Being overly criticized as a child has to be one of the most challenging experiences someone can go through.
In a world that often values perfection and conforming to social norms, being a child who grew up under a parental magnifying glass can mean finding it tough navigating life beyond childhood.
More often than not, this can amplify feeling misunderstood and lead others to mistake your defensive nature for arrogance…
When it’s really just a shield you’ve had to put up since childhood.
In fact, you’ve probably been accused of being overly sensitive more times than you’d like to remember.
If it does, scroll down to learn more about the 10 personality traits often found in people who were overly criticized as children:
1) Crippling perfectionism
One common trait found in those who were overly criticized as children is perfectionism.
This isn’t surprising, considering that you were constantly under a microscope when growing up, with every little mistake or shortcoming pointed out.
Now, you might have internalized this criticism, so much so that you now hold yourself to incredibly high standards – your parents don’t need to do it anymore.
This can lead to you being overly meticulous in every task you undertake, as you fear making even the smallest mistake.
Unfortunately, this perfectionism can often be misinterpreted by others, who may see you as obsessive or even controlling – when in reality, it’s just a coping mechanism that has stuck with you from childhood.
Despite what others might think, your perfectionism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has likely driven you to achieve great things.
However, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and it’s okay not to be perfect all the time.
2) Struggles with self-doubt
Self-doubt often plagues those who grew up under the dark clouds of overly critical, looming parents.
Listening to a constant stream of criticism from primary caregivers can erode your self-confidence over time, leading you to always second-guess yourself.
Parents are after all somewhat akin to gods, when you’re little…
Their words seem like gospel.
This self-doubt can extend to many aspects of your life, from your professional achievements to your personal relationships. Owing to your perfectionism, you complete tasks near perfection, yet spend hours pouring over the prospect of tiny mistakes that don’t even exist.
And people on the outside looking in might misconstrue this as indecisiveness or lack of conviction. In reality, it’s just a defense mechanism that you’ve developed to deal with the harsh criticism you faced in the past.
3) Overly sensitive to criticism
This trait is virtually an unfortunate given if you were heavily criticized as a child; you’ve become so accustomed to negative feedback that you brace yourself for it even when it’s not there.
Sadly, this sensitivity can often be mistaken for fragility or even a lack of resilience. However, it’s actually a totally natural response to the challenging environment you were brought up in.
And whilst it’s important to be receptive to feedback and constructive criticism, it’s also crucial to understand that not all criticism is negative or personal.
Learning to differentiate constructive criticism from destructive criticism can make a world of difference and help you to grow whilst protecting your self-esteem.
4) A tendency to self-isolate
Do you find comfort in solitude?
This might be because isolation can feel like a safe haven from the judgment and disapproval of others.
You probably prefer spending time alone, nose deep in a book, or working on your hobbies rather than being in the midst of social gatherings. This self-isolation is your way of protecting yourself from possible criticism or judgment.
Others might perceive your need to recharge alone as antisocial or aloof tendencies, but it’s far from that. You’re just in your safe space.
And whilst it’s perfectly okay to enjoy your own company, it’s also important to cultivate and maintain meaningful relationships.
Balance is key, and opening up to trusted individuals can be incredibly therapeutic.
5) Inability to express your emotions
Growing up under constant criticism, you likely learned early on that expressing your feelings could lead to more criticism or even ridicule. As a result, you probably developed a habit of bottling up your emotions as a means of self-protection.
Many of the habits we learn as children protect us from our environments growing up, but it’s also our job to unlearn these when they no longer serve us.
Emotional repression can lead to difficulty in expressing your feelings, even as an adult. Your quiet and subdued nature might mean you have difficulty connecting to others, sharing your successes, or revealing what you truly feel – fearing that you’ll be judged or misunderstood.
Unfortunately, this can often be misinterpreted by others as you being distant or unfeeling.
But the truth is, you feel things just as deeply as anyone else – you’ve just learned to hide it better.
6) Extremely empathetic (almost painfully so)
If you were overly criticized as a child, chances are you’ve developed a heightened sense of empathy towards others.
You’re soft and gooey on the inside, because you know all too well what it feels like to be judged, criticized, or misunderstood.
