People who grew up with critical and judgmental parents often display these 8 behaviors later in life

In my years of experience, I’ve observed that individuals who grew up with critical and judgmental parents often exhibit certain behaviors in their adult life.

This is due to the imprint left by their upbringing, which shapes their psychological framework in significant ways. These behaviors are not necessarily negative; they are simply manifestations of a childhood spent under the scrutiny of high expectations and harsh criticism.

This conditioning can result in eight distinct behaviors that become apparent as these individuals navigate adulthood. These behaviors can range from perfectionism and high self-criticism to challenges with trust and intimacy. By understanding these patterns, we can better understand ourselves or those around us who have experienced a similar upbringing.

So, let’s dive in. 

1) Perfectionist tendencies

Growing up with critical parents often results in individuals developing perfectionist tendencies. This is an adaptive response to the constant criticism and high expectations they experienced during their formative years.

Perfectionism, while seemingly a desirable trait, can lead to stress, burnout, and even mental health issues.

Perfectionists? They often set unrealistically high standards for themselves and feel deeply disappointed or even worthless when they don’t meet them. They may also have a tendency to be overly critical of others as well, reflecting the criticism they received growing up.

To overcome perfectionist tendencies, reflect on why you feel the need to be perfect. It could be fear of failure, fear of judgment, or past experiences. Accept that mistakes are a part of the learning process, and remember that perfection is an unrealistic and unattainable goal.

2) Difficulty trusting others

Another common behavior displayed by people who grew up with critical parents is having difficulty trusting others. This stems from the fear of being judged or criticized, as they were by their parents. As a result, they may struggle to open up and share their feelings or thoughts with others, even in close relationships.

This lack of trust can hinder the formation of deep and meaningful connections with others. It can also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, as these individuals often feel misunderstood or that they cannot be their authentic selves without fear of judgment.

Working through these trust issues often involves acknowledging the root cause and understanding the impact on current relationships. A trusted therapist or counselor can be very helpful in this process.

3) High self-criticism

Growing up with critical parents can also lead individuals to develop a high degree of self-criticism. This is because they have internalized the critical voices they heard in their childhood and often continue to hear these voices in their head as adults. They may constantly critique and judge their own behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, which can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

Self-criticism can be quite debilitating, as these individuals rarely give themselves credit for their accomplishments and constantly feel they fall short. This can manifest in various aspects of life, including work, relationships, and personal growth.

To combat this tendency, it’s crucial to learn to recognize the critical inner voice and work on developing a more compassionate and understanding inner dialogue. Techniques such as mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be beneficial in this process.

4) Heightened sense of responsibility

People who grew up with critical parents often carry a heightened sense of responsibility into adulthood. This is because, as children, they may have been blamed for things that were beyond their control or held responsible for the emotional state of their parents.

This pattern can lead to an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, causing these individuals to feel overly responsible for the feelings and actions of others.

Carrying excessive responsibility can be burdensome and lead to stress and anxiety. It can also result in resentment and feeling taken advantage of, as these individuals often put the needs and feelings of others before their own.

Learning to set boundaries and understanding that each person is ultimately responsible for their own actions and feelings is a crucial step in overcoming this behavior.

5) Difficulty expressing emotions


Individuals raised by critical parents often find it difficult to express their emotions. This is largely due to the fear of criticism or judgment they may have experienced when they expressed their feelings in their childhood. They may have learned to suppress their emotions as a survival mechanism, which can carry over into adulthood.

This difficulty with emotional expression can lead to problems in relationships, as these individuals may struggle to communicate their feelings effectively. It can also contribute to internalizing emotions, which can lead to stress and mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

Addressing this behavior involves learning to recognize and validate one’s own emotions, and developing healthier ways to express them. This is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence and can greatly improve relationships and overall well-being.

6) Tendency to self-isolate

Those who grew up with critical parents often develop a tendency to self-isolate. This is a defensive mechanism to avoid criticism and judgment. They may feel safer and more comfortable being alone rather than risking disapproval or rejection in social situations.

This tendency, however, can lead to loneliness and a lack of social support, which are important for emotional well-being. It can also hinder personal growth and the opportunity to form meaningful relationships.

Overcoming this tendency requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone and gradually exposing oneself to social situations. It may also involve working with a therapist or counselor to build social skills and confidence.

7) Strong sense of independence

An interesting behavior often exhibited by those who grew up with critical parents is a strong sense of independence. Being constantly criticized can lead these individuals to rely heavily on themselves, as they may have learned that they cannot depend on others for emotional support or validation.

While independence can be an empowering trait, it can also lead to a reluctance to ask for help when needed. These individuals may struggle to form interdependent relationships, which are crucial for emotional health and well-being. They may also avoid relying on others, even in situations where it would be beneficial to do so.

Breaking down these walls of independence involves acknowledging the need for and value of interdependence in relationships. It requires trust, vulnerability, and the willingness to allow others to offer support when necessary.

8) Tendency towards people-pleasing

The final behavior we’re highlighting in people who grew up with critical parents is a tendency towards people-pleasing. This behavior stems from a desire to avoid criticism or conflict. These individuals might go out of their way to appease others, even at the expense of their own needs and well-being.

While being considerate of others’ feelings is a positive trait, excessive people-pleasing can lead to burnout and resentment. It can also inhibit authenticity in relationships as these individuals may suppress their true feelings or opinions to keep the peace.

Addressing this behavior involves setting boundaries and learning to prioritize one’s own needs without feeling guilty. This often requires a process of self-discovery and self-validation, which can be facilitated through therapy or self-help resources.

Moving towards healing

In essence, recognizing these behaviors is a significant step towards healing and developing healthier emotional habits. It’s important to understand that these behaviors were adaptive responses to a challenging environment, and they served a purpose in your past. However, they may not serve you well in your present life.

The journey towards healing begins with self-awareness, self-compassion, and the willingness to change. You might consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor who can guide you through this process. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness practices, and self-compassion exercises can be particularly helpful.

Remember, it’s not about blaming your parents but about understanding your past to create a healthier present and future. You have the power to break free from these patterns and develop healthier ways of relating to yourself and others. It’s a journey, not a destination, so be patient with yourself as you navigate this process.

Every step you take towards understanding and healing is a step towards a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Picture of Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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