People Who Were Overly Criticized Growing up Usually Display These 10 Behaviors (Without Realizing It)

People Who Were Overly Criticized Growing up Usually Display These 10 Behaviors (Without Realizing It)

Growing up in an environment filled with constant criticism can impact an individual’s behavior well into adulthood. The words and actions of parents, caregivers, and other influential figures during childhood shape how we perceive ourselves and interact with the world around us. Those who experience excessive criticism often develop coping mechanisms and behaviors that persist long after they’ve left their childhood homes. In this article, we’ll explore ten common behaviors exhibited by individuals who were overly criticized growing up, often without them even realizing it.

1. Striving for Perfection

One of the most prevalent behaviors among those who were overly criticized as children is perfectionism. When nothing seems good enough for those around you, developing an intense drive to achieve flawlessness in every aspect of life is natural. Perfectionist tendencies can manifest in various ways, such as spending countless hours on a project to ensure every detail is correct or repeatedly revising an email before hitting send. While striving for excellence is admirable, perfectionism can lead to burnout, anxiety, and a constant feeling of never measuring up.

2. The Need to Please

Another common trait of individuals who grew up with excessive criticism is the desire to please others. When you’re used to being criticized, you may find yourself going above and beyond to gain approval and avoid disapproval. People-pleasing behaviors can range from always saying yes to requests, even when inconvenient or detrimental to your well-being, to prioritizing others’ needs over your own. The fear of letting others down or facing their criticism can be a powerful motivator, but it can also lead to resentment and a loss of self-identity.

3. Deflecting Compliments

Accepting compliments can feel uncomfortable or disingenuous for those constantly criticized as children. When someone praises their work or appearance, they may instinctively deflect the compliment or downplay their accomplishments. This behavior often stems from a deep-seated belief that they don’t deserve praise or that accepting it would be considered rude or arrogant. Accepting compliments graciously is essential in building self-esteem and recognizing one’s worth.

4. The Overachiever

In an attempt to prove their value and avoid criticism, some individuals who grew up with excessive criticism become overachievers. They may take on more projects than they can handle, work long hours, or constantly seek new challenges to demonstrate their capabilities. While ambition and a strong work ethic are valuable qualities, overachieving can lead to stress, exhaustion, and a lack of work-life balance. It’s essential to recognize that your achievements do not solely define your worth.

5. The Inner Critic

One of the most insidious effects of growing up with constant criticism is the development of a harsh inner critic. The negative messages you hear as a child can become internalized, leading to a continuous stream of self-critical thoughts. You may criticize your efforts, appearance, or decisions, even when others praise or support you. Recognizing and challenging these negative thought patterns is crucial for developing a more compassionate and accepting relationship with yourself.

6. Struggling to Assert Oneself

When you’re used to being criticized for expressing your opinions or needs, asserting yourself can feel daunting. Those who grew up with excessive criticism may struggle to speak up in meetings, express disagreement, or set boundaries in personal relationships. The fear of facing criticism or backlash can lead to passive or submissive behavior, which can be frustrating and disempowering. Learning to communicate assertively and advocate for oneself is an essential skill that can be developed with practice and support.

7. Excessive Apologizing

Another typical behavior among those overly criticized as children is the tendency to apologize even for minor or unintentional missteps. The constant fear of being blamed or criticized can lead to a knee-jerk reaction of saying “sorry” for everything, whether it’s arriving a few minutes late or accidentally bumping into someone. While taking responsibility for one’s actions is essential, excessive apologizing can undermine your confidence and give others the impression that you’re always in the wrong.

8. Avoiding Criticism at All Costs

For some individuals who grew up with constant criticism, the mere thought of being criticized can be paralyzing. They may go to great lengths to avoid situations where they might face criticism, such as not applying for a promotion or not sharing their creative work with others. While it’s natural to want to protect yourself from negativity, avoiding criticism altogether can limit your growth and prevent you from reaching your full potential. Learning to distinguish between constructive feedback and unhealthy criticism is critical to navigating this challenge.

