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31 Comments to
Unloved in Childhood: 10 Common Effects on Your Adult Self

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  1. Except for #6 this is so me. I don’t have friends. I have acquaintances.

  2. I recently commented on one of your FB posts and my mother sent a hurtful letter to me, blaming me for her not knowing that I felt hurt and unloved. Ironically, she has been dismissive to my direct conversations about my feelings and denying of any part of being anything but supportive and sacrificing. I have gotten to a point where I have to cut her out of my life because even when I receive an email it unnerves me for days. I thank you for your insight and understanding. It isn’t always relevant to me, but I know is helping someone else the times it isn’t spot on for me. Big thank you!

  3. Describes my adulthood struggles perfectly.

  4. As a man pursuing women, I’ve realized I only know who to pursue women who I HAVE TO PURSUE. I have no conception of what it is to not do that. I pursue a woman who is 90% of the time rejecting me, and I become ecstatic, literally euphoric, when she gives me the 10% acceptance. That, my psychology digging friends, is an insecure attachment style.

    • I seem to forget that OF COURSE there are men who have mothers like this……reading posts from men (who, as a GENDER, I am terrified of intimacy with – do not know how)…..gosh, you see, if you had been emotionally ‘there’ for me – I would have been the girl who ignored you 90 per-cent of the time – too busy running for the hills and looking for men who would treat ME badly 90 per-cent of the time – makes a head spin does it not? I am 52 and a grandmother – I still haven’t faced up to the fact that the work I need to do IS WITHIN ME – God bless – hope this made some sense! One other thing, maybe ducks belong with ducks and swans belong with swans……)

      • Hi tessa! Boy did I need to hear this today especially. Horrible day for this unloved daughter. My son sure doesn’t seem to care either:(….5 year olds…

      • Kelly, I don’t know if I understood your comment correctly or not. your son is only five and is not supposed to care if you are having a bad day. It isn’t his place to try to comfort or be supportive of you. I am so sorry your mother hurt you. Truly I am

  5. Thank you Pen, for such a clearly worded and helpful piece. I will point it out to those clients who may benefit from the reflection it provides.

  6. Why do you and others ALWAYS blame the mother? I have most of these issues and my mother was very loving and attentive. However, my father was critical, untrusting, inattentive, and controlling. My daughter had a father (my ex-husband) who was the same, as I suppose I chose a man to try to find what I didn’t receive in childhood (which I did not find in that relationship). Now, my daughter reads these articles and memes and blames me as the mother, when I was the only stability she had in her childhood, be it somewhat damaged by my own childhood. I have come a long way toward healing in my 50 years, I never thought to blame my Dad or anyone else, I took complete responsibility for any stupid choices I ever made (and I made alot of them) and learned from them. I think this current trend of blaming the mother and often calling them a narcissist who caused all of your troubles is only hurting those who are most vulnerable to your babble, separating families that should be growing through any issues.

    • Perhaps ‘mother’ was used as a way to simplify the discussion just like ‘daughter’ was used but this most certainly happens with sons as well. I don’t really know if ‘blame’ is the right word. That certainly happens but is not what everyone does. Parenting is a huge responsibility and parents absolutely do have an effect on their developing children. This article describes my experience 100% and while I don’t go through my life blaming my parents I do acknowledge what they have done and continue to do and I hold them to account. Why do I do this? Because in our family this is a generational issue and I chose to be the one to put a stop to it. It hasn’t been easy but I cannot stand the thought of passing this along to my children. I too take responsibility for my choices as an adult but I also recognize that there are a myriad of issues surrounding my relationships. These issues were borne out of the environment I lived. I have a responsibility to work through them now but still…there they are. As far as my kids, if they ‘blamed’ me as you say yours do I would try my best to look at that as an opportunity for dialogue and to help my child work through what they are feeling. Again, let me reiterate. For me, pointing out what my parents do, the effect it has had on me and others is not blaming. It is holding them accountable for their choices, standing up for myself to say it will no longer be allowed to happen and is an example to the next generation of what can happen when this neglect occurs but also what can happen when people stand up for themselves.

