I spent a lot of my early adulthood trying to work out what “love” really was. I was not in a good place emotionally and mentally. I’d endured a lot as a child and had a lot of difficulty loving myself. Fortunately, through many years of self-discovery and support of my husband, I was able to become the person I am today. A more authentic, happier version of myself. Someone who feels and loves deeply. Someone who may sometimes wrestle with their emotions, but has the ability now not to affect those around them as much.
Maybe you’ve felt the way I have. Maybe you still feel that way. But just remember, there is a silver lining. As much as the pain of your childhood hurts, it won’t stop you from living the life that you deserve. It won’t stop you from having the ability to love yourself and to love others.
Here are the 10 ways that people who lack attention in their childhood might love differently, but the positive aspects to each of them.
1. They understand that love is much more than words.
‘Love’ can mean so many different things to different people. It can mean saying, “I love you”. It can mean buying gifts for someone else. It can mean making time for other people. It can mean giving a loved one hugs and kisses. But to someone who has felt unloved as a child, it might not mean many of these things at all. When you’ve lacked affection as a child, “love” almost feels like a non-existent concept in your life. It’s something that you’re still struggling to understand. But you probably understand that feeling and expressing love is so much more than the words, “I love you”. It’s about proving it with your actions. It’s about trusting someone and being trusting. It’s about respecting a person’s individuality and dreams. The pain you experienced as a child has helped you to gain a deeper understanding of what “love” really is.
2. They know that trust can take a long time to build.
Growing up feeling unloved, unappreciated, and unimportant can leave lasting impacts on a person’s ability to trust.They might be constantly worrying that the people they love will inevitably hurt them. That they are bound to be alone. But this anxiety also means that they know the value of trust. They know that when someone puts their trust in you, it is your utmost responsibility to stay loyal and honest. It will strengthen the bond between two people.
3. They don’t want anyone hurt the way they were.
If you’re an adult whose childhood was far from ideal, chances are that you are determined not to treat others the same. If you’ve come to terms with some of your experiences, you’ve probably realized that it’s not your fault and have worked through some of your emotions. You probably know by now that nobody deserves to be treated like you were. Thankfully, this has helped you to become a kinder, more compassionate and empathetic person who finds it easy to understand how people feel. Throughout many of your relationships, you probably feel a deep love for people and want to listen to their problems. You want them to know that no matter what happens, that someone loves and cares about them.
4. They find it very difficult to believe that there are “plenty of fish in the sea”.
If you’re someone who didn’t get their needs met as a child, you’ve probably struggled a bit with your romantic relationships. Throughout your relationships, you may have been mistreated but felt you didn’t deserve any better. Maybe you were afraid that someone better would never come along. Maybe you were too scared to speak up about how you felt. But your carefulness in selecting partners also has a plus side. You don’t want history repeating itself – you want to surround yourself with people who love and deserve you. You might be putting up a wall, but it’s a wall that will come down when you’ve found the right person for you.
5. They can’t helping questioning people’s love.
If you’ve experienced a lot of childhood pain, you might find yourself thinking a lot, “It’s too good to be true.” You want to trust people and believe in their love, but you can’t help but question it. Your fear and insecurities are holding you back. The other side of the coin though is that you are more alert to warning signs. You stand up for what you believe in and try your best to put yourself first.
6. They are very sensitive about their weaknesses.
If you’re someone who felt neglected during childhood, your sensitivity levels might be quite high. You might find it difficult to accept constructive criticism. You might find jokes said at your expense as offensive and hurtful. You might believe that you have to be perfect to be a ‘good’ or ‘successful’ person. Thankfully though, this means you’re quite tuned into other people’s emotions and feelings. You show love to others by not hurting them. By being aware of their sensitivities. By giving them honest advice without upsetting them in the process.
7. They have very high expectations of themselves.
Unfortunately, for those who have grown up fighting for their family’s attention, they might set very high standards for themselves. They might be perfectionists. You might even worry your loved ones because you put a bit too much pressure on yourself. But the upside is, you might also be someone who strongly believes in working hard. You don’t wait for luck to make life happen. You go out there and look out for opportunities. For the first time in your life, you are in control and it’s this control that is so empowering for you.
8. They sometimes find it easier to forgive.
Having been tested and challenged at such a young age, you’ve learnt very early on that acceptance helps in moving forward. That holding onto anger and resentment does nobody any good, especially for yourself. In the same token, you might find it easier to understand the actions of others and to forgive as much as you can. You may not forget the actions of others, but you know that relationships benefit from compromise and forgiveness. Nobody is perfect and you understand that.
9. They just want their loved ones to be happy.
With the painful experiences that you’ve endured, you can’t help but focus on what truly matters in life. All you want is to be happy and for the people you love to be happy. You think that everything else, like money, material possessions, physical appearance, how we compare to others – is simply not as important.
10. They struggle with loving themselves.
If you’re someone who lacked attention during childhood, the most difficult relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. Sometimes it’ll feel like you’re own worst enemy. That your biggest critic is actually yourself. Your life is a constant battle between what you feel about yourself and what you wish to feel. But learning to love yourself is a journey. When you believe that you are important and have the ability to make a positive difference in the world, you will transform the way you think about yourself and how you love others.
Featured photo credit: Colin J via flickr.com