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25 Signs You Grew Up Feeling Invalidated

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Our parents and caregivers’ voices are the first we hear, and in childhood, theirs are the words that echo most strongly through our days and in our minds. Our parents show us the world and our place inside it. They witness our first steps and help us navigate the delicate mechanics of falling. They tell us who we are as best they know how to.

But what happens when what they tell us is wrong? What if you fall and, instead of offering you a hand, they chide you for losing your footing?

Many parents invalidate their children’s feelings. Some children grow up believing their accomplishments are never enough, that their emotions are bad and harmful. Some people go through life believing their parents do not love or want them.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. If you felt invalidated by your parents growing up, we want you to know that your feelings matter and you deserve to feel loved and supported.

We asked our community to tell us the “signs” that they felt invalidated as children. If you see yourself in these, please be gentle with yourself. Our community is here as always if you ever need someone to talk to.

Here are 25 signs that told people they felt invalidated growing up:

1. You were told you were ‘too emotional.’

“Not having a voice with my family members. ‘I feel anxious today’ Response: ‘Just calm down you’re being dramatic.’ — Pamela P.

“When I was a young child through my teens, I was yelled at for crying or my dad would say ‘What’s the matter, kid?’ — as if everything was always my fault and I was too emotional.” — JoAnne L.

“My dad would make fun of me for being sensitive. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I learned from a dear friend that sensitivity is a good thing.” — Katie S.

2. You sought validation from others.

“I always felt I never did things right or correctly. This was a major flaw while working even though I knew I knew how to do whatever it was I was assigned to do, in the back of my head I always second-guessed myself and these were things I did multiple times a day for 20+ years.” — Cathy P.

“Needing validation from others. I can never tell if my feelings are valid or justified.” — Lexi R.

“I was always asking friends if I right in the way I was feeling… I overshare on Facebook to look for the validation.” — Ange M.

3. As an adult, you never allow yourself to be vulnerable.

“I stopped talking about myself to anyone because every time I did, one way or another, I would be told I was wrong/bad. I didn’t share feelings, needs, wants, opinions, ideas, plans or things that happened to me. No one noticed.” — Elizabeth D.

“I keep things bottled up to an almost extreme level. If I showed even a bit of a ‘negative’ emotion (sadness, anger, just plain being human), it would be used against me and I’d be accused of being selfish, ‘out of line’ or of having an attitude.” — Cierra L.

4. You weren’t told you were loved.

“Never being told ‘I love you’ from my dad as a young girl. It greatly affected my self-esteem.” — Jackie B.

“Growing up, no one ever told me how much I meant to them. I think that’s why I seek to hear it so much now.” — Yael G.

“At a very young age, I believed I was adopted, because my brothers were allowed much more freedom than me. I didn’t feel part of the family, but deep down I knew I was not adopted… just not appreciated as much as my siblings.” — Annalie L.

5. You apologized for everything.

“Saying sorry for everything. Even things that aren’t my fault. I always felt like I was a bother to everyone and I have an extreme need to please people.” — Faith S.

“I was always apologizing for voicing my own opinions.” — Joanna L.

“Over-apologizing. Literally. I get anxiety over the smallest things and because of the things I was put through by my father, I’m terrified of figures of authority.” — Gabriella-Ann W.

6. You felt invisible.

“People talking to me as if I hadn’t spoken or starting a different conversation as a response. My voice still feels lost in the woods.” — Mary L.

“Always being overlooked. It’s no wonder why I think I’m very easily forgettable.” — Joel K.

“Always felt invisible like no one noticed I was there. On my 30th birthday, my mom said, ‘Oh look, you’re getting freckles on your face as you get older.’ My son told her, ‘Grandma those are in her baby pictures.’ She responded, ‘Oh I guess I never really looked at you. There were a lot of you.’ My parents had nine children. I was the seventh so yeah, invisible.” — Jean E.

7. You were told your feelings were wrong.

“When being emotional, being told to ‘Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.’ Only ‘positive’ feelings [were] accepted.” — Lainy B.

“Being told I needed to be more understanding of others anytime I was upset. It felt like I wasn’t really allowed to be mad at people for anything because that meant I wasn’t being understanding enough. It causes me to go into massive guilt spirals after I lose my temper now.” — Amy Y.

“Any feeling, thought, or reaction, even a calm but open one, I question and doubt is OK to feel, think or act… I grew up thinking that everyone else’s feelings were OK except my own. It makes opening up really difficult now because I feel everyone will judge me and that I’m not a good enough person because of it.” — Sarah G.

8. Your career dreams were made fun of.

“My family would make fun of my dreams. They would say it was impossible or ‘stupid.’ One time I wanted to rescue injured animals and they pointed at a dead animal and said, ‘Go rescue that.’ It’s really stuck with me and really made it hard for me to settle on one career path.” — James T.