    • The reality is that a mother is endowed with a great deal of power; as Deborah Tannen has noted, she not only shapes and controls the small world a child lives in but also dictates how that world is to be interpreted. And where there is power, there is also the possibility of abuse. Children need to have their emotional needs met as much as they need food, shelter, and clothing. And for those mothers who are indifferent to a child’s needs, who marginalize and ignore their children, or who are downright cruel, yes– I do blame them. It’s a lopsided relationship and only has one adult present.

    • Something gave me pause when I read about your loving,attentive mother and your cruel, critical uncaring father. When I was a girl I too believed that I had a loving mother, and I felt sorry for her, knowing she deserved better than my cruel, belligerent father. Fast forward 40 years – I know now they WERE both completely screwed up – and, due to their malignant behaviours – dangerous to be around…….I am afraid there was an ‘unholy alliance’ going on, that I simply could not see as a child – it took a long time to get to the truth of it! Even as I write this, I am aware of the terrible guilt and shame I feel when I post some of my story – I am meant to love my parents aren’t I? Am I not shaming my family by even daring to think about, let alone write about my experience? (I know, in logical mind but it kind of leaves a nasty taste in my mouth)…….

      • Tessa, i have the SAME story as you. OMG.

  7. What I don’t understand and have not seen in these posts, is how the same mother can treat her children so radically different? I understand each relationship is unique and each child born with their own temperment, but I don’t understand how I could be completely rejected and my sister adored? One mother, one house, two daughters, two completely different family experiences.

    • The one who is adored is often times the one who reflects the mother’s false self. The one who is not adored is usually the one that marches to the beat of their own drum and does not reflect the mother’s false self.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by false self. Favoritism operates in complex ways, even in loving families, and can’t be reduced to a single pattern in my experience.

      • I’ll clarify. If the mother in this case is a narcissist she is usually portraying a false self because that’s what narcissists do. I’ve researched this enough to know. The golden child is often adored and the scapegoat is rejected. I’m not saying this is always the case but growing up with a narcisstic father who played favorites I think there’s some validity to my claim.

      • A mother high in narcissistic traits is just one of the varieties of toxic patterns I write about. I don’t believe all unloving mothers are narcissists, in fact. I know this is a very popular way of looking at the mother-daughter relationships but it’s not my point of view.

  8. So much of this hits home pretty hard. I would love to know what type of therapy would be recommended to resolve and heal the damage and hurt caused by this type of relationship? How do I move past the issues and raise an emotionally intelligent daughter (and son) without repeating history?

  9. So absolutely true. I suffer from each one of these. And I do not think it is only a mother’s fault – a lot can be said for my father too. Not that I blame them. I really do not think they ever realised or knew any better. They had no idea. To have had an older sister who was the best thing in my parents’ lives (and still is…) did not help much either. I was constantly shown that someone else is more important and better than me. My needs were never addressed whilst she was placed on a pedestal. Of course my abused psyche saw the pedestal as larger than it really was, but that is the whole point: we get so “abused” that we experience everything much more amplified than reality.
    It has lead to an adulthood of complete isolation. I honestly do not have a single friend. I spend every day of my life entirely alone. I go to the mall alone, I eat out alone, I ride my bicycle alone. I have in my entire adulthood not once been out with anyone, not even an “acquaintance”, as I have absolutely no-one in my life.
    The really devastating part is that I now have no choice but to turn to my elderly and ailing parents as my only companions – the same people who made me this way. Don’t get me wrong, I do love them and do want to spend time with them, because I think it is important to spend time with one’s parents. But when one does not have a single friend, spending the weekend locked up in your parents’ house (just like all those childhood weekends) is soul-destroying. And in some way it signifies giving up. Giving up on the hope to one day finding just one friend, and in stead just going to sit in your parents’ living room listening to them snore the day away and gossip about distant alleged family members who you’ve never met and don’t really care about.
    My biggest problem is that I know that this is what happened to me. I know that the way I grew up is what causes me to be this way. But I do not know how to change. How the hell do I suddenly find myself a friend at the age of 37 when I do not even know how to interact with people at work, let alone in a social situation?
    My problems have now escalated to the point where I am no longer able to sustain healthy relationships at work and have found myself fired twice in six months due to poor relationships with colleagues and bosses because I am unable to communicate properly.
    This is by far the scariest place I have ever been: Not only am I dead alone in the world, I now also do not have a job and with having been fired twice I have little chance of getting another decent job again.
    I would do anything – anything – for a loving husband, children and friends to share it with. But at the same time I am too afraid. For I am surely going to ruin their lives too – afterall it is all I know.

