Our childhood experiences can set the stage for the rest of our life to play out.
Our life is a reflection of what we believe we deserve. While this might be a hard pill to swallow or even seem unfair, research in psychology shows that many of our core beliefs—about self, other, and the world—are influenced to a large extent by our early childhood experiences. It shapes in ways beyond our awareness, according to Psychology Today.
As adults, we often interpret the world through the knowledge gained in our prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that is involved in cognitive and executive functions. But our primary attitude toward life itself stems from the lower brain that is hardwired for survival. And as kids, if we grew up in an environment that felt emotionally or physically unsafe, it is likely that we slip into survival mode during stress and view the world with fear as we did as kids. Back then, that was our only choice. We needed those defenses to survive. Now as adults, we have more resources to go from surviving to living a fulfilling life.
Here are 5 classic signs that your early childhood experiences are stopping you from living a life you deserve.
No matter how well you might be doing, there is a constant voice in your head that criticizes you. This voice often doesn't let you relax, settle in, or even celebrate a hardwon milestone. Minor changes in others' behavior is enough for this inner critic to personalize a situation and declare you are just not good enough. It is important to understand that if you grew up in an emotionally challenging environment or around unsupportive adults, the inner critic is nothing but external criticism internalized. For example, a daughter who grew up with a narcisstic mom or a extremely criticizing dad will often find that their inner critic uses the same words she once heard as a child.
You might appear to be well-balanced and mature in most parts of your life, but you hate to admit that some people's words can leave you an emotional mess. If any remark, thought, or expression from a loved one or family member leaves you extremely defensive, over-reactive, or emotional, it is likely your brain is simply reacting to a past wound that the new remark seems to have touched, or as the saying goes, it may have literally touched a raw nerve/neural network in your brain. This is a chance to be compassionate towards yourself and explore ways to release an old wound you may not have been aware of.
You can replace this statement with: not pretty enough, not smart enough, not feminine enough, or strong enough. The list can go on. And you would be surprised that almost every one of us have some version of this track playing in our head. While a certain amount of self-doubt is universal (blame the human mind and the social factors that feed into its compulsive need to be perfect), a more persistent feeling of lack can come from adverse childhood experiences. Children who had to deal with trauma at a young age often blame themselves and internalize the shortcoming of parents and caregivers, which can lead to a lifetime of struggle with self-esteem.
Growing up in an emotionally unstable environment or abusive household can be overwhelming on a young child's mind. Human beings have an innate need to connect with others. Unlike many other animals, human babies cannot survive on their own without the physical touch and warmth of adult caregivers. This explains why disturbances in early attachments can cause you to feel uncomfortable when it comes to emotional intimacy. If might have trust issues, which makes it hard for you to open up. Or, you may open up way too soon, leaving you vulnerable to people who may not appreciate your emotional authenticity. Either ways, you find yourself overwhelmed, distant, or afraid when a connection gets deep.
Unhealthy patterns in relationships is the biggest red flag that there might be some unresolved issue from your childhood that needs to be addressed. Many of us cannot help wonder why we end up feeling the exact same way we felt as a child—abandoned, unloved, unworthy of love, or manipulated and abused. As unfair as it seems, we often repeat what we don't repair. If your relationships often end the same way, step back and take note. Do you pick partners who make you feel the same way at the end no matter how different the relationships began? Do you feel a familiar feeling of dread, anxiety, self-doubt, or anger in your relationship? All these are clues you need to release a deeper pattern so that you know beyond doubt that you deserve the best of love and joy.
Cover image credit: Getty Images | Photo by Klaus Vedfelt