17 Habits You Probably Developed if You Weren’t Loved as a Child

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By Darryl Henderson

Being neglected as a child can have a long-lasting impact. In fact, unloved children may develop a range of habits that reflect deeper emotional patterns as a response to the neglect. Here are 17 habits you probably have developed if you weren’t loved as a child.

Always Seeking Approval

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Children who haven’t received enough love during childhood tend to seek validation from others to make up for this lack of love. This is because they fear rejection in relationships and want to avoid repeating what they have experienced in childhood. Sadly, they may also experience difficulty making decisions without reassurance.

You Often Self-Isolate

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Young children who were left to their own devices in childhood prefer solitude in adulthood, opting for isolation rather than attending social events. According to Harvard Health, a lack of affection in childhood can lead to emotional detachment and difficulty forming close relationships later in life. 

Everything Has to be Perfect

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A lack of love in childhood frequently leads to a heightened desire to become perfect. As time goes on, these children tend to set unrealistic standards for themselves and punish themselves if they make mistakes. Even when they excel at something, they have difficulty accepting compliments or praise.

Fear of Abandonment

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For many, not experiencing love as a child also meant being left alone a lot, so they’ll try to make up for this in adulthood. They’ll constantly worry about being left behind, clinging to relationships even if they are bad for them. Unfortunately, it will also manifest in struggling to trust others.

You’re a People-Pleaser

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Psych Central explains that children who grow up in environments where they don’t feel loved also often develop coping mechanisms that can persist into adulthood. This is why so many become people pleasers; they have been put down in their childhood, so they’ve learned to put other people’s needs before their own. 

Lack of Boundaries

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Unloved children often experience invasive behavior from their parents or family members, which instills a sense of fear in them. Having frequently allowed their parents to overstep personal boundaries, they will find it difficult to assert themselves in adulthood. If they are taken advantage of, they will harbor a lot of resentment. 

Low Self-Esteem

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As children often internalize their negative childhood experiences, they will continue this trend in adulthood with constant self-doubt and negative self-talk. They will develop a habit of rejecting positive feedback and will feel unworthy of love and happiness, unlike children who have received love and support.

Avoidance of Intimacy

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Children who receive love are accustomed to getting close to others emotionally and can freely express themselves in an open environment. However, those who have been shunned when they are growing up will have difficulty expressing feelings or vulnerability. Instead, they will opt for surface-level relationships where they don’t involve their emotions.

You Over-Apologize

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Unloved kids will generally feel as though they can do nothing right. They’ll become apologetic for everything, saying sorry excessively, even when they aren’t at fault. By taking the blame, they will also feel responsible for other people’s emotions and will try to avoid conflict or confrontation at every turn.

Emotional Dependence

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As neglected young people have not received support during their formative years, they will try to grapple for support from others. If they do not receive sufficient support from others, they may feel lost or empty. In times of stress, they could find it challenging to cope with setbacks by themselves.

Seeking Control

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To make up for their lack of control in their young years, individuals will attempt to control situations or people around them. As claimed by National Geographic, the impact of early childhood experiences, including feelings of love and affection, can shape brain development and influence behavior throughout life. 

Avoidance of Conflict

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A childhood of arguments and disagreements makes avoiding conflict a priority for unloved children. This often means they will disrespect themselves by sweeping issues under the rug to maintain peace. They also tend to hold their emotions in as they find it challenging to express negative emotions such as anger and frustration.

You Rely on Escapism

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Many undervalued children will turn to distractions to avoid facing reality. They may engage in addictive behaviors such as binge-watching television or gaming excessively, which could hurt their mental health. They’ll also commonly tune out during conversations and find it tough to stay present in the moment.

You Constantly Self-Sabotage

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It is common for undervalued kids to subconsciously undermine their own success or happiness as these concepts are unfamiliar to them. As The Guardian states, nurturing environments for children are incredibly important, as neglect or lack of love during formative years can have lasting effects, such as this type of self-sabotage.

Need for External Validation

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Another trait of people with unfortunate childhoods is an intense need for external validation. Whether it’s academic validation or approval from authority figures, unloved children are in an endless pursuit of external gratification. They will tie their self-worth to achievements or possessions and will feel hollow without external praise.

Difficulty Trusting People

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As unloved children have been betrayed by those they trusted the most, they will find it difficult to trust others and their intentions as adults. This stems from an inherent fear of being hurt or betrayed. They may keep their emotional distance and avoid getting close to someone as a protective mechanism.

Chronic Stress

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Finally, with a history of abuse and neglect, young people will consistently feel overwhelmed or anxious, both throughout their childhood and in adulthood. They will have a hard time relaxing or unwinding and may even be plagued by physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive issues. If you notice this trait, give the person a break.