    • Dear Stephanie, I am so sorry to hear about all your struggles, you remind me of myself in my past. It is so hard to keep pressing on when you feel like a failure in so many areas of your life. This feeling does not give you confidence to try anything new. I was fire from a lot of jobs too. What happened to you is not your fault. What saved me is reaching out to professionals and groups where I could share safely what was taking place inside. Connect with others who are struggling and who want to heal and grow. Have a personal resolve to heal., be strong girl. Check out Alan Robarge on FB and YouTube. He is very good and focuses on healing and moving forward instead of blaming. You are a worthy person with many gifts to share, love to you 💜

    • Hi Stefanie,

      I can understand your pain. Personally, I am finding it very helpful to write, to journal. It was hard to start. But little by little – and now I feel like it is hard to stop. Write about what you are feeling – your experiences. Write how much you hate yourself, write how much you are scared – do ask yourself why you feel that way, reflect, read, comment… Don’t delete anything.

      On having no one in your life – take very small steps. If you are introverted – maybe social places/events where you feel expected to talk is not a good place to start. But when you do feel like being around people – do it. Go for a walk in a park, around the block, sit in a coffee shop reading something. Pay attention how and what around you makes you feel. Have you thought of volunteering? I think when you are doing something for free people are less likely to judge you and conflict is less possible. It might be easier to breath and define your comfort zones and boundaries without the pressure or fear of being fired/rejected…

      I know it is not easy… I wish you all the best!

  10. I found this article very interesting. It describes my Mother and myself, however, as I got older the more I was able to fight everything that is concluded. I am confident, intelligent, secure with myself and yet I can’t find it in me to forgive. Both my parents were brought where children were seen and not heard. That’s how my brother and Imwere raised. We were not allowed to express our feelings or opinions. I always had common sense which made me question and not understand my Father, he was a Clinical Psychologist. When it came to my Brother, I knew, the advice my Dad gave to his patients was not how he treated or handled his own son. Had he followed his own advice, my Brother would have been better off. As for me, I did what was expected. Perhaps studies should be done on children who were brought to not be able to express thoughts, feels or opinions or with parents who were not involved in their children’s lives, how that made them feel….unloved, unimportant and unworthy. It not just the daughters that felt unloved, but sons too.

  11. .I as my Mother’s “Shame” child. My adoptive Father liked me OK when I was 4 or 5 years old, but then rejected me completely as I got older. He never looked at me, or spoke to me – even on his death bed. Mom got the same treatment, but they stayed married till the end. I hve been unable to have a satisfying relationship with just about everybody in my life. This article has helped me to understand why

  12. Once again, the mother gets blamed. A father, is just as accountable to their children, and have a huge impact on their future lives. A child who comes from a family where there is one nurturing, caring adult (mother, father, grandparent, older sibling) will not have these problems.

    • I agree that these articles seem to be specifically geared towards the mother and SHOULD include the father as well. I was abused mainly by my father and have struggled as a daughter to find articles on how having a narcissistic father affects a daughter. I get that my mother played a role in my development as she was emotionally unavailable but my father is the one I have flashbacks about and struggle to heal from.

      • I write about the father’s role from time to time but this blog is about mothers and daughters.Hence the focus.

