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People are sponges- especially as children. We absorb every little thing, from our experiences to our environments, and on to the relationships we have from birth. And regardless of whether we know it- these things have a major impact on how we interact with others.

Each person has their style for showing love, and a major determining factor for how our love styles will develop is based on our experiences as children. Our childhood impacts our love style far more profoundly than anything else in our life. It could be said that our current life is a puzzle- and the puzzle pieces that form the puzzle are our past experiences.

If we had cruel or unloving parents, we may grow to become clingy as adults, seeking love and attention elsewhere. We may have poor self-esteem because we believe we are unworthy of love. On the contrary, if your parents were loving, affectionate, and communicative, it sets us up to be more likely to express love healthily.

If our parents parentified us or made us take on the role of an adult and caretaker for them at an early age, our parenting style may be to nurture and take care of everyone else, leaving ourselves behind. There are several ways our pasts can affect our present, and it’s important to understand how our past is influencing us, and whether or not that influence is a healthy one.

According to Psychology Today, there are four main components that shape us from childhood, and those are:

Our Emotional Wounds

Emotional wounds often determine how sensitive we will become later on. These can include feeling criticized, feeling micromanaged, feeling neglected, feeling avoided, and feeling underappreciated. These wounds can make or break how we manage our emotions, including love, later on.

Family Climate

Family climate is the environment in our family that we grow up with. Some families may be more prone to be anxious, while others are more violent. Other family climates may avoid facing problems altogether. Because of this, we often grow up constantly on guard. And what makes this even more interesting, is that one family climate may affect all the members of the family differently. But, regardless, they are affected, and their behavior is a result of their family climate.

Birth Order

Studies have shown time and time again that birth order majorly impacts our development. Older children grow up to be leaders most often, while younger children are typically more free-spirited. This, too, can change up depending on the situation.

Role Models

According to Bob Taibbi, L.C.S.W, “We usually develop a black and white reaction to our childhood role models. You either identify with the aggressor – I become my mom and can easily yell when I’m stressed or become aggressive like my dad — or I move towards the opposite: I decide sometime in my teen or early adult years not to be like them, and instead I never get angry and hold things in, or if my dad drank, I don’t.”

We either cope with our role models, or we become them. And much of whom we become later on depends on who was presented to us as a role model.

And while we cannot change our past- we can empower ourselves through the knowledge and understanding of how our past impacts us. By drawing awareness to how our childhood shaped us, we can move past and change the bad coping skills we developed along the way, and work on our love style to become a happier and healthier version of ourselves.