There is a huge misconception that when you are growing up with a toxic parent that it is always obvious. The thing is- when you grow up in the trenches, you begin to believe that what you have always been surrounded by is what is normal.
Especially as a child, even if your parents are abusive, you may not entirely realize it. The toxic behaviors you grew up around are normal to you. Going a step further, toxic behaviors are not always obvious. Toxicity varies from person to person. While one person may be outright and undeniably toxic, another person may be more covert. Most toxic people know how to mask themselves enough to appear (mostly) normal to the outside world.
According to Davaleena Ghosh, “A toxic parent is typically one who ignores boundaries and appropriates for every age of any child. Another common toxic parent trait is withholding love and putting too many conditions on the child. You may also notice them invalidate or ignore your feelings,” says Devaleena.
Here are 10 signs you grew up with a toxic parent and did not even realize it.
1. You are constantly apologizing.
Growing up in a toxic family dynamic can make you feel as though nothing you ever do is right. Toxic parents tend to be overly critical, and always shift the blame for anything and everything onto their kids. Due to this, it’s very common for kids who grow up with toxic parents to constantly apologize.
2. You find it difficult to make decisions.
If you struggle to make decisions, it could be because you grew up with a toxic parent. When you are always under constant scrutiny and are told how everything you do is wrong, it can make it very hard to trust in yourself.
3. You take criticism very hard.
Toxic parents are not only highly critical, but also can be quite abusive. Oftentimes, criticism and rejection by a toxic parent can be quite extreme. For a child growing up in these conditions, it can hard-wire you to be fearful of this same criticism and rejection as you grow up.
4. Trust is not easy for you.
Our parents are supposed to give us a reason to trust and love others. If our bond with them is healthy, we learn that people are trustworthy. However, if our parents are cruel or abusive, it can lead us to believe the world is a bad place.
5. You have extreme reactions that confuse you.
Growing up around abuse can affect your internal emotional responses. “If a parent dismisses (‘stop being a baby’) or over-indulges the child’s emotions (‘you don’t have to go to school if you’re scared’), the child doesn’t have the opportunity to develop appropriate skills to manage them,” says Aude Henin, Ph.D. “These can translate into difficulties regulating negative emotions as an adult.”
6. You gravitate towards toxic relationships.
When you grow up around toxic people, you are far more likely to feel accustomed to abuse and toxicity. For some, there is the urge to keep recreating the same dynamic, because internally, they seek closure. Others may simply believe they deserve abuse.
7. You were parentified as a child.
Parentification is what happens when a child is put in the position of a parent. A toxic parent may lean on their child too much for emotional support, or even place their child in a position to support them financially or otherwise. Regardless, kids who grow up being parentified tend to have massive scars.
8. You feel guilty all of the time.
Toxic parents tend to make their kids feel worthless. Everything is always the fault of their child, and every little thing their child does is wrong. In turn, their kids grow up feeling constant guilt for merely existing.
9. You are constantly seeking validation.
In a toxic family dynamic, the child will want so badly to get it right, that they will feel the need to always check in before doing anything. They want too badly to avoid getting into trouble and, instead, just want love and acceptance. As an adult, this can lead to a constant need for validation.
10. You struggle to connect with others.
It can be quite hard to connect with others when your parents never showed you how. A toxic parent doesn’t always know how to connect with others either, and we tend to learn this through our interactions with our parents. When our parents make us feel safe and secure, we learn to easily connect and feel close to others. But, when our parents are abusive, it can make us feel terrified of people.