People who were overly criticized as children tend to develop these 8 traits later in life (according to psychology)

Childhood shapes us in ways we often don’t fully understand until we’re adults. Especially when it comes to criticism.

If you were heavily criticized as a child, you might have developed certain traits that you carry into adulthood, often without realizing it.

Psychology has shed light on the long-term impacts of such experiences, identifying eight key traits that tend to emerge.

In this article, we’ll explore these traits, providing a deeper understanding of how early criticism can influence us. Let’s dive in.

1) Hypercritical of themselves

Children who are regularly criticized often grow into adults who carry a similar pattern of self-criticism.

Psychology suggests that the harsh lens through which they were seen as children becomes internalized, leading them to scrutinize their every action and decision.

This internalized voice can be relentless, setting unrealistically high standards and berating them when they fall short. It’s as if the critical voice they grew up with continues to echo in their minds, shaping their self-perception.

Though it may drive a strong work ethic or a keen eye for detail, this unforgiving self-criticism can also result in stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Understanding this trait’s roots is often the first step toward breaking the cycle and developing a more compassionate self-image.

2) Perfectionism

In my own experience, excessive criticism during childhood can often lead to the development of perfectionism in adult life.

Growing up, I was constantly criticized for anything less than perfect scores in school. As a result, I found myself driven to overachieve in every area of my life, always striving for that elusive ‘perfect’ performance.

Perfectionism, although it may seem like a desirable trait, can be debilitating. It can lead to fear of failure, procrastination, and even burnout. It’s like being caught on a treadmill that never stops, always pushing you to do more, achieve more.

Recognizing this trait in ourselves is crucial. It’s the first step towards learning to balance ambition with self-care and understanding that it’s okay to be less than perfect.

3) Difficulty accepting compliments

People who were overly criticized as a child often find it hard to accept compliments. Instead of taking praise at face value, they may suspect ulterior motives or dismiss it as insincere.

This stems from the fact that compliments can be jarringly different from what they’re used to hearing about themselves.

It’s been found that for every negative comment a person receives, it takes approximately five positive comments to negate the impact. This means if you’ve grown up in an environment where criticism was the norm, positive feedback can feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

Over time, however, it’s possible to learn to accept compliments graciously and even begin to believe them.

4) Resilience

Interestingly, one trait that can develop from a childhood filled with criticism is resilience or mental toughness.

Having faced constant criticism, these individuals often develop the ability to bounce back from setbacks more quickly. They’ve learned from a young age to adapt and keep moving forward, regardless of the obstacles in their path.

In my book, The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness, I delve deeper into this concept. It’s all about how we can harness these early experiences, turning them into a force for personal growth and strength.

While the link between childhood criticism and resilience may seem like a silver lining, it’s important to recognize that resilience doesn’t negate the negative impacts. Even the most resilient individuals may still grapple with self-esteem issues or other traits on this list. Recognizing this allows us to address each trait individually, fostering greater self-understanding and personal development.

5) Fear of rejection

Being overly criticized as a child can often lead to a deep-seated fear of rejection. This fear can manifest in many ways, from avoiding close relationships to constantly seeking approval.

For a long time, I found it hard to form close connections with others. I was always on edge, worrying that they would reject me if I made a mistake or didn’t live up to their expectations. It felt safer to keep people at arm’s length.

This fear of rejection can be paralyzing, but recognizing it for what it is can be the first step towards overcoming it. It’s about learning to trust yourself and others, and understanding that everyone makes mistakes and that’s okay. We are all deserving of love and acceptance, regardless of our flaws and shortcomings.

6) High levels of empathy

It might seem counter-intuitive, but individuals who were overly criticized as children often develop high levels of empathy.

Having been on the receiving end of harsh judgment, they tend to understand and resonate with the feelings of others more deeply. They can intuitively sense when someone is upset or distressed, and often go out of their way to provide comfort or support.

However, while this heightened empathy can be a great strength, it can also lead to emotional exhaustion if not managed properly. It’s important for empathetic individuals to learn to set boundaries and take care of their own emotional well-being too.

7) Difficulty trusting others

Another trait developed from childhood criticism is a difficulty in trusting others. This stems from the fact that the early figures of authority in their lives, who were supposed to provide support and encouragement, instead delivered harsh criticism.

As a result, these individuals may struggle to build trust in relationships. They might question others’ intentions or worry that they will be let down.

Recognizing this pattern is the first step towards healing. It involves learning to slowly build trust and understanding that not everyone will respond in the same way as those early critics. It’s a journey, but one that can lead to healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

8) Strong desire for control

The most crucial trait to understand is the strong desire for control. This desire often stems from a turbulent, unpredictable childhood environment where criticism was the norm.

As adults, these individuals may attempt to control their surroundings to avoid criticism or rejection. This can show up in various ways, from meticulous planning to a reluctance in delegating tasks.

While this trait can lead to efficiency and thoroughness, it can also result in stress and strained relationships if left unchecked. It’s essential to recognize this pattern and learn to let go, understanding that it’s okay not to have control over everything.

Final reflections

Understanding our past and how it has shaped us is a journey, one that can bring both challenges and insights.

If you recognize these eight traits as a product of being overly criticized as a child, remember that acknowledging them is the first step towards positive change.

In my book, The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness, I delve into strategies for turning these challenges into opportunities for growth and resilience.

These traits, while they may stem from painful experiences, can be harnessed as a driving force—a catalyst for personal development. They can empower you to build stronger relationships, develop a healthier self-image, and cultivate mental toughness.

As you move forward on this journey of self-discovery, remember that your past experiences have shaped you, but they don’t define you. You have the power to redefine your narrative and transform your life.

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.

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