If you have these 5 traits, you probably grew up in a dysfunctional family

We often like to imagine our childhood as this perfect time, where our parents listened to us, loved us no matter what, and had our backs through thick and thin. 

You know, the whole deal of having a normal family. 

But the truth is, lots of us didn’t even know what “normal” was supposed to be while growing up. We accepted our fate despite glaring signs of unhealthy parenting behavior.

Unfortunately, the effects of being a part of chaotic households can linger long into our adult years, casting a shadow on our relationships with ourselves and others.

Here are 5 character traits you might find relatable if you grew up in a dysfunctional family.

1) You’re a people pleaser

I can tell you that as a kid, I would do anything to keep the “temporary” peace at home. This meant saying yes to whatever was asked of me. 

I thought that if I could keep everyone in a good mood, it would kind of lower the chances of any drama happening.

This peace-keeping strategy I picked in childhood to handle our home’s unpredictability has stuck with me until now. 

So, if you grew up in a similar setting, where you went out of your way to accommodate your parents’ moods, you probably grew up as a people-pleaser with a tough time setting healthy boundaries.

You should know this is neither your fault nor a sign of weakness. 

The good news is we can break this pattern by finding a balance between lending a helping hand (when needed) and prioritizing our needs.

2) You’re a perfectionist

With people-pleasing tendencies comes the risk of aiming for perfectionism

Think about it.

If you grew up trying to please everybody, chances are you also:

Perfectionists usually grow up in super-critical homes, where even minor slip-ups are treated like grand catastrophes.

This can cultivate the desire for unattainable perfection, where mistakes are magnified and reactions are intense.

So, if you find yourself paying great attention to details in all aspects of your life, be it work, relationships, or goals, for fear of failing, then know that you’re setting unrealistic expectations for yourself.

It’s not human to excel in life without making mistakes.

However, you can break from this pattern by:

  • Practicing self-compassion and celebrating your little wins
  • Setting realistic goals
  • Challenging negative thoughts

In doing so, you can control the unnecessary anxiety and stress you constantly put yourself under to prove your worth to yourself and the world.

3) Anxiety is your middle name

Sure, being stuck in the cycle of people-pleasing or striving for perfection, or maybe even juggling both, can cook up a recipe for chronic anxiety and unending stress in adulthood.

It’s true.

In a dysfunctional home, you’re in a family where emotions can instantly swing from sunshine to storm clouds. And, you fear not meeting expectations and setting off emotional fireworks.

If this hits home, anxiety might as well have room in your heart.

Being on high alert daily is consuming, living in a constant state of fight or flight. 

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to let your upbringing define who you are.

Those pockets of calm, those moments when anxiety takes a back seat. They don’t have to be fleeting. 

With the right tools, support, and some self-love thrown in, they can become more frequent and more lasting.

4) You have weak communication skills

As a child, you absorb the communication patterns around you like a sponge.

If you’re not exposed to healthy discussions, disagreements, and resolutions, it’s like missing out on a crash course in effective communication.

One way I used to keep peace at home was to never get into a disagreement with my parents.

I knew that if I did, I would make them unhappy. And, if that happened, it meant that I had to deal with a silent treatment session later.

It took me years to realize that giving people the silent treatment was a toxic way to deal with conflicts. Additionally, it stopped me from expressing myself authentically in the long run. 

So, how do you know you have developed poor communication skills?

  • You’re misunderstood
  • You avoid difficult conversations
  • You’re passive-aggressive
  • You find it challenging to apologize
  • You cannot express your needs clearly

Poor communication skills can hinder your ability to convey your thoughts, needs, and emotions in friendships, romantic relationships, or even professional settings. 

But just because you grew up in an environment with poor communication doesn’t mean you’re stuck with those skills forever. 

You have the power to learn and practice healthy communication techniques, ones that promote understanding, empathy, and cooperation.

5) You find it difficult to build relations

Weak communication skills naturally make it harder for survivors of unstable homes to build and maintain healthy relationships.

If you grew up in a place where emotions were all over the place, messages weren’t clear, criticism was common, and sometimes people hurt you emotionally or physically, then trying to have good relationships as an adult might feel like climbing a mountain without the right gear.

It’s normal if you cannot even imagine what a healthy relationship should be like.

The result is you find yourself falling into one, two, or all of the below patterns:

While being a part of an unstable family might have thrown some curveballs your way, you’re not powerless.

Fighting those patterns and replacing them with more positive relationship dynamics is challenging.

But give yourself some credit. 

It’s doable.

You’re breaking years-old cycles of negative parenting and toxic behavior.

Final thoughts

As a child of a dysfunctional family, you should never feel guilty for developing unhealthy coping mechanisms.

You did what you knew best to survive and care for the fragile you when your parents could not.

It’s not a dead end, and you’re not doomed.

You can unlearn the rules set up in chaotic homes with the right kind of therapy and a reliable support system.

Equipped with self-awareness and a willingness to put in the effort, you can ensure that the cycle ends with you.

Picture of Lily Gareth

Lily Gareth

Beirut-based writer with a flair for all that is artistic. Follow her on Instagram: @raysofdisarrays

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.