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16 Habits of People Who Grew Up Feeling Unloved

You may have heard people throw jabs at those who “weren’t hugged as children” in jest, but growing up without emotional support can have a profound impact on an individual’s development. It may not be directly obvious, but a little deeper digging will reveal profound emotional and mental issues from someone who didn’t receive much love growing up.

Psychologists say parenting and a child’s early experiences shape their sense of love and security. Did your parents always shout at you and make you feel small? Did they always break their promises and offer no apologies? Were they emotionally or physically abusive? These experiences often shape lifelong habits and behaviors that stem from deep-seated emotional wounds.

Understanding these habits is crucial for mental health professionals and those affected by them. Here, we explore the common habits of people who grew up unloved.

1. Deep Trust Issues

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Psych Central offers that those who grew up unloved can have a significant challenge with trust. Experiencing neglect or emotional harm during formative years can lead to a pervasive mistrust of others. This is not limited to romantic relationships but extends to friendships, family, and professional interactions.

Trust is a cornerstone of healthy relationships; the inability to trust others can severely limit one’s social and emotional well-being. It can cause isolation and make it hard to form connections, leading to loneliness. Building trust requires time and effort from everyone involved.

2. Huge Fear of Failure

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Who hasn’t messed up a presentation or made glaring mistakes in a professional write-up? Life is dotted with small and huge failures, but people who grew up unloved often develop a paralyzing fear of failure. This habit can be traced back to a lack of encouragement and support during their developmental years. Without a safety net of unconditional love, every mistake feels catastrophic and every failure irredeemable.

This fear can be debilitating, affecting both personal and professional aspirations. It leads to procrastination, avoidance of new challenges, and a general sense of stagnation. Overcoming this habit involves fostering a mindset that views failures as opportunities for growth and learning rather than definitive judgments of worth.

3. Difficulty Expressing Emotions

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Have you been in a relationship with someone who doesn’t say, “I love you” and struggles to say it back when it’s said to them? Expressing emotions is a learned skill, often developed through nurturing relationships. For those who grew up without love, articulating feelings can be incredibly difficult. They might have been conditioned to suppress their emotions or encountered negative reactions when trying to express themselves.

As adults, they might struggle to communicate their feelings effectively, leading to misunderstandings and strained relationships. Therapy and emotional intelligence training can help individuals develop healthier ways to express and manage their emotions.

4. Constant Need for Assurance

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A lack of emotional support during childhood often leads to a habit of seeking constant reassurance in adulthood. This need for validation stems from deeply rooted insecurities and an impaired self-image. The person may frequently doubt their worth and decisions, relying heavily on others for affirmation.

No one wants to be responsible for assuring someone else all the time. This behavior can strain relationships. Learning to build self-confidence and self-validation can help reduce this dependency.

5. “Despicable Me” Self-Image

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Growing up unloved can severely distort an individual’s self-image. Such a person may internalize feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy without positive reinforcement and recognition. This impaired self-image often manifests as low self-esteem and a lack of self-respect.

An impaired self-image affects all areas of life, from career choices to personal relationships. Addressing this issue involves therapeutic interventions focusing on rebuilding self-worth, recognizing personal strengths, and challenging negative self-perceptions.

6. Isolating Themselves

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Isolation is a common habit among those who grew up unloved. The absence of emotional connections during childhood can lead to an overwhelming sense of loneliness and alienation. This habit of self-isolation is often a defense mechanism to protect themselves from further emotional pain.

Breaking the cycle of isolation requires intentional efforts to build connections and engage in social activities. Support groups, therapy, and community involvement can provide the necessary support and encouragement to foster a sense of belonging.

7. Fear of Intimacy

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Intimacy requires vulnerability, and for those who grew up unloved, being vulnerable can be terrifying. Fear of intimacy often stems from previous emotional wounds and the anticipation of being hurt again. This habit can hinder romantic relationships, as the individual may struggle to trust their partner fully.

Overcoming the fear of intimacy involves gradually building trust and allowing oneself to be vulnerable in safe, supportive environments. Therapeutic relationships and trust-building exercises can be instrumental in this process.

