6 signs you didn’t receive enough validation growing up, according to psychology

Validation is something we all seek. 

It’s what we need to know that we’re doing something right. That we’re good people. That we’re on the right path in life.

So, what happens when you don’t receive enough of it as a child?

This is a question we’re going to answer in this article using insights from psychology. 

So, if you’re eager to know if you might not have gotten enough validation as a child, read more below.

1) You have a bad case of imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is one of the most difficult things a person could struggle with.

This study by Huecker, Shreffler, McKeny, and Davis describes Imposter Syndrome as the following:

“Imposter syndrome is a behavioral health phenomenon described as self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals.”

Simply put, it’s your inner saboteur—the voice in your head that whispers, “you’re a fraud” over and over until you can’t shake off the thought.

This starts in childhood when you don’t get enough validation from your parents. Every time you achieve something, it’s somehow not enough.

You’re salutatorian in class? Not enough. You should’ve worked harder to be valedictorian.

Aced a test? That’s just dumb luck. You need to do it over and over again to prove you’re really smart. 

And now, as an adult, that voice in your head is your parents telling you you’re not good enough. 

You constantly compare yourself to others, feeling like you’ll never measure up to their success.

But imposter syndrome can be overcome.

Jessica Vanderlan, PhD, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a psychologist at Siteman Cancer Center, helps psychology and medical residents overcome imposter syndrome by teaching them to “focus on the facts.”

“Becoming a psychologist or physician takes years of work, education, and accomplishment,” she said. “It can help to zoom out and consider how where you are now compares to where you were last year or five years ago.”

So, look back at all your struggles in the past. If you really were a fraud, it would’ve been smooth sailing—you wouldn’t have experienced all of that to get to where you are now. 

2) You constantly crave validation

When we don’t get enough validation as children, we constantly seek it everywhere else—and sometimes, in the wrong places.

As a child, I used to look for it from my teachers. I once cried when my favorite teacher in high school told me I was one of the best students he’s ever had. 

Even now, it still makes me emotional when I think about it.


Because it’s something I never heard from my parents growing up.

You see, when a child doesn’t get enough validation, even the tiniest affirmation from the people around them can be overwhelmingly validating.

So, how do you stop craving validation?

Shahida Arabi, MA, in her article, Do You Seek Validation from Others? Here’s How to Stop in Psych Central, writes, “if you were routinely ignored as a child, are there ways you tend to yourself in a more nurturing way as an adult? This may include regularly telling yourself that you’re proud of yourself and that you believe in yourself.”

This works because the first and most important person who should believe in yourself is you.

And if you genuinely believe you are good enough, that succeeding in your endeavors is a great feat, I swear—you will be unbreakable.

3) You frequently doubt yourself

Self-doubt is something we all struggle with. But for some people, it can be debilitating.

“Self-doubt is a state of uncertainty about the truth of anything about ourselves. It could be about our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, opinions, decisions, self-views, or any “truth” we hold in our minds,” Tchiki Davis, Ph. D., explains in her article How to Overcome Self-Doubt in Psychology Today.

This is something I often witness from my best friend, who’s one of the smartest people I know. 

Every time he does something, even when he does it incredibly, it’s somehow still not enough

He’s terrified of failure because he’s afraid of what people will say when they see him fail—because he thinks he will always be shamed because of his mistakes.

These are all a product of his childhood. His father always forced him to be the role model for his siblings, which is why he’s always afraid to fail.

And honestly, it’s so frustrating that he can’t see himself the way we see him. 

To overcome self-doubt, Davis says to cultivate a sense of self-worth.

“Try to cultivate a sense that your worth is neither increased nor decreased by external factors like how people treat you, your decisions, or the amount of money you make,” she says.

4) You don’t give yourself enough credit

Every time you achieve success, do you tell yourself: “I’m just lucky”?

One of the reasons why you might feel this way is because your parents have always forced you to believe you’re “luckier” than other kids.

