If you recognize these 8 signs, you were raised by highly critical parents

Ever wondered why therapists always ask about your childhood?

Whenever they suggest you tell them about your mother, things are about to get deep.

It’s because your parents play a pivotal role in the grand story of your life.

Your past shapes your present, and how you were raised has a long-lasting impact on who you are today.

Case in point: your folks nitpicking on every little thing you do still haunts you.

If you recognize these 8 signs, you were raised by highly critical parents.

It’s about time you learned how to be kinder to yourself.

1) Perfectionism

To people whose parents expected you to excel and scolded you whenever you made a mistake: how do you enjoy being a perfectionist?

I’m guessing not so much.

According to a study, children raised by highly critical parents become perfectionists not necessarily because they take pride in their work but because they don’t want to appear inadequate.

That sounds like a bummer.

Perfectionism is incredibly restrictive:

  • It causes you to procrastinate on your dreams until you’re “ready,” whatever that means
  • It subjects you to anxiety
  • It makes it harder to bounce back after setbacks
  • It pushes you to burnout
  • It makes you overly cautious, which can result in missed opportunities

You’re allowed to mess up.

When it happens, you’ll be surprised to discover that failing at something isn’t, in fact, the end of the world.

Who would have thought?  

2) Low self-esteem

Speaking of inadequacy, growing up with highly critical parents can also result in low self-esteem as an adult.

When you’re repeatedly led to believe that you’re not good enough during your formative years, you tend to internalize that nonsense.

Now, you have a hard time believing that people actually enjoy your company.

You can’t take a compliment to save your life. And you feel like you must continually prove yourself, whether at work or in your personal life.

It’s exhausting.    

Low self-esteem plummets your quality of life, limits personal growth, and promotes unfulfillment.

Sounds familiar?

If so, you desperately need to build a healthier self-image. Therapy, self-help techniques, and supportive relationships will help.

3) People-pleasing

People-pleasing is an art – and individuals who grew up with highly critical parents master it.

Your friend wants you to help them move all their furniture on your only day off. You say “yes.”

Your coworker asks you to take on extra tasks because they want to sneak out of work early. You say “yes.”

Your partner insists you hang out with their dumb friends instead of chilling at home. You say “yes.”

Before you know it, you’re drowning in a sea of obligations you secretly dread.

But why do you do it?

Growing up with critical parents can create an insatiable appetite for approval.

You learn that you must work hard to earn the slightest bit of praise, so you become an expert at doing whatever it takes to make others happy. Often to your own detriment.

You end up swallowing your needs, you’re constantly apologizing, and you barely have time for yourself.

Not only that, but your self-worth may be contingent on others’ approval, so you feel like a loser whenever you let someone down.

All in all, your parents really did a number on you.

4) Self-criticism

zodiac signs with the highest levels of maturity and wisdom If you recognize these 8 signs, you were raised by highly critical parents

Being your own worst critic is like trying to swim with an anchor tied around your waist.

You’re working hard, but you’re getting nowhere.

It’s like having an ever-present, not-so-helpful companion who never misses a chance to tell you where you’ve gone wrong.

You doubt your abilities and worth, even when you’re doing fine.

It’s because your parents made you believe that, regardless of how exceptional things may be, they can be better.

If you’re your own worst critic, you probably also compare yourself to others and fall short.

One of the things I hated growing up was my mom asking me why I couldn’t do something as well as one of my friends.

If a friend got an A on a paper and I got a B, she would point out that the friend did better and inquire as to why that may be.

I don’t know, maybe because I can’t be good at everything?

(I can put together a decent sentence, but I cannot solve complex mathematical equations to this day.)

Long story short, it’s one of the reasons I have the instinct to compare my accomplishments to those of my friends, a habit I’m trying to ditch for good.

Self-criticism also manifests as negative self-talk, harsh self-evaluations, and dwelling on mistakes.

If you don’t believe in yourself and hype yourself up, who will?

5) Defensiveness

Despite ferociously criticizing yourself, you have a hard time accepting criticism from others. Or constructive feedback of any kind.

You would think that all those years spent under your parents’ watchful eyes would leave you better equipped to handle criticism later in life.

In fact, the opposite happens.

As one person writes on Reddit, “I grew up with supercritical parents who nothing you did was ever good enough. So, it hurts me deep down when I get criticized, especially when I feel I did my best or didn’t do anything to deserve it. Which is almost always.”

Dealing with feedback of any kind is a natural part of life.

And if you want to grow, you need to take the negative one as an opportunity for improvement.  

No matter how many flaws your annoying inner voice points out, you have blind spots.

If you want to identify and address them, feedback is key.  

6) Perceived judgment

Your parents paid close attention to everything you did growing up.

Now, you feel like everyone does.

It’s like you’re in The Truman Show, and an invisible audience scrutinizes your every move.

This is bad for a whole lot of reasons, including because it causes high levels of stress and makes you question your every decision.

More importantly, however, it’s bad because it stifles authenticity.

When you always fear that others might be watching, you begin to censor yourself, even when there’s no one around.

A crucial thing I’ve learned during adulthood is that no one is paying you that much attention.

Everyone is so wrapped up in their issues that they don’t notice if you mess up or say something stupid.

It’s a blessing in disguise.

7) Difficulty expressing emotions

If you have difficulty expressing emotions, there’s a good chance you were raised by highly critical parents.

Growing up, you felt that expressing your emotions was like navigating a minefield.

When those emotions didn’t align with your parents’ expectations, it led to criticism or punishment.

Over time, you began to suppress your true feelings as a survival strategy.

“I feel like I am afraid to show emotion and almost feel robotic at times. To this day, I wonder if it’s why I feel like I have problems emotionally connecting with people, especially girls. I think it’s why I come across as creepy,” a man who grew up with critical parents confesses on Reddit.

Which brings us to the final point on the list.

8) Insecure relationships

Growing up with critical parents can have a profound impact on your ability to form secure relationships as an adult.

Your folks were likely an unreliable source of emotional support, and you might have seen their love as conditional.

Fast-forward to adulthood and their inconsistency left you with trust issues.

You may find it challenging to trust your partners, fearing that their love and support are conditional as well.

Add this to all the previous signs we discussed, and you begin to understand how long-lasting relationships can be a struggle:  

  • You might not believe that you’re worthy of having a loving, secure relationship
  • You might avoid being vulnerable in relationships for fear of being rejected 
  • You might avoid discussing problems or conflicts in your relationships to avoid criticism, letting problems simmer for too long
  • You might find it challenging to express your needs and set boundaries

You’re self-sabotaging, and it’s time to stop.

Final thoughts

Recognizing the damage done by your highly critical parents is the first step to assessing the influence they still have on your life.

But while the effects of their parenting style endure, they aren’t permanent.

You can break the cycle and build confidence over time.  

All you need is self-compassion – and the help of a mental health professional, perhaps? 

You’ve just entered your healing era. Huzzah!

Picture of Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Plesa

Alexandra Pleșa is a freelance writer obsessed with television, self-development, and thriller books. Former journalist, current pop culture junkie. Follow her on Twitter: @alexandraplesa

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

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