If you recognize these 8 signs, you probably had a lonely childhood

Being a lonely child usually doesn’t end as soon as you hit 18.

And sometimes, it’s not until we look back at our childhood as grown ups, that we realize it was a bit more solitary than we thought. 

You might’ve spent years playing with imaginary friends, or traveling through vastly creative imaginary worlds – not quite realizing how isolating and solitary this was.

And although our past need not shape our future, recognizing how your past has shaped you is the first step towards learning how to move beyond letting it control you. 

So, let’s delve into 8 indicators that suggest your childhood might have been a lonely one.

These insights might well provide valuable self-understanding and pave the way for personal growth.

1) You treasure your alone time

As a kid, you might have spent a lot of time on your own. Maybe you were an only child (like me), or perhaps you just preferred the company of your own thoughts to playing with others.

Even now, as an adult, you prefer resorting to what you know – that quality alone time, curled up with a book, some paints, or whatever your hobby of choice. 

You find comfort in your own company and often choose to spend time alone rather than socializing, as that is what you grew up with and consider to be your ‘normal’.

And whilst enjoying alone time is not a bad thing, too much of anything is never healthy. 

A love for solitude that began in childhood could indicate a lonely upbringing, which is important to acknowledge if it is then detrimental to your interactions and livelihood as an adult.

2) You were the “mature” child

“You’re so wise for your age!”

“I can’t believe you’re only 10!”

“My, what a wise old soul you are. A 60-year-old trapped inside a 6-year-olds body!”

I grew up with statements like this, and looking back now, I can see that this air of maturity was less about being advanced for my age, and more about a lack of connection with my peers. 

My parents being far older than those of my peers, my siblings too, I was often alone.

As a result, I spent more time in my own company or with adults, which made me appear more mature than I actually was. 

As it turns out, adults don’t have a whole load of patience for make-pretend games or other silliness…

If you also found yourself often being called mature for your age or an ‘old soul’, it could be an indicator that you too had a lonely childhood. 

Being wise for your age isn’t always a bad thing, either. It grants you a great deal of wisdom and intellect – but it sure can feel lonely at times.

3) Fiction is your best friend

Children who feel lonely often find solace in the world of stories and imagination. 

I was amongst those who lived with my nose perpetually in a book. 

The more fairies, dragons, witches and castles, the better. I would read and read, and then continue making up new storylines and tales in my head.

For children who grow up lacking attention and care, books, movies, or video games can become safe havens where they can explore different realities and escape their own solitude.

And this love for imaginary worlds often carries through into adult careers; think writing, directing or any form of storytelling that allows one to dive into different worlds. 

4) Hyper independence

Independence is a trait that’s often admired. 

What’s better than being able to do everything on your own two feet?

But hyper independence can often stem from a place of loneliness, having likely learned to rely on yourself from a young age.

This independence might have been necessary then, but now it translates into difficulty accepting help from others or forming close relationships

You might find yourself always insisting on doing things your way, feeling uncomfortable when others offer assistance, and being absolutely unable to ask for help.

If this all sounds familiar and you often find yourself taking the solo route and struggle to let others in, it could be a sign that your hyper independent streak was shaped by a lonely childhood.

pic2055 If you recognize these 8 signs, you probably had a lonely childhood

5) Noticing the little things 

Children who spend a lot of time alone often become excellent observers. 

Without constant interaction, they learn to watch and understand the world around them.

(Not in a creepy way, mind you…)

Maybe you’re the type of person who notices small details that others miss, or you’re particularly good at reading people’s emotions and reactions. 

This might even err into hypervigilance, whereby tiny changes in other people’s emotions or tone set off your anxiety.

And whilst being a keen observer is a valuable trait, it’s important to ensure it doesn’t lead to excessive overthinking or anxiety. If you find yourself constantly in observer mode, it could be a sign of a lonely childhood.

6) Extreme empathy

Empathy is often born out of personal struggle. 

For me at least, I’ve known how isolating and lonely life can be, so I do my utmost to prevent others from experiencing the same struggles.

If you too experienced loneliness as a child, you might have developed a heightened sensitivity to others’ feelings. 

Your lonely childhood might have equipped you with a deep sense of empathy, making you a compassionate and understanding friend, colleague, or partner. You might now even fall into the category of being a highly sensitive person (HSP).

And as compassionate as you may be, it’s crucial to balance this empathy with self-care to avoid emotional burnout from taking on too much of the pain and suffering you see and want to abet.

7) Peacekeeping & conflict avoidance

Growing up lonely can sometimes make you hyper-aware of conflict. 

You might have developed a strong desire for harmony and peace, leading you to often take on the role of a peacekeeper.

Whether it’s diffusing arguments, finding middle ground, or avoiding conflicts altogether, you might find yourself constantly striving to maintain peace and stability around you

This could be because the loneliness in your childhood made you yearn for calm and harmonious relationships, instilled with a touch of fear that any arguing will mean you’re back to square 1 (being lonely).

But remember, it’s equally important to voice your feelings and stand up for what you believe in.

Don’t allow those who disrespect you or treat you poorly into your life purely because you want to fill that lonely hole left behind from your childhood.

8) Valuing genuine connections

Loneliness in childhood can make you crave deep and meaningful relationships as an adult. 

Surface level interactions and superficial relationships don’t satisfy you, and you constantly look for connections that go beyond the ordinary.

All that empathy and understanding means you make a wonderful friend and confidant, but you might also suffer from an anxious attachment style.

Afraid that your loved ones will leave, you may also have a degree of abandonment trauma – thus acting at times clingy, at others times self-sabotaging your relationships.

Yet, you give all the love you lacked as a child to those who you do love, and know that with time your trust in others will be restored – enabling you to have the fulfilling and lasting relationships you so deserve.

Life after loneliness.

The journey of recognizing signs of a lonely childhood is not about dwelling on past sorrows or casting blame. 

Nor is it attempting to wake up one day and decide never, ever to feel lonely again.

Each and every person in the world carries some form of trauma, of hardship and adversity. 

The same rings true for you; the solitude you experienced has likely provided you with such kindness, empathy, and wonderful creativity.

And although you might feel in some ways limited by your upbringing, it’s crucial to remember that a lonely childhood does not define your future

Your past experiences may have been challenging, but they have made you stronger and more resilient; they are a part of your journey, not your destination.

You have the power to shape your own narrative from now on, to build the relationships and life you desire.

Picture of Liv Walde

Liv Walde

London-based writer with big thoughts, big dreams, and a passion for helping others.

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