Consequently, you probably go out of your way to make others feel comfortable and accepted.
A little people-pleasing comes naturally to you, and you’re the one who always lends a listening ear, offers comforting words, or steps in to defend someone who’s being treated unfairly.
Unfortunately, moving heaven and earth for others is something that at times, comes at a great cost to yourself. People don’t always recognize or show thankfulness for your kindness…
If anything, they just take advantage of it.
Remember: your empathy is a beautiful quality. It’s a testament to your strength and resilience that despite the criticism you faced, you’ve chosen kindness and understanding.
Just remember to extend that same empathy to yourself, as you deserve it just as much as anyone else.
7) Constantly seeking approval
Growing up with constant criticism can often lead to a lifelong quest for approval, feeding into the people-pleasing above.
It’s as if you’re still trying to earn that gold star or pat on the back you rarely received as a child, so will go above and beyond to be helpful and benevolent, just for a small smile or a mumbled “thank you”.
So, you work tirelessly and without rest, always going the extra mile at your job, in school, or in your relationships.
And some people are far from grateful, even misinterpreting this as you being needy or attention-seeking. But it’s not about attention – it’s about the quest validation.
You’re simply seeking the reassurance that you are good enough, despite what your parents told you when you were little.
Whilst we all crave recognition in one way or another, it’s also important to know that your worth is not determined by the approval of others.
You are enough, just as you are.
8) A great sense of humor
Weirdly, despite the challenges you faced growing up, one trait you may have developed is an excellent sense of humor.
After all, laughter can be a great coping mechanism and you just love to grin, giggle, and bear it.
You might be the one to crack a hilarious joke in a tense situation or lighten the mood when things get too heavy. Your ability to find humor, in the toughest of situations, is a strong testament to your resilience.
Sure, some might not get your dry wit or your penchant for sarcasm.
They might even think you’re not taking things seriously. But that’s okay. Your humor isn’t a sign of indifference – it’s a survival tool that sheltered you through your adolescent years, and a good one at that.
So go ahead and keep seeing the lighter side of life, and showing others, too.
It’s not only a way to keep yourself sane, but it also brings joy to those around you.
9) Overthinking as if it were a sport
If you were overly criticized as a child, you’re probably no stranger to the world of overthinking.
One negative comment from mom and dad had you up all night trying to work out how to be better, or how to apologize.
And those constant critiques likely trained your mind to analyze every detail, every outcome, every possible scenario.
Now, as an adult, you might find yourself constantly replaying minute conversations detailed in your head, worrying about future events, or second-guessing your decisions.
And sure, this can sometimes help you make well-thought-out choices. Yet, it can also lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety.
The hard truth is that not everything requires deep analysis. Sometimes, it’s okay to be spontaneous and light and go with the flow and trust your instincts.
Overthinking won’t prevent bad things from happening, but it will steal the joy of the present moment. So give yourself a break!
10) Incredible resilience
At the end of the day, the most significant trait you possess is resilience. You’ve made it through a tough childhood filled with criticism and yet, here you are, still standing like a tall, strong oak.
You’ve learned to navigate through life’s ups and downs with grace and tenacity. You’ve adapted, you’ve grown, and most importantly, you’ve survived – all with a smile on your face.
Others might not always see this strength in you. They may focus on your sensitivity or your need for approval, when it’s really that steely your resilience that defines you.
It can be tough feeling like you’re forever misunderstood because of experiences rooted in your childhood.
Others may perceive you as too sensitive, an irritating perfectionist, or even distant and aloof – but it’s crucial to remember that these traits emerged as a way to protect yourself from criticism.
It’s a natural defense that your body built to carry you through life, and many of these traits have also carried you to where you now stand in life.
So if you were overly criticized as a child and people misconstrue your actions, don’t let it discourage you, and be kind to yourself. You carry within you a tenacious spirit and a resilience that is incredibly admirable.
There will also be wonderful people who are willing to look beyond the surface and see this strength. They’ll understand the depth of your empathy, your humor, and your immense capacity for love and kindness.
(You just have to kiss a few toads to find them.)
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