People who never felt accepted growing up often display these 8 traits later in life

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Growing up can be tough, especially when you never really feel accepted.

I’ve been there. Maybe you have, too.

Or maybe it’s someone you know—a friend, a family member, even a partner.

It’s not always easy to recognize the signs, but they’re there.

What does it mean to grow up feeling like an outsider? How does that impact us as we journey into adulthood?

It’s not always easy to see; sometimes the signs are subtle, other times they’re glaringly obvious.

But when you step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes clear.

There are certain traits that seem to emerge in those of us who never felt accepted as children. They’re not always what you’d expect.

But trust me, they’re there.

This is where we start: understanding these traits and what they mean for us as people.

It’s not going to be easy, but then again, nothing worth doing ever is.

1) They tend to be overachievers

Growing up without feeling accepted can often lead to a drive for achievement and perfection.

It’s like a constant quest to prove ourselves, to show the world—and maybe even ourselves—that we are worth something.

This can manifest in a number of ways.

Some people become workaholics, pouring their energy into their careers in an attempt to find validation.

Others may focus on hobbies or interests, seeking to excel and stand out.

The need for achievement can be all-consuming.

It’s not just about doing well; it’s about being the best.

Anything less feels like failure, because deep down, we’re still trying to earn that acceptance we never felt as children.

It’s a tough cycle to break, but recognizing it is the first step.

Understanding that our worth isn’t defined by our achievements can help us start to heal and find true acceptance—from within ourselves.

2) They struggle with self-esteem

It’s no surprise that growing up without feeling accepted takes a toll on our self-esteem.

Even as we strive to be overachievers, there’s always that nagging doubt in the back of our minds.

Are we really good enough? Will we ever be?

It feels like we’re constantly seeking approval, validation, and acceptance—from others and from ourselves.

No matter how much we achieve or how hard we work, it never feels like it’s enough.

We start comparing ourselves to those around us, measuring our worth based on their successes, their lives.

But the truth is, self-worth isn’t something that can be measured or compared.

It’s hard to shake off those feelings of inadequacy.

But it’s important to remember that you are enough, just as you are.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone else.

Your worth isn’t determined by what you do or achieve; it comes from who you are as a person.

3) They’ve developed a heightened sensitivity to criticism

I can remember the first time someone told me I wasn’t good enough.

I was a kid, maybe nine or ten, and a teacher told me my project wasn’t up to par.

That I could do better.

From that moment on, every criticism stung like a bee sting, embedding itself deep within me.

Throughout my life, I’ve found that this sensitivity to criticism is more than just a personal quirk; it’s a common trait among those of us who never felt accepted growing up.

Every critique feels like a confirmation of our deepest insecurities, reinforcing the idea that we’re not good enough.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve overreacted to a minor comment or spent nights awake agonizing over a single critique.

It’s more than just being sensitive; it’s an overwhelming fear of failing and disappointing others.

It’s been a long journey, but I’m learning to separate constructive criticism from personal attacks and not let it define my self-worth.

It’s a tough road, but one worth walking.

4) They gravitate towards helping professions

Here’s something I’ve observed over the years: a significant number of people who never felt accepted growing up end up in helping professions.

We’re your teachers, your social workers, and your therapists.

We’re drawn to roles where we can make a difference, where we can help others feel seen and accepted in a way we never did.

It makes sense when you think about it.

We understand what it’s like to feel overlooked, to feel unaccepted.

We carry those feelings with us into adulthood, and they influence our career choices.

It’s not always easy; in fact, it can be emotionally draining at times.

But there’s also a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing you’re making a difference in someone else’s life.

And maybe, just maybe, helping others helps us heal a little bit, too.

5) They often find difficulty in forming intimate relationships

Growing up without feeling accepted can leave deep-seated fears and insecurities that spill over into our personal relationships.

It’s like we have this invisible wall built around us, protecting us from potential hurt but also isolating us from potential love and connection.

It can be challenging for us to open up, to let someone else in.

There’s always that fear of rejection lurking in the back of our minds:

What if they don’t accept us? What if they leave?

This fear can make us keep people at a distance, even when we crave closeness.

It can make us self-sabotage, pushing people away before they have a chance to disappoint us.

But intimacy isn’t perfection or never getting hurt.

It’s vulnerability; it’s sharing our true selves with another person, flaws and all.

And while it’s scary, it’s also incredibly liberating.

6) They’re often hyper-aware of others’ feelings

One thing I’ve noticed is that many of us who never felt accepted growing up have developed a keen sense of empathy.

We’re often hyper-aware of others’ feelings and emotions. It’s like we have this radar—this sixth sense—that picks up on even the slightest shifts in mood or tone.

We’ve become experts at reading people, at picking up on non-verbal cues that others might miss. We can sense tension in a room, often feeling someone else’s sadness or joy as if it were our own.

This heightened empathy is a double-edged sword.

On one hand, it allows us to understand and connect with others on a deep level.

But on the other hand, it can be overwhelming, especially when we absorb too much of others’ emotions.

Finding a balance isn’t easy.

But I’ve found that recognizing our empathetic nature and setting boundaries can help protect our own emotional health while still allowing us to connect with others.

7) They often have a strong need for control

Growing up without feeling accepted can often lead to a strong need for control.

It’s like we’re constantly trying to control our surroundings, our relationships, even ourselves—all in an attempt to avoid the pain of rejection or disappointment.

We meticulously plan and organize, we worry about every little detail, we strive for perfection in everything we do.

We believe that if we can just control everything, then we can prevent anything bad from happening.

But life is unpredictable and messy.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t control everything. And that’s okay.

Learning to let go of this need for control is a difficult but crucial part of healing.

It’s learning to trust – in ourselves, in others, and in the process of life.

It’s learning to accept that it’s okay not to be perfect, that it’s okay to make mistakes.

8) They’re incredibly resilient

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, those of us who never felt accepted growing up are incredibly resilient.

Life has thrown us challenges, knocked us down, left us feeling out of place and alone – but we’re still standing.

We’ve faced rejection, we’ve battled insecurities, we’ve had relationships with a constant fear of not being good enough.

But through it all, we’ve shown an astonishing ability to bounce back.

This resilience isn’t something that’s often talked about.

But it’s a trait that deserves recognition and respect.

It’s a testament to our strength, to our ability to handle life’s challenges and come out the other side stronger and wiser.

So yes, growing up without feeling accepted leaves its mark.

But it also shapes us into resilient individuals capable of overcoming adversity.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Final thoughts 

Acknowledging that we never felt accepted growing up is no easy task.

It can bring up painful memories and emotions. But it’s an essential step on the path to healing and self-acceptance.

We can’t change the past, but we can shape our future.

We can learn to embrace our mistakes, to value our strengths, to accept our flaws.

We can learn to give ourselves the acceptance we craved as children.

It’s okay to seek help on this journey.

Reach out to a trusted therapist or counselor.

Connect with supportive friends or loved ones.

Lean on those who understand your experiences and validate your feelings.

And most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Healing takes time; it’s okay to move at your own pace.

Ethan Sterling

Ethan Sterling has a background in entrepreneurship, having started and managed several small businesses. His journey through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship provides him with practical insights into personal resilience, strategic thinking, and the value of persistence. Ethan’s articles offer real-world advice for those looking to grow personally and professionally.

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