11 signs your childhood experiences are shaping your behavior as an adult

“I feel safer in flings. I feel like long-term relationships won’t work for me. My therapist friend says maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my younger years in foster care.”

I overheard a lady on the train say this the other day, and it got me thinking.

What are my characteristics that might have developed from my upbringing? This was followed by a few “aha” moments. 

I connected the dots and finally understood some of my “quirky” attitudes. 

But hold on, that’s not to say that childhood experiences only result in unusual behaviors. 

Similarly, not all our behaviors (positive, negative, ordinary, or peculiar) can be pinned to our younger years.

That said, if you’re also sometimes baffled by your actions, here are a few signs your childhood experiences may have shaped your ways:

1) You overreact to criticism

Do you constantly get extremely upset by criticism, no matter how constructive it’s delivered? 

Or do you take all criticism personally, even if it wasn’t intended to be?

Your hypersensitivity to feedback may result from the harsh or unfair criticism you received as a child. 

It could be parents who persecuted you for minor mistakes or teachers who focused only on your flaws – and that sensitivity carried over into your adulthood.

2) You’re a perfectionist

Let’s get things straight: having high standards is never wrong. 

But if you feel like you’re setting unrealistic standards, you may want to reflect on what transpired in your youth. 

Were you excessively pressured to succeed academically or in your extracurricular activities? Were you praised only when you achieved top marks and ignored when you failed?

Growing up in an environment where failure is frowned upon can instill an unhealthy drive for perfection in your adult years.

3) You’re either always over-achieving or under-achieving

Like perfectionism, if you’re the type who always wants to over achieve in everything you do, you were likely pressured to excel in every aspect as a child.

What about the opposite? What if you don’t have the drive to “do your best” or if you settle for just the bare minimum?

That lack of motivation can also be traced back to your childhood. 

It could be that you were never recognized (or worse, ignored) regardless of your achievements. 

But it could be worse:

It could also be that you were never supported or encouraged.

So naturally, when you become an adult, you adopt the “nobody cares anyway, so why bother,” right? 

It’s sad, but unfortunately, it’s the reality for some people.

4) You’re either very irresponsible or extremely responsible

Parental guidance or structure is another thing lacking in childhood that could affect adult behavior.

Children who were neglected by their parents may turn out to avoid responsibility as adults.

They didn’t have role models to show them what responsibility looks like, so they struggle to display it themselves.

But here’s the kicker:

It could also go the other way. These kids could also grow up to be overly responsible adults.

For example, an older sibling who had to look after their younger siblings due to “absent” parents.

Kids who take on adult responsibilities at a very early age, more often than not, grow up taking more than their fair share of responsibilities. 

People around them may think they take on too much. But to them, they don’t know any better. 

Thanks to their childhood, carrying an overwhelming load is “how it should be” for them.

5) You micromanage 

In other words, you have control issues.

If you can’t help but feel the need to control everything from your personal to your professional relationships, you may have experienced any of these things as a child:

  • Your parents were divorced or were forever at war with each other.

Unfortunately, children who grow up in homes with constant conflict may feel a loss of security and stability. Because of this, they might become adults who want to control their relationships to avoid the unpredictability they faced as kids.

  • You moved a lot as a child – either due to your family’s circumstances or because your parents’ job called for it. 

Children who relocate frequently can sometimes struggle with the constantly changing environments. 

These children can sometimes become control freaks in adulthood to maintain a consistent home or community – something they never experienced as a child.

6) You often feel inadequate or unworthy

What if I told you that your low self-esteem could be your adult reaction to negative feedback and the lack of support or affirmation you received in childhood?

Here’s how:

When children always receive negative comments instead of positive affirmations or emotional support, they internalize these messages.

What does this mean for you?

Because you’ve consistently and frequently heard terrible things about yourself, you have come to believe and accept them. You’ve cemented in your mind that you’re not good enough, incapable, and not worthy.

