16 Signs You Didn’t Get Enough Love as a Child

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Almost all parents do all that they can for their children. In saying that, however, no two parents are alike, nor are their parenting styles. People tend to learn from role modeling and treat their children as they were themselves treated. That is why there is often a chain of dysfunction and, sometimes, even abuse. The adults we grow into are often a reflection of how we were raised. Not getting enough attention does have consequences that can persist throughout one’s life. These are some of the signs that people didn’t get enough attention during the most critical points of development.

You Have a Hard Time Expressing Yourself

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Children who don’t get enough attention often grow up to be adults who have a hard time expressing themselves. When you aren’t given the attention necessary to develop socially to work through your feelings, it leads to problems with saying what you want. Sometimes, it can lead to even understanding what that is.

You are Always Trying to Make Up for Not Getting Enough

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When you don’t get the attention you need as a child, you can spend a lifetime searching for what's lost. Positive reinforcement is necessary to develop one's sense of validation. If you didn’t learn that skill as a child, it can lead you to continually seek validation from those around you, even if you don’t necessarily want or need it. The key is to learn that you don’t need anyone’s approval but your own. Practice the phrase; if I am okay with myself, then I am okay.

Intimacy Feels too Intimate

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People who aren’t given enough attention as children tend to have a hard time forming and maintaining close relationships. That can manifest into a hard time with physical displays of affection. It can also lead to guarding yourself against allowing other people in to see and know who you are. The good news is that it is never too late to build intimacy. Opening yourself to the uncomfortable nature of being too close to others, one step at a time, is a great way to overcome it.

Your Fear of Rejection Motivates You

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No one wants to feel the sting of rejection. Those who felt as if they weren’t loved or accepted as a child have a really hard time with it. Try to tell yourself that rejection is just an unfortunate part of being accepted. Unfortunately, no one gets what they want all of the time. The more you put yourself out there, the less rejection will sting. 

You Might Be too Independent

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It is a good thing to be independent. Like everything else, however, too much of a good thing might not be good for you. If you weren’t given the attention you craved when you were young, you probably learned to make do on your own and just get things done. Some children have to take on the role of a parent for their younger siblings. That responsibility, when combined with an understanding that you are on your own, builds a wall around you. You learn quickly that survival can only happen if you go it alone. 

You Find Love Hard to Accept

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One would think that love is something everyone can accept, but it isn’t. Those who grew up without the love, attention, and support needed during a critical time of their life feel weird when someone does express love and concern. Affection isn’t something you are born to understand. It is a learned behavior. If you didn’t have role models who modeled it, it can be overwhelming. When someone loves you, lean into it, you deserve it. 

You Live in a State of Self Doubt

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When you are continually riddled with self-doubt, it might not be a self-esteem problem, and it might stem from your upbringing. If you lived your informative years without encouragement, affirmation, and support, then you probably were always wondering if you were doing things right or how things were even supposed to be done. It is a good idea to take a step back at times to see all that you have accomplished. You likely did a fair amount of raising yourself. So, give yourself some grace and know that you are doing the best you can.

You Isolate Yourself on Purpose

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Children who aren’t given the attention that they need tend to isolate themselves. It, unfortunately, can become a persistent practice into adulthood. When you spend a lot of time alone as a child, you don’t learn what it is like to be surrounded by people. It feels weird to be thrust into a world where people engage with you. It is okay to need some space and be comfortable with time out, but you also should try to make connections. You’ve lived alone long enough, and it’s time for you to join life fully.

You Speak People-Pleasing

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People who aim to please do so because they just want to be loved and have affection from others. When you have a childhood that is marred with trying to get the attention and love that you need that is never fulfilled, you will do anything to get your needs met. That desire often extends into adulthood and manifests in over-pleasing so as to feel your worth. You weren’t put on earth to please other people. At the heart of it, you need to focus on pleasing the most important person, you.

Happiness Can Feel Like a Guilty Pleasure

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When you spend your childhood trying to please and be loved, then you begin to think that you aren’t worthy of happiness. Not getting what you needed growing up probably led to feelings of sadness and misery, and those things felt predictable and deserved. Therefore, when you do feel happiness, you feel guilty, and you are quick to dismiss them. Everyone deserves to be happy, because it isn’t something that should be earned. It is something that everyone has inside of themselves if they just let their light shine.

Self-Care Feels Wrong

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Self-care is exactly what the word sounds like; caring for yourself. When you have parents who spend very little time caring for you, it feels wrong for you to give yourself the energy and care that your parents or caregiver didn’t or couldn’t. Spending time on yourself isn’t selfish. It is deserved. You do so much for everyone else; why not give yourself the same courtesy?

Your Walls are Impenetrable

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Self-care for someone who didn’t get enough attention is hard to come by, but self-preservation is a way of life. If you are someone who has built walls so high around yourself that they are impenetrable, then there is a good chance you built them for a reason. The problem is when you build walls to keep people out, you also keep yourself captive. You can’t protect yourself from hurt by hurting yourself. Let your guard down a little and you just might find that walls might not be the way.

Trust Doesn’t Come Easily

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When you are a child, you’re supposed to feel safe and secure, but if you didn’t or weren’t made to feel that way, it can carry over into adulthood. If your caregiver or parent wasn’t ever there to calm your fears or make you feel like everything was going to be okay, then you never felt okay in your own skin. Waiting for something to come at you, at any point, is a scary way to live. It makes you distrust things that you can’t see and always be on guard for what’s coming your way. At some point, however, you have to learn to trust that someone is there for you and has your back and give them the license to do so.

You Can’t Process Your Feelings

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If you sometimes feel like you don’t even know what you feel, that is a sign that you are convicted. Emotions are not something that comes with a handbook or a way to navigate them without help. If you didn’t have someone showing you how to manage them and put them into perspective, then you probably didn’t learn how to process, accept, and tame them. The good news is that you know that you have a hard time, and if you take your time, you can learn how to put it all into perspective.

Your Overly Critical of Yourself and Others

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When you aren’t provided positive reinforcement from others, then you have had to gauge your own self-worth from the start. That can lead to being overly critical and having unreal expectations about who you are and what you should be. It can also flow into being too harsh on others. No one is perfect, including you, so give yourself a break and try to realize that everyone is doing the best they can.

You Feel Alone in a Crowd

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Just because you are surrounded by people, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are invested and engaged with you. When you grow up not getting the attention that you crave, often it means that people were around you, but you were invisible to them. That same feeling usually transcends into your adult years, where you feel like you are there, but you’re not really there. The key is to engage with others and you will quickly see that if you don’t want to be alone, you never will be. 

There is no such thing as the perfect childhood, but it is undeniable that there are some better than others. Parents typically do the best that they can, but not everyone is as good at parenting as you wish they would be. If you didn’t get the attention that you needed when you were little, the good news is that there is always time to make positive changes and to learn those things that you didn’t when you were young. You just have to give yourself grace and recognize that, just like your parents or caregiver, you are doing the best that you can. Forgive them for their shortcomings, and you will quickly find that you can forgive your own. 

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