Growing up with overbearing parents is a bit like having two eagles circle in the air around you at all times of the day.
No matter what you do, no matter where you go, their shadows are high in the sky above you, reminding you of their presence.
Naturally, this constant state of control leads one to develop certain coping mechanisms and qualities that may last long into adulthood – even if the eagles flew away a long time ago.
People who had overbearing parents often grow up to have these 8 traits.
1) They don’t trust their own decisions
Many parents who exert too much control over their children do so because they aren’t capable of developing a full sense of trust.
They’re always worried. Worried you might get into trouble; worried you won’t live up to your potential; worried you’ll get sick; worried about everything and anything that’s even remotely connected to you.
As a result, they’ll insert themselves into your life more often than they should, making decisions for you and taking on the burden of responsibility for some of your actions.
And what happens when the person you rely on the most tries to take control of your life?
You doubt the validity and power of your own choices.
What if you decide to do something, only to find out your parents disagree? What if you make a mistake? What if you’re wrong again?
Self-doubts keep swirling in your mind, eating at you day in and day out.
2) They constantly fear failure
I grew up with overbearing parents, and if there’s one thing that imprinted on me at a very early age, it was the fear of failure.
If I got a bad grade at school, I’d be shouted at. If I made a mistake, I’d be criticized.
There was no trial and error for me. No learning from lessons gone wrong. There was simply success and failure, and no grey zone in between.
Naturally, navigating such unreasonable expectations is incredibly difficult because you can never succeed 100% of the time.
Life is all about making mistakes and adjusting your approach as a result, and if you learn to associate every mistake with a feeling of impending doom, you’ll soon find that it’s better not to face new challenges at all.
Hence why those of us who grew up with overbearing parents tend to stay stuck in our comfort zones. We’d rather be good at what we know and risk stagnation than evolve in new directions and risk failure.
But if this sounds like you, I want you to know that I’ve made it past this fear, and so can you.
It’s all about rewiring how you view failure, reprogramming the false beliefs you have about yourself, and letting go of your parents’ expectations.
The latter especially is very important, and if there’s one book I’d recommend on the topic, it’s got to be Homecoming: Reclaiming Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw.
3) They are either overly reliant on others or hyper-independent
If your parents are overly controlling, you’ve got two choices: accept or decline.
I’ve seen how these coping mechanisms turn out in real time because while I accepted my ordeal in life and learned to be overly dependent on others, my sister transformed into a rebel.
I asked for help even when I didn’t really need it. She was too proud to ever even consider it.
I obsessively clung to my relationships with others. She was a lone wolf.
I strived to get academic validation. She refused to study.
While my coping mechanism was to get anxiously attached to the people around me and build my whole identity around my social interactions, my sister became an independent island.
As you can probably tell, none of these traits are very healthy. Building social connections is very important to our physical and mental well-being, but a complete lack of self-sufficiency undermines one’s trust in oneself.
The good news is that these coping mechanisms can be reprogrammed once you start to put in the work.
4) They are perfectionists
When you’re afraid of making mistakes, your natural instinct might be to strive toward perfectionism. This is completely normal.
In fact, research says that overly controlling parents often raise perfectionist children. As a kid, you might have been so scared of criticism that you tried to get everything right – at the cost of your own mental health.
Unfortunately, becoming an adult doesn’t automatically make you shed all your behavioral patterns from childhood. More often than not, you keep repeating them, except this time, you take on the role of the strict parent.
“I’m so stupid, why can’t I solve this problem?”
“I only got 98% on a test, those missing 2% are really bugging me. I should have done better.”
The expectations you set up for yourself are so high that you’re often unable to meet them, which leads to feelings of misery and inadequacy.
What’s helped me most in this regard was to realize that I was worthy of love and kindness in my imperfection.
You are a human. You are valid simply because you exist – even if you don’t get an A or a promotion.
5) They always seek external validation
Speaking of grades and promotions, one of the reasons you’re such a perfectionist is that you’re hungry for praise.
I’m not trying to be rude. I’ve been gorging on praise my whole life, so I’m simply saying it as it is – when you have overbearing parents who primarily show you affection as a reward for good behavior or external accomplishments, you learn to associate certain actions with love.
If you win a competition, you’ve “earned” your right to be loved.
If you get a promotion, you’ve “earned” respect.
However, the truth is that you don’t have to earn anything.
The right people will love and respect you on the pure basis of your humanity. You won’t need to do something special in order to have your life validated.
You are enough.
6) They struggle to set clear boundaries
Boundaries are all about separating your personal space from the public one and honoring your individuality.
If you don’t like how someone treats you, say so.
If you’d rather spend the evening alone than go to a party, say so.
If you are firmly against dishonesty in a relationship… say so.
Easier said than done, right? For those of us who grew up with overbearing parents, boundaries are our greatest nightmare because we’re getting used to them only now.
Back when we were kids, there were very few boundaries between ourselves and our parents, which means that we learned to view ourselves as an extension of other people rather than full-fledged individuals.
And if you struggle to set clear boundaries, there’s a high chance you also possess the next trait on this list…
7) They are people pleasers
We’ve already spoken about your hunger for praise and thirst for external validation, but we haven’t yet mentioned the great lengths to which you can go just to avoid conflict.
I say this as someone who used to absolutely dread confrontation and was a huge people-pleaser.
When my friend and I arrived at a disagreement, I quickly gave up and pretended I’d changed my mind just to appease her.
When we did fight once in a few months, all I could think about was how angry I’d made her and what I could possibly do to make things right. It didn’t once cross my mind that I should have felt angry, too.
People-pleasing is built on the foundation of prioritizing relationships and neglecting your own sense of self. People pleasers feel that they have to manage everyone else’s emotions, moods, and requirements – except their own.
The key to unlearning people-pleasing behaviors? Come to accept that not everyone has to necessarily like you.
You don’t like every person you meet, either. Why should they?
Sometimes, it’s okay not to get along.
8) They take extreme risks or no risks at all
Finally, having controlling parents may lead you to develop an unhealthy attitude to risk.
Either you’ll feel free as a bird the moment you’re out of your parents’ grasp, taking one risk after another, or you’ll continue in your parents’ footsteps and stay shut in your comfort zone.
And how can we determine who chooses which coping mechanism?
We can’t. Humans are intricate and complex creatures, and you never know how they might surprise you.
Our coping mechanisms come to light the moment we need them, and while someone chooses to become a “rebel” as it were, others might struggle to overcome their conditioning from childhood.
No matter which traits from this list you have, remember that these qualities don’t have to stay with you forever. You can change them or get rid of them completely.
But you’ve got to take the first step on your personal development journey.
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