Unfortunately, these beliefs solidify in your adulthood. And hence, your low self-esteem.

pic1967 11 signs your childhood experiences are shaping your behavior as an adult

7) You’re a people pleaser who struggles with setting boundaries

Libras, Virgos, and Cancers are known to have people-pleasing tendencies. But what if you don’t fall into these zodiac signs, yet you always go out of your way to please other people?

Sadly, this can be another result of the lack of approval received during childhood.

It could be that your parents only praised you and showered you affectionately when you took care of other family members’ needs over your own. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Never having the chance to hang out with your friends because you always had to look after your siblings. 
  • Missing out on after-school sports because your sibling’s dance class falls at the same time.

Because you only get your parents’ approval or admiration when you do these things, you feel valued only when helping others. 

But it doesn’t end there:

You also embed in your mind that neglecting your needs is okay if it means you’re doing a favor for others. 

But wait, there’s more. 

It could also look like this:

As a child, you were reprimanded for asserting your personal needs. Like being told you’re wasting your time with your paintings instead of just spending your afternoons helping out with the family business.

Over time, you develop a sense of guilt for pursuing your personal interests, and you may even end up suppressing your personal desires just so you can prioritize your family’s expectations.

All these experiences can lead to your mind associating self-worth and acceptance with putting others first, often at your own expense. 

In short, it can turn you into someone who cannot set boundaries and is prone to people pleasing and putting themselves last.

8) You struggle with forming healthy emotional attachments

It’s one thing to receive conditional affection, but being ignored or emotionally neglected takes it to a new level.

If, as a child, you were rarely comforted and you had parents and caregivers who were emotionally unavailable, you may become an adult with attachment issues. 

Here are a few whys and hows:

  • Children who have emotionally distant parents don’t know what emotional closeness is, so they can struggle with understanding the value of intimate relationships as adults.
  • Children whose emotional needs are always unmet learn to rely solely on themselves, making it hard for them to seek emotional support from others, even as adults.
  • Emotionally neglected children can avoid close emotional bonds to protect themselves from potential hurt and disappointment. 

9) You have trust issues

Here’s the thing:

Trust is something that kids learn from the adults around them.

But that’s not just my thoughts. Here’s the science that backs it up:

Erik Erikson, a famous psychologist, explained that learning to trust is vital to growing up. 

So when the people who took care of you were unreliable, it disrupts this learning process, and you question whether people are really trustworthy. 

What’s worse is if you were let down a lot as a child, you could become an adult who avoids trusting people to protect yourself from getting hurt or disappointed again.

10) You can’t “simply enjoy the moment”

Do you always see yourself in “worry mode”? 

Are you someone who’s always stressing out about potential future problems?

Take note: the operative word is potential. It has yet to happen. 

If this sounds like you, I’m guessing you grew up in a high-stress environment. 

You were probably raised in a home with parents in constant tension. Or in a home always stressed out about finances or other things.

To cope with such an environment, you develop a heightened sense of vigilance. 

You end up always being on alert, preparing for the next bad thing instead of enjoying the present moment for what it is.

11) You see the world in black and white

 If you’re the type who sees things as completely one way or the other, you might have learned this thinking style through either of these childhood scenarios:

  • You had strict or authoritarian parents who taught you that things are either entirely correct or totally wrong.
  • Your family had extreme viewpoints regarding religion, politics, and social interactions.
  • You weren’t exposed to diversity in cultures, ideas, or ways of life as a child.

Black-and-white thinking, or viewing the world and situations in absolutes without acknowledging any middle ground, can be an adult behavior rooted in your childhood experiences. 

Your past shapes you, but it doesn’t define you

This list may reveal past influences, but let me reiterate: 

Not all behaviors are from your childhood.

Also, remember that this list isn’t meant to be definitive but rather a guide that offers insight and reflection. 

Hopefully, it serves as a gentle reminder that you’re not chained to your childhood experiences and can actively take steps to change your future.

It’s about taking control of your story. 

And while each chapter of your life counts, you write your own ending.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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