8. Oversensitivity To Criticism

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Someone who grows up being told how badly they are doing all the time will be sensitive to criticism and perceived offenses, even when there are none. This oversensitivity often results from an inherent need for approval and the fear of rejection. Even minor comments can be interpreted as major criticisms, leading to emotional distress.

Building resilience and learning to contextualize feedback are essential steps in managing oversensitivity. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals reframe their thoughts and reactions to perceived criticism.

9. Feeling Insecure

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Insecurity is a pervasive habit for those who grew up without love. They may constantly question their worth and abilities, which can manifest in various aspects of life, from personal relationships to professional endeavors. This insecurity often leads to a lack of confidence and a fear of taking risks.

Addressing insecurity involves identifying its root causes and working on building a more stable sense of self. Positive affirmations, supportive relationships, and professional counseling can help individuals develop a more secure and confident outlook.

10. Poor Emotional Intelligence

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Psychology Today says emotional neglect in childhood leads to low emotional intelligence in adulthood. Those who grew up unloved often struggle with emotional intelligence due to a lack of emotional learning and modeling during their formative years.

Emotional intelligence involves recognizing, understanding, and managing one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. Improving emotional intelligence involves education and practice in emotional awareness, empathy, and effective communication. Workshops, self-help books, and therapy can provide the tools needed to enhance emotional intelligence and improve interpersonal relationships.

11. Neglecting Self-Care

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Neglecting self-care is common among those who grew up unloved. Without a foundation of being cared for, individuals may struggle to see their worth and importance, leading to disregarding their own needs.

This can manifest in poor nutrition, lack of exercise, inadequate rest, and neglect of mental health. Fostering a self-care habit is crucial, and it can be achieved by setting small, manageable self-care goals and gradually building up to a comprehensive wellness routine.

12. People-Pleasing Behavior

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A history of receiving little affection or validation can lead individuals to become people-pleasers, constantly seeking approval and trying to meet others’ expectations. They might suppress their needs and desires to make others happy, thereby neglecting their happiness.

Growing up unloved often results in an inability to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. This lack of boundaries can lead to burnout and resentment. Learning boundary-setting skills through assertiveness training can help individuals protect their well-being while fostering healthier relationships.

13. Avoidance of Conflict

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Avoiding conflict often stems from a childhood fear of rejection or abandonment. Such individuals may go to great lengths to keep the peace, even if it means compromising their own feelings and needs. This habit of avoidance can prevent the resolution of important issues and lead to pent-up frustration.

Conflict resolution training and assertiveness skills can help individuals handle disagreements constructively. Disagreements are common in any relationship, and learning how to respectfully express one’s needs and opinions can lead to healthier communication and stronger relationships.

14. Perfectionism

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Perfectionism can be a coping mechanism for those who grew up unloved, as they may be striving to earn love and approval through flawless performance. This tendency can lead to high levels of stress, anxiety, and an inability to enjoy achievements. Tackling perfectionism requires setting realistic standards, embracing mistakes as opportunities for growth, and understanding that imperfection does not diminish one’s worth.

Chasing perfection is futile and can hinder personal growth. Embracing self-compassion, setting achievable goals, and focusing on progress rather than perfection can help individuals. These practices can aid in overcoming the negative effects of perfectionism.

15. Taking Advantage of Others

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Taking advantage of others is a habit that can develop from a place of unmet needs and desperation. People who grew up feeling unloved may resort to manipulation or exploitation to obtain the affection or resources they lacked in their formative years. While this behavior may provide temporary satisfaction, it ultimately damages relationships and erodes trust.

Individuals can learn to build genuine connections based on mutual respect and understanding with proper intervention and self-awareness. Establishing boundaries, practicing empathy, and engaging in self-reflection are crucial steps toward developing healthier interpersonal relationships.

16. Lots of Negativity

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Growing up unloved often results in developing a negative outlook on life. Individuals who lack positive reinforcement and nurturing during their formative years may develop a pessimistic outlook on life. This negativity can manifest in various ways, including self-doubt, cynicism, and an overarching sense of hopelessness.

These individuals might struggle to find joy in life’s experiences and often expect the worst in any situation. The habitual presence of negative thoughts can be mentally exhausting and can deter individuals from pursuing opportunities or forming meaningful relationships.


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