10 signs you were overly criticized as a child

None of us had a perfect childhood, at least I know I didn’t. 

I don’t want to act like it was a house of horrors or like I was the only youngster who went through tough experiences: I think all of us did! 

Speaking for myself I can also say that the idea of blaming or criticizing my mom doesn’t sit right with me, especially given all she did so selflessly and well to raise me and my sister alone. 

We need to be grateful and recognize that no parent can be perfect. 

But let’s be honest…

At the same time as I believe the “blame the parents” approach of psychology and self-development is not productive, we all need to be brutally honest. 

That means confronting things that happened in our childhood no matter what they were, because these experiences have much more influence in our adult lives than we realize. 

In my case I remember I was often criticized, not only by my mom but also by teachers and authority figures. 

This contributed to some self-esteem and confidence issues that have taken a long time to become aware of and confront. 

Here are the indications that you were also criticized too much as a youngster.

1) You’re a people pleaser

We’d all prefer that others not be angry at us or wanting to harm us. 

But people pleasing takes this to the other extreme, putting our own needs last and centering our world around the approval of others. 

This is one of the biggest signs that you took in too much criticism as a kid:

You’re now an adult who is deathly afraid of letting people down. 

You want to please everyone in your life, even the receptionist at the hotel who looks in a bad mood makes you wonder “did I do something wrong?”

2) You often put yourself last

As a result of people pleasing, you often put yourself last. 

You want to make everybody else happy and you expend your time, energy, money on love on everyone…

…Everyone except you! 

The result is exhaustion and feeling like crap. This then feeds into the cycle of criticism that already overwhelmed you as a youngster. 

Which brings me to the next point…

3) You feel low self-value

When you often feel low self-value but can’t quite point to why, it usually has roots in being criticized too much as a youngster. 

The problem with being criticized a lot as a kid is twofold:

  • Unlike simple discipline and strictness (which are helpful and empowering in moderation), criticism tends to be directly absorbed by the child-like brain as a message of “I am bad, I am unworthy.”
  • The criticism directed our way as youngsters tends to morph into our inner dialog and become that reality and inner voice telling us we’re no good and will always fail. 

The result, almost invariably, is a struggle with seriously low self-esteem

4) You’re plagued by self-doubt

Part of self-esteem issues of those who were criticized too much growing up is the constant feeling of self-doubt. 

“Am I really smart enough to start a company?”

“Does this guy really have feelings for me or am I just a side piece?”

These kinds of self-doubts are usually part of that negative inner dialog telling you that you won’t succeed, that you’re not good enough and that you are low value.

As licensed psychologist Seth Gillihard, Ph. D. says:

“Constant criticism early in life can leave the impression that what you think, feel, or do is somehow wrong. 

“As a result, you’re often plagued by self-doubt.”

5) You avoid big risks 

Self-doubt means you tend to avoid big risks. 

You may be internally ambitious, but the thought of taking a major chance fills you with dread. 

You already feel not good enough, and the thought of taking a risk and falling short fills you with true dread. 

It would give that inner critic and those past memories of critical parents so much more power. 

You’d know for sure they had been right all along if you take a risk and fail! 

So it’s better just to not try at all (at least that’s what your inner voice tells you). 

6) A single mistake sets you back for months

If and when you do take a risk (even a small one!) you’re deathly afraid of it going wrong. 

If it does go wrong in any way you feel like an epic failure and doubt yourself even more! 

This is unfortunate and self-defeating, because the truth is that success and victories are almost always the result of successive attempts and many previous failures and frustrations. 

When you were criticized too much as a kid you were find it extremely hard to accept a mistake or even a failure or setback that wasn’t your fault. 

Which brings me to the next point…

7) You’re prone to perfectionism

The perfect really is the enemy of the good. 

When you’re the product of an overly critical environment you often tend to be a perfectionist

You often leave projects half started and can’t find the motivation to carry on as soon as the slightest misstep takes place. 

This makes it very hard to move forward in any real way, since you’re constantly demanding either perfection or nothing, whether it’s in your job, your personal life or your friendships and hobbies! 

8) Negative feedback hits you extra hard

When you get negative feedback, even from some random online troll, what do you do?

Somebody who was criticized too much as a kid tends to take it especially hard and think about negative comments or feedback for days. 

A person who was more supported growing up will tend to read negative comments and sh*tposting and shrug. Just some idiot keyboard warriors blowing smoke. 

This is the problem when you got criticized a lot growing up: you internalized yourself in the position of somebody who’s always to blame or not good enough and now even the slightest trigger initiates that posture on your part. 

“What did I do wrong?” you wonder, even when it really is them and not you. 

9) You say sorry way too much

The next indication that you grew up getting criticized way too much is that you say sorry far too often

You say sorry if somebody bumps into you and you say sorry if you delay answering a text for a few hours. 

You say sorry when you didn’t understand what somebody just said, and when people say that you say sorry to often, you may even find yourself saying sorry for saying sorry too much. 

It’s an endless loop of disempowerment! 

10) You assume compliments people give you are fake or exaggerated

If and when people give you compliments for your talents, accomplishments, affable personality and many other positive aspects, what do you do?

Somebody who was criticized too much growing up will tend to assume these compliments are:

  • Fake
  • Have an ulterior motive to get something from them
  • Exaggerated to boost their self-esteem or out of pity

This is sad because it makes even the most genuine and voluntary compliments lose their power. 

Indeed, learning to truly take a compliment can be one of the hardest things for a person to do who’s been criticized a lot growing up!

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