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5 Ways That Women Who Were Unloved as Children Struggle in Their Adult Lives

The person you are today has been shaped by the experiences you had as a child… and probably much more than you realize. The good, the bad, and the ugly can all be traced back to your early years, and the type of love you received is a big contributing factor to your happiness, or unhappiness, now. Since it’s so often that the struggles you may be experiencing are also linked to your youth, the first step in overcoming those hardships is to recognize where the root of the problem is.

How Your Childhood Experiences Shape Your Adulthood

A person’s world is shaped when they are a child. In that time, their thoughts and opinions about the world are molded, and those thoughts carry over to their adulthood. Children rely completely on their caretakers, and when they grow up with a lack of emotional or physical support, they grow up to believe that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care[2].

A 2014 study showed that the type of emotional support that a group of babies and toddlers received in their first three and a half years of life, whether positive or negative, had an effect on education, social life, and romantic relationships even 20 or 30 years later[1].

“It seems like, at least in these early years, the parents’ role is to communicate with the child and let them know, ‘I’m here for you when you’re upset when you need me. And when you don’t need me, I’m your cheerleader[1],’ ” says Lee Raby, a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware who led the study.

In a perfect world, all children would receive the kind of physical and emotional support that they need to grow into strong and well-rounded adults, but that’s sadly not the case. There are many people in the world who grow up without receiving the love and care that they need in childhood, and many people may not even realize it until they are much older and they are forced to deal with the problems that developed in their childhood.

5 Ways People Who Didn’t Have Enough Love in Childhood Struggle as Adults

  1. Constant unworthy feeling

When a child is raised without the emotional support they begin to feel unworthy of positive attention. So, in adulthood when the same individual receives the support they feel undeserving of it, and typically will fight against it. This can manifest in both romantic relationship, friendships, and career choices.

Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: “You are not important. You are not of value.” This is the pain from which people need to heal[2].” Says specialist Dr. Claudia Black.

  1. Transforming into a ‘false-self’

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When a child wants a parent to love and support them, and the parent does not, they will do anything to get that positive feedback. What often happens is that the child will become the type of kid they think that their parent would like, completely burying who they truly are.

“When we bury our emotions, we lose touch with who we really are, because our feelings are an integral part of us. We live our lives terrified that if we let the mask drop, we’ll no longer be cared for, loved, or accepted[3]” says emotional trauma therapist Dr. Andrea Brandt

After years of living with a mask on it can be difficult to take it off. The best way to discover the authentic you is to consult a therapist who specializes in childhood emotional trauma who can help you to reconnect with your true feelings again.

  1. Struggling to let anyone in

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As early as infancy, children learn the foundations of relationship building from watching their parents interact with people inside and outside of the family structure[4]. When a child has experienced abandonment they will begin to mirror that activity as they get older, adding distance between themselves and other individuals.

  1. Victimhood thinking

The way that we view ourselves has the ability to empower or disempower us. Negative self-talk makes us feel like victims, as though we have no control over our lives. Children have little to no control over their environment, and even when they do have control over it as an adult, it can often feel as though they don’t, because their minds are stuck in a pattern.

Brandt says, “even in circumstances where we think we don’t have a choice, we always have a choice, even if it’s just the power to choose how we think about our life[3]”

Instead of thinking of yourself as a victim, start thinking of yourself as a survivor, and the next time that you feel trapped, remember that you have options.

  1. Passiveness


Children that felt abandoned may have buried emotions like fear and anger in the hopes that no one would ever abandon or neglect them again. The problem with this is that they then learn to hide all traces of emotion, contributing to passiveness. These children tend to grow into passive adults, who never fulfill their true potential for fear of being turned away. Really, they are abandoning themselves.

“When we bury our feelings, we bury who we are. Because of childhood emotional trauma, we may have learned to hide parts of ourselves. At the time, that may have helped us. But as adults, we need our feelings to tell us who we are and what we want, and to guide us toward becoming the people we want to be[3].” Says Brandt.

How we were treated in our childhood greatly affects the people that we are today, for better or worse. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to fit ourselves into categories and live by those standards the rest of our lives. You may not have had a lot of choices in your childhood, but you have choices now. Overcoming any issues that you have begins by finding the root of the problem. Perhaps it’s time to start looking at our childhoods to find those roots and heal them.

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