7 Subtle Signs You’re Suffering From Childhood Rejection As An Adult
Childhood may seem like forever ago. But the things you experienced as a child can greatly affect how you are as an adult today, whether you're aware of it or not. For instance, nobody likes rejection. When you experienced a major rejection from your parents or your peers as a child, experts say, it may show later on.
According to Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, "rejected child syndrome," like middle child syndrome and codependence are real things that people experience but are not diagnoses found in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. "All three terms can imply many things as there is not one agreed upon definition," she says. "A rejected child can refer to a couple of different things; a child being rejected by their parents or by their peers."
When you've experienced a hard rejection in your past, you may start to believe on some deep level that you are unloveable or unworthy. This is what cognitive therapists call a "core belief," psychotherapist Erin Brandel Dykhuizen, tells Bustle. "Often when we have experienced a lot of rejection in childhood, we develop beliefs about not being worthy of love as a way to make sense of the fact that our parents, for example, who should have accepted us and shown us love, did not do so," Dykhuizen says.
More often than not, people aren't consciously aware that they have these beliefs. But if you take a close look at your behavior, your thoughts, and your patterns in relationships, you may be able to trace those back to childhood. So here are some subtle signs that childhood rejection is affecting you as an adult, according to experts.
1. You Easily Make Negative Assumptions About What Others Are Thinking
"Automatic thoughts can provide a lot of information about our beliefs about ourselves that stem from childhood," Dykhuizen says. These are the things we immediately say to ourselves about ourselves and the world. For instance, if you meet someone new for the first time and you immediately question why they would even bother getting to know you, that's an automatic thought. If you have negative assumptions about what people think of you or what their motivations are, your childhood rejection may be affecting you, and if it becomes an issue it may be time to talk to a professional.
2. You're Wary About Letting People In
Avoidance is another sign that childhood rejection may be affecting you. For instance, you may find yourself turning down invitations to go out with someone who's interested or have a hard time letting people get close to you, even people you consider friends. "You may be operating under the subconscious belief that if people don't know you well enough, they won't find out how 'unloveable' you are," Dykhuizen says. "Avoiding close relationships can be a way you protect yourself from further rejection."
3. You Find Compromising Difficult
If you faced rejection as a child, you may feel like you can't ever truly be yourself. Because of that, therapist Amy Bishop, M.S. tells Bustle, you may have learned to rely on yourself more than others. You may focus less on what other’s think, making necessary adult skills such as compromise much more difficult, she says.
4. You're A People-Pleaser
"Often our coping skills earlier in life are similar to ones we use later in life," Bishop says. "If you tried to be a helper or caregiver to gain your parents’ love or attention in childhood, that can continue into adult relationships." Every child is different, so this may not apply to everyone. But if you did feel like your parents weren't always there to care for you or if experienced hard rejection from your peers, Bishop says it can impact you just like any interpersonal trauma can. So if as a child you coped by going the extra mile to make people notice you in a positive way, you may have people-pleasing tendencies as an adult.
5. You Have A Hard Time Trusting People With Your Feelings
"Being rejected by your parents (or other significant caretakers) is one of the main contributing factors to developing insecure attachment of the avoidant type," clinical psychologist Eran Katz, tells Bustle. Once a child learns that their parents aren't interested in them, they'll learn not to trust anybody with their emotional needs. So as an adult, you may have trouble sharing your feelings with your partner. "More often than not, they themselves are not really aware of their own emotions, so they tend to suppress them outside of their own consciousness," Katz says. Dealing with emotions and feelings will make you feel uncomfortable and maybe even overwhelmed, so you try to avoid it altogether.
6. You Never Feel Like You're Good Enough
Being rejected as a child often leads to low self-esteem and self-doubt. "It can result in lower levels of confidence, making it difficult to remain secure in relationships," Jenny Cartmell, LCAT-LP, an art therapist who specializes in trauma, tells Bustle. If you experienced rejection from your parents or your peers during childhood, you may worry that your partner will leave you. You'll also have feelings of whether or not you're "good enough" for them.
7. You Have A Hard Time Giving And Showing Love
If a child experiences parental rejection, it could have a lasting negative effect on adult relationships, Cartmell says. For instance, some parents intentionally push their child away if they never wanted the responsibilities of being a parent. For others, it may be unintentional and a result of how they were raised. "They’re not capable of giving love and nurture in a way that is supportive for their child," she says. Either way, a child who experienced a lack of love and affection might have trouble knowing how to give it as an adult.
The good thing is, you can overcome any type of insecurity that stems from childhood. "Self reflection, either in therapy or independently, on when this insecurity shows up and how it impacts you in your relationships is vital," Bishop says. If you're in a relationship, being open with your partner and letting them know that you need some extra reassurance from time to time is important.
It may take some time, but you can heal any emotional wounds you have from your past so you can move forward in a happier and healthier way.