  13. The thing I had to learn when I found out what a pair of assholes my parents had been when I was tiny (That blank space in my memory comes packed with abuse and abandonment and 50 years had passed before the revelation) was to let go of the pain issues which included PTSD and its destructive ways.
    That was a very hard deal, but there were highlights of love engendered way back in the care of grand parenting, plus recent access to the new psychological tools of the late 20th century.
    Without the fiscal means to fast track my recovery via therapy, I took my learning, winning and failures from the web, books and the school of hard knocks to a point of equanimity, which means I think I’m Ok, and so do a lot of other folks.
    The main trick, which it isn’t, its a conscious choice, is to choose forgiveness, and set about maintaining your values as the healing process occurs.
    I found there were no miracles, just nuances of behavioural change which began to blend into my life often revealing themselves in a changing environment.
    That did not include the faulty mirrors in my
    But, in general there was a gathering momentum towards a real inner peace and belonging.
    That is belonging to the human race, a miracle of being in itself.
    Don’t ever give up. This is worth fighting for.

  14. After fifty-four years of failing at everything I’ve ever tried, I’m not entirely sure that my mom and dad weren’t right all along. Maybe it is possible to actually be worthless and unlovable. I’ve never been good at making friends and even now I don’t really have any. I get along well enough with my husband, but we’re not intimate (though we were in the first few years of marriage.) I sometimes think he feels he made a mistake but he feels he can’t just walk away. He could have done better, certainly. I try to be more worthwhile but it never works out. My mother was never affectionate and I have few memories of her showing any interest in me. My father left when I was four and my stepfather was abusive. Maybe all three of them recognized I wasn’t worth the effort. I was an ugly child with health problems (my parents even wrote in my baby journal that I was ugly, and really it was true.) I was a kid who couldn’t socialize and a teen who barely managed to scrape through high school. I got married at 22 and have been pretty much a nothing ever since.
    I feel conflicted about this issue because I try to look at myself matter of factly, but I don’t see anything of value when I do. I’m not sure that if I’d been loved, I’d have turned out any more worthwhile. I enjoyed reading the article, though. I can see myself in it, just a little.

    • Omg NO! Your parents behavior towards you I truly blv was just a reflection of the feelings they had about themselves.What kind of jerk ass parents write in a baby journal that their own baby is ugly? Never once considering you would likely read that one day! How unkind and inconsiderate of them. Reading these comments I guess im one of the lucky ones here, my mom never liked me very much but at least went thru the motions of “caring”, well sort of I guess… and my dad did his best to be a good dad. The fact of the matter tho is that if you dont receive love and kindness and encouragement you never learn how to foster those feelings for yourself. I think children start to believe those lies likely before they even have the words to form the thoughts in their minds! Today I thought of an analogy that sort of explains things… children are in a way like little tree seeds,the lucky ones get planted in deep nourishing soil and are watered and cared for and protected against heavy winds that might knock them down. Those little trees get a chance to grow up strong and tall with deep roots that will sustain them thru life.The unlucky seeds fall onto hard ground,arent cared for properly or protected.Their roots dont get a chance to take hold strongly and as the tree grows makes it harder to stand tall or take in nourishment or not fall over when the strong winds blow.You and I and others here are the seeds that fell on the hard ground and I dont know the answer as to how one goes about regrowing ones roots(i.e trust,confidence,love of self,social skills etc). Just writing this wee post has made me feel a tiny bit better tho! So maybe thats part of the answer,baby steps of talking about it,finding you arent alone in your feelings,and trying to reject the lies our minds were infected with before they even had a chance to grow.

  15. Im a son who was put through this madness. To say I ,at times, could be an ‘angry young man’ is an understatement.

    Now Im a much calmer middle aged man.

    My mothers chronic abuse left me reeling! I fought demons and worked extremely hard on not allowing them to affect others. You see I was aware of what I was going through thank God.

    However it did affect others at times and for that Im sincerly sorry.

    No words can describe the emotional pain of having such a mother especially when your fathers died young and your immediate family is abusive as well.

    To all of you going through this know you are not alone. Know that there are others like you who are brothers and sisters rooting you on to find yourself and to finally make peace with yourself.


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