9 traits of adults who grew up with extremely controlling parents

In the realm of parenting, there’s a chasm between guiding your children and gripping them with an iron fist.

It all boils down to one crucial factor: freedom. Those helicopter parents? They hover over every decision, stifling their child’s individuality and independence.

But here’s the kicker: growing up under such scrutiny leaves scars. And adults who’ve weathered this storm bear distinct markings.

Today, we’re taking a deep dive into those telltale signs—the 9 unmistakable traits often found in adults raised by overbearing parents.

Without much further ado, let’s dive in. 

1) Hyper-responsibility

One of the most common traits in adults who grew up with extremely controlling parents is a sense of hyper-responsibility.

When parents micromanage every aspect of a child’s life, they inadvertently teach their kids that they must always be on top of things and in control. This can result in an adult who feels a constant burden of responsibility.

This isn’t about being diligent or responsible in the normal sense. It’s about feeling that everything rests on your shoulders, all the time.

It’s like being in a constant state of alert, ready to jump in and take charge because no one else will do it right. It’s a draining, stressful way to live.

Growing up with controlling parents can lead to a life where you’re always striving for perfection, always feeling you need to take care of everything and everyone around you.

2) Difficulty with decision-making

Another trait that tends to show up in adults who had controlling parents is a struggle with making decisions.

I can personally attest to this one. Growing up, my parents made all the decisions for me, from what clothes to wear, which friends to hang out with, to what subjects I should study in school.

This left little room for me to develop my own decision-making skills. As an adult, I found myself paralyzed when faced with even the simplest choices. I remember standing in a grocery store aisle for what felt like hours, unable to decide which brand of cereal to buy – something that seemed so trivial and yet felt incredibly overwhelming.

This difficulty with decision-making can often stem from a fear of making the wrong choice, a fear that was instilled by controlling parents who never allowed their children to make mistakes and learn from them.

3) Tendency towards perfectionism

Adults who’ve been raised by extremely controlling parents often develop a tendency towards perfectionism. This can manifest in their work, relationships, and even hobbies.

The drive to be perfect often comes from a place of never feeling good enough in childhood. When parents set impossibly high standards or are quick to criticize, their children can internalize the message that they must be flawless to be valued.

Interestingly, research shows that perfectionism can lead to numerous mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. It’s a relentless pursuit that can leave you feeling constantly stressed and dissatisfied.

Make no mistake: It’s okay to strive for excellence, but don’t let the pursuit of perfection control your life. You’re human, and it’s okay to be imperfect.

4) Struggle with self-esteem

A common trait among adults who grew up with controlling parents is low self-esteem.

When parents are overbearing and controlling, children often feel that their own feelings, thoughts, and desires are unimportant. This can lead to a deep-seated belief that they are not worthy of love or respect.

These feelings of unworthiness can carry into adulthood, affecting relationships, career choices, and even mental health. Adults with low self-esteem often feel undeserving of happiness or success and may self-sabotage as a result.

It’s a difficult cycle to break, but it’s important to remember that your value doesn’t come from meeting someone else’s expectations. You are worthy, just as you are.

5) Fear of confrontation

Fear of confrontation 9 traits of adults who grew up with extremely controlling parents

Another common characteristic of adults who’ve grown up with controlling parents is a fear of confrontation.

When parents exert control through criticism, punishment, or even emotional manipulation, children learn to avoid conflict at all costs. In their minds, disagreements lead to negative outcomes, so it’s better to keep quiet and not rock the boat.

As adults, this can translate into difficulty asserting boundaries, standing up for oneself, or expressing disagreement. This fear of confrontation can lead to issues in relationships and the workplace, where healthy conflict can be necessary and productive.

Remember, it’s okay to have a different opinion and to voice it. Healthy and respectful confrontations can lead to growth and better understanding.

6) Overly empathetic

Adults who grew up with controlling parents often turn out to be extremely empathetic. This might sound like a positive trait, and it often is, but it can also be emotionally draining.

You see, when living under constant control, children become attuned to their parent’s feelings in order to anticipate their moods and avoid potential conflict. This heightened sensitivity to others’ emotions and needs often carries into adulthood.

They become the ones always lending a listening ear, always taking care of others, always putting everyone else’s needs before their own. They’re the ones who feel other people’s pain almost as if it’s their own.

It’s a beautiful trait to have, but it can also be overwhelming. If you resonate with this, I want you to remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself too. Your feelings matter just as much as anyone else’s. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care.

7) Over-planning and over-preparation

Growing up, I never knew when my parents would switch from being loving to critical. Their high expectations and controlling nature meant always having to be on my toes, ready for any situation.

This has led to a habit of over-planning and over-preparing in my adult life. Whether it’s a work project, a social event, or even a weekend getaway, I find myself planning for every possible scenario. It’s as if I’m bracing myself for any potential criticism or failure.

While being prepared is generally a good thing, it can become exhausting when taken to the extreme. Life is unpredictable, and we can’t possibly plan for everything. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to let go sometimes and simply go with the flow.

8) Difficulty expressing emotions

Many adults who grew up with extremely controlling parents find it challenging to express their emotions.

When parents exert control through disapproval or dismissal of a child’s feelings, the child learns to suppress their emotions. They may feel that their feelings are invalid or unwanted and learn to hide them instead.

As adults, this can lead to difficulties in communicating emotions, forming intimate relationships, or even understanding their own feelings. They might seem detached or unemotional, but underneath they could be grappling with a whirlwind of emotions they don’t know how to express.

It’s important to remember that your feelings are valid and it’s okay to express them. Emotional vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength.

9) Resilience

Despite the challenges and struggles, one trait that stands out in adults who grew up with controlling parents is resilience.

For example, imagine a child growing up with overly controlling parents who dictate every aspect of their life, from their choice of friends to their career path. Despite facing constant pressure and criticism, the child learns to develop resilience. They may find solace in activities outside of their parents’ control, such as sports or hobbies, where they can express themselves freely. They might also seek support from trusted friends, teachers, or mentors who provide encouragement and guidance. Over time, the child learns to navigate the challenges imposed by their parents while developing inner strength and resilience to persevere despite the obstacles they face.

This resilience is often a result of their experiences and serves as a testament to their ability to rise above difficult circumstances.

Your life is more than just your past

For adults who grew up with extremely controlling parents, these experiences shape their character traits and behaviors in significant ways. Fear of confrontation, perfectionism, heightened empathy, and resilience are just a few manifestations of a controlled childhood.

But understanding these traits and their origins is a powerful tool. It’s the first step towards healing and growth. It helps to shed the weight of guilt or self-blame, and it paves the way for self-acceptance.

Whether you identify with these traits or know someone who does, remember that we are not defined by our pasts but by what we choose to become. The journey towards understanding and acceptance may not be easy, but it is one worth taking.

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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