made for you. This can lead to a deep-seated fear of making decisions as an adult. 

This is not about simple indecisiveness, but an intense anxiety and overthinking even the smallest of choices. You might feel paralyzed by the idea of making a mistake or facing the potential consequences.

This fear can manifest in various aspects of life, from choosing a career path to deciding what to eat for dinner. 

It might seem like every choice carries an enormous weight, leading to avoidance and procrastination

2) Difficulty in setting boundaries

If your personal space, opinions, and choices were frequently disregarded or overruled in childhood, you may find it challenging to establish and maintain boundaries in your adult life.

This struggle can affect various areas of life, including relationships, work, and even your relationship with yourself. 

You might find it hard to say no, frequently overextend yourself to meet others’ needs, or let others cross your personal boundaries without protest.

This lack of boundaries can lead to feelings of resentment, exhaustion, and low self-esteem. It’s crucial to recognize this pattern and work towards establishing healthy boundaries. 

This could mean learning to assertively communicate your needs, respecting others’ boundaries in return, and understanding that it’s okay to prioritize your own wellbeing.

3) High level of self-criticism

This often stems from constantly being judged or criticized during your formative years, leading to an internalized voice that continues to scrutinize your every move.

This can manifest as:

  • Persistent negative self-talk
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • A tendency to be overly critical of your own actions and achievements 

You might set impossibly high standards for yourself, driven by the fear of not being ‘good enough’ or letting others down.

It’s crucial to recognize that this pattern of self-criticism is not a reflection of your worth or abilities. Instead, it’s a learned behavior that can be unlearned with time and patience. 

Techniques like mindfulness, self-compassion exercises, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be beneficial in tackling this trait.

4) Tendency to be controlling

Interestingly, individuals who grew up with controlling parents may themselves develop controlling tendencies. 

This might seem paradoxical, but it is a way of gaining a sense of security and predictability that was lacking in their childhood.

This trait can manifest in various ways – from trying to micromanage everything in life to being overly protective or demanding in relationships. 

It’s important to note that this is not an intentional act of dominance but rather a learned response to stress and uncertainty.

Self-awareness, empathy, and learning healthier ways to communicate and cope with stress can help you break this cycle of control.

5) Heightened sensitivity

This sensitivity can be both emotional and physical, often resulting from the constant state of alertness and anxiety experienced in a controlling environment.

Emotionally, you might find yourself extremely sensitive to criticism, rejection, or conflict. You may also be highly attuned to others’ emotions and moods, often to the point of taking them on as your own. 

Physically, this heightened sensitivity might manifest as a lower threshold for sensory input such as loud noises, bright lights, or certain textures.

While heightened sensitivity can often feel overwhelming, it also has its advantages. It can enhance your empathy, creativity, and ability to connect with others on a deeper level.

6) Deep sense of responsibility

Having been held to high standards and perhaps shouldering adult responsibilities at a young age, you might have an ingrained sense of duty and responsibility that goes beyond the norm.

This can manifest as a tendency to overwork, put others’ needs before your own, or feel guilty for not meeting perceived expectations. 

It might feel like you’re constantly striving to prove your worth or make up for perceived shortcomings.

While a strong sense of responsibility can be an asset, it’s crucial to balance it with self-care and personal fulfillment. 

Remember that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs and wants. You are not responsible for everyone else’s happiness or wellbeing.

7) Difficulty trusting others

If your autonomy and personal space were frequently invaded or disregarded, it can be challenging to build trust in relationships.

This lack of trust can lead to problems in forming and maintaining relationships. 

You might be wary of opening up to others, constantly expecting disappointment or betrayal. This can lead to feelings of isolation and hinder your ability to form deep, meaningful connections.

Overcoming this trust issue often involves healing from past experiences, learning to set healthy boundaries, and gradually opening up to others at your own pace. 

Professional therapy can provide a safe space to explore these trust issues and find ways to navigate them.

8) Tendency towards perfectionism

This trait stems from a deep-seated belief that one needs to be perfect to be accepted or loved. 

If your parents set unrealistically high standards for you, you might have internalized this, leading to a constant striving for perfection.

Perfectionism can manifest in various ways – from obsessing over minor details to procrastinating for fear of not being able to do something perfectly. 

It can lead to significant stress, burnout, and low self-esteem, as the bar you set for yourself is always just out of reach.

It’s essential to understand that perfection is an unrealistic goal. 

Learning to accept and embrace your flaws, celebrating small victories, and practicing self-compassion can go a long way in overcoming this trait.

9) Difficulty in expressing emotions

If expressing your feelings in your childhood home led to dismissive or negative responses, you might have learned to suppress your emotions as an adult.

This can lead to difficulty in recognizing and expressing your own emotions, often feeling numb or disconnected from your feelings. 

It can also impact your relationships, as emotional expression is key to forming deep connections with others.

Understanding and acknowledging this trait is the first step towards emotional healing.

Therapy, journaling, mindfulness practices, and emotional intelligence training can help you reconnect with your feelings and express them healthily.

Moving forward: Overcoming the impact of a controlling upbringing

Recognizing these traits developed from growing up with controlling parents is a crucial step towards understanding yourself and your reactions better. 

However, it’s equally important to remember that these traits don’t define you. 

They are behaviors and patterns learned in response to a specific environment, and just as they were learned, they can be unlearned.

Taking the time to heal from your past experiences, perhaps with the help of a professional therapist, can be incredibly beneficial. 

Techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and assertiveness training can help you break old patterns and develop healthier habits.

Healing is not a linear process. It’s okay to have setbacks and bad days. 

What matters is that you keep moving forward, make small changes consistently, and continue to show up for yourself. 

Self-compassion is key in this journey – be patient with yourself and celebrate each step you take towards growth.

Remember that you’re not alone. 

Many people have had similar experiences and have successfully overcome them. Connecting with others who’ve had similar experiences, through support groups or online forums, can provide comfort and practical insights.

Finally, remember that it’s okay to prioritize your wellbeing and happiness. 

You are worthy of love, respect, and kindness – from others and most importantly, from yourself.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

9 signs you’ve had a pretty good life, even if it doesn’t always feel like it

8 signs someone is a low-quality person, according to psychology