9. Difficulty Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries can be particularly challenging for those overly criticized as children. The fear of disappointing others or facing disapproval can make it hard to say no or establish limits in relationships. You may be overextending yourself, tolerating mistreatment, or compromising your needs to avoid conflict. However, setting healthy boundaries is essential for your emotional well-being and the success of your relationships. It’s okay to prioritize and communicate your needs clearly and respectfully to others.

10. The Quest for Validation

Finally, individuals who grew up with excessive criticism often constantly seek external validation. The lack of positive reinforcement in childhood can create a deep-seated insecurity and a need for others to affirm their worth. This can manifest in seeking praise for every accomplishment or constantly needing reassurance in personal relationships. While it’s natural to want to feel appreciated and valued, true self-worth comes from within. Learning to validate yourself and find contentment in your accomplishments is a crucial step in healing from the effects of childhood criticism.

Breaking the Cycle

Recognizing these behaviors in yourself is the first step in breaking free from the effects of excessive childhood criticism. It’s important to remember that these patterns develop as coping mechanisms in a challenging environment and that unlearning them takes time and effort. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you create new, healthier ways of thinking and interacting with the world.

Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can be beneficial. Talking through your experiences and learning new strategies for self-acceptance and assertiveness can make a world of difference. Remember, you are worthy of love, respect, and acceptance, regardless of what you may have been told.

Case Study: From Criticism to Confidence

Ryan, a 35-year-old chef, has always struggled with inadequacy and self-doubt. Growing up, his parents constantly criticized him for his choices, from hobbies to academic performance. Despite his passion for cooking, Ryan second-guessed every decision he made in the kitchen, always striving for perfection and seeking approval from his colleagues and patrons.

As he progressed in his career, Ryan’s insecurities began to take a toll on his mental health. He would spend countless hours obsessing over every detail of his dishes, often staying late at the restaurant to ensure everything was right. He constantly compared his creations to those of other chefs, never feeling like his work was good enough. Ryan’s personal life also suffered, as he often canceled plans with friends and family to focus on his work, fearing that taking time off would lead to criticism from his boss.

One day, Ryan reached a breaking point after a particularly stressful shift. He realized his constant need for approval and fear of criticism held him back professionally and personally. He decided to seek the help of a therapist, who helped him recognize the root of his behaviors and develop strategies for building self-confidence and setting healthy boundaries.

Through therapy and self-reflection, Ryan began to challenge the negative thought patterns that had been instilled in him since childhood. He learned to accept compliments graciously and to view constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth rather than a personal attack. Ryan also started setting aside time for self-care and hobbies outside of work, recognizing that his worth was not solely tied to his achievements in the kitchen. As he continued his journey of self-discovery, Ryan became a more confident and assertive chef in his culinary creations and interactions with colleagues and customers alike.

Key Takeaways

  • Excessive criticism during childhood can have a lasting impact on an individual’s behavior and self-perception.
  • These behaviors often develop as coping mechanisms in response to a challenging environment.
  • Recognizing these patterns in oneself is the first step in breaking free from the effects of excessive childhood criticism.
  • Unlearning these behaviors takes time, effort, and self-compassion.
  • Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional can be helpful in the healing process.
  • Challenging negative thought patterns and learning to validate oneself is crucial for developing a more positive self-image.
  • Setting healthy boundaries and communicating assertively are essential skills to develop.
  • Breaking free from the cycle of negativity and embracing self-acceptance is possible with self-awareness, compassion, and support.


The impact of excessive childhood criticism can be far-reaching and long-lasting. By recognizing the typical behaviors resulting from this experience and taking steps to challenge and change them, you can break free from the cycle of negativity and embrace a more positive, fulfilling way of life. With self-awareness, compassion, and support, it is possible to heal past wounds and create a brighter future for yourself.