And now, as an adult, you attribute everything you’ve ever achieved to luck.

If you can relate, I’d like you to think about it this way:

Statistically, this is just incorrect.

I know what you’re thinking right now. Statistically? What do you mean? 

It’s impossible that 100% of the things you achieved are all products of luck.

“Ignoring the role of luck in success rewards privilege, but ascribing luck in error holds individuals back,” Odessa S. Hamilton MSc, MBPsS, FRSPH, explains in her article Lucky or Able?: How We View the Success of Others in Psychology Today.

What I’m trying to say is, if you really are a fraud, your luck would have run out long, long ago. You wouldn’t have achieved all of the things you have now. 

While it’s true that some of our success can be attributed to luck, not all of it can be. Believing so is just so untrue, and it can hold you back.

I mean, unless you’re a nepotism baby, it’s not just dumb luck. You probably didn’t have the privilege of having successful parents just to get to where you are now.

5) You don’t know how to accept compliments

As a Leo, this is something I personally can’t relate to.

Kidding! Of course, I’m a lot more confident now, but that took so much work.

In the past, I never found it easy to accept compliments. Every time someone would compliment me, I feel like twisting and turning inside. 

All I can do is utter an awkward, “thank you.” Sometimes, I wouldn’t even be able to thank them. 

And then I’d beat myself up over and over for not expressing gratitude for the compliment, telling myself I’m ungrateful.

It’s an exhausting mental process to be stuck in.

In this 2016 study by Kille et. al., it was explained that “[people with low self-esteem] fail to internalize their partners‘ compliments because compliments conflict with their self-theory of low personal worth.”

If you’re scratching your head right now, I can relate. Research articles are so hard to read. 

Like, what does this mean? Speak English! 

Fortunately, I can explain this for you.

Simply put, compliments do not match your self-image. 

If you think you’re not good enough, being told that you are just doesn’t make sense. So your brain short-circuits trying to make the connection.

So when someone actually validates you, you don’t know how to react to it. It’s a foreign concept to you, even when, ironically, you constantly seek it.

How did I overcome this inability to accept compliments?

Surprisingly for me, it’s not just being a Leo. It’s being surrounded by people who constantly show me I’m more than enough. 

When I found a community of people where even the smallest acts are validated and appreciated, I found it easier to appreciate myself, too. 

It was uncomfortable at first, but then, I got used to it. I was able to accept compliments with grace, and is even able to return it!

I know it’s hard not being able to get the validation you needed as a child. But trust me, when you find the right crowd, it becomes so much easier.

6) You’re afraid of being “found out”

As a kid with strict parents, I hid about 80% of my identity growing up. That’s why I found it so funny when my parents would tell me they know me better than anyone else.

This means I was constantly afraid of being found out. Even now, as an adult, I sometimes find it embarrassing showing my family how I genuinely feel.

What do I mean being “found out”?

It means you’re always hiding how you feel because showing feelings inevitably results in punishment. 

If you cry about something, you’re told there’s nothing to cry about. That you should be stronger.

If you express hurt, you’re told you’re being weak.

Because of this, you end up hiding how you truly feel because that’s the only way to appear “strong.”

But you didn’t need to be “strong” as a kid. You were robbed of the privilege to simply be a kid and to feel your feelings normally, and no child deserves that.

Final thoughts

As we close, I’d like to leave you with this affirmation:

You are very much deserving of love and kindness, so don’t deprive yourself of it. 

Even when it’s hard, I know one day, you’ll be able to love yourself the way you needed to be loved as a child.

I mean, if you’re trying to love yourself now—without external validation—the fact that you’re trying already means you love yourself enough to try. 

Joyce Ann Isidro

Joyce is a writer who believes in the power of storytelling and changing lives by writing stories about love, relationships, and spirituality. A bookworm and art enthusiast, she considers herself a creative-at-heart who likes to satisfy her childish wonder through new hobbies and experiences.

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