9. Your parents missed basic details.

“Parents forgot to pick me up from school when the bus returned from a week at camp!” — Cindy R.

“When I managed to carry a pregnancy for eight months when I was 14 and my parents still didn’t notice until I told them.” — Suzanne W.

10. You were told you were selfish.

“Being told I was ‘selfish’ and ‘self-centered’ on a regular basis, while I knew in my mind and heart that it wasn’t true. Wanting my voice heard and my feelings recognized is not selfish or self-centered.” — Kate U.

11. You’re now a perfectionist.

“I became a toxic perfectionist and created a cycle of negative self-talk to try to prove to myself and everyone else that I was good enough and worthy of attention.” — Nina R.

“I grew up ‘knowing’ I would never be enough. Now I feel I have to be perfect to make up for that, for people to love me. While that may have gotten me great grades and honors in college, it took a huge toll on my mental and physical health.” — Michaela N.

12. Your parents didn’t want to hear about your problems.

“When I kept struggling with a problem, if I went to mom more than a few times, she’d say things like, ‘But I thought we already solved that,’ as though I, as a child, didn’t have permission to have difficulty with things. It was as though I wasn’t a dynamic, changing individual, and more like a machine to be repaired, and exasperated at when something broke down again.” — Jacinta M.

“The number of times I cried in my room by myself because I didn’t receive any comfort if I cried to my mom.” — Dana H.

13. You self-sabotage as an adult.

“I self-sabotage. I have a difficult time being around others. I wreck relationships by pushing people away. I set myself up and do things that make me look bad when it’s not how I really feel.” — Sheryl K.

14. You never heard a genuine apology.

“Being constantly told ‘I’m sorry that hurt your feelings’ instead of ‘I’m sorry.’” — Jessica T.

15. You now struggle to get in touch with your feelings.

Feeling no emotions. Never crying when I should have. Example: falling off a chair as a young child.” — Alex C.

“Being emotionless and my sense of humor towards the bad things in life. It made me realize I lived my life as a portrait, each day and each person would paint me how they liked and I wouldn’t say anything because I didn’t want to ruin their perfect picture. That felt really powerful for me to hear once I said or typed this out loud. Wow.” — Tatiana W.

16. Being told your struggles were ‘all in your head.’

“No matter how many times I was hospitalized or put on medication for my mental health people would always say ‘it’s all in your head.’ It’s been eight years and it’s definitely not all in my head.” — Alesha Y.

“Hearing ‘What’s wrong with you?!’ when struggling with a very hard depressive episode.” — Cecilia N.

“Being told it was ‘all in my head’ [and] to ‘snap out of it.’” — Sherri B. D.

17. You thought love was earned.

“I felt like I had to please people to earn their love. I ended up being the only kid who’d help out around the house, and instead of feeling appreciated, I felt resentful of my siblings and still I felt as if I wasn’t doing enough.” — GraceAnne H.

“I’ve spent my life trying to buy love, from my family and friends. I’m bankrupt emotionally, spiritually and financially. There is nothing left, including those I spent a fortune on. But I’m finally learning to love me and put me first. Well, I’m trying to.” — Susan B.

18. As an adult, you second-guess yourself all the time.

“I always felt I never did things right or correctly. This was a major flaw while working even though I knew I knew how to do whatever it was I was assigned to do, in the back of my head I always second-guessed myself and these were things I did multiple times a day for 20+ years.” — Cathy P.

19. You sought affection from strangers.

“I would go to anyone that would listen to me. I so badly wanted a listening ear that as a child, I would voluntarily spill my whole life to strangers.” — Nynaeve B.

“I found more solace in online friends and writing than I did my own family.” — Kim H.

20. You feel the need to justify yourself to others as an adult.

“I’ve had a habit for as long as I can remember of over-explaining things, as if I’m on the witness stand. I now know I developed that habit in response to frequent gaslighting from my family.” — Kitty K.

“I have to over-explain my reasoning and feelings because without ‘a million’ reasons why they are true or correct I don’t think anyone would listen or believe me.” — Jayden R.

21. You were made to feel unwanted.

“Told by my mother that my father didn’t want a girl and he didn’t deny it. I’m an only child.” — Jackie S.

“Being referred to by my father-in-law’s family, after years of marriage, still as ‘Marian’s daughter.’ Not even a name.” — Shana J.

“My mother telling the same people over and over that the last thing she wanted was another child. ‘Liza was an accident.’ That’s it, no buts and no lessening the jagged edges of that comment. If I go by what she says, nothing good ever came from having me. And it seemed to have enforced the dynamics between my siblings and me. I had to do what I was told and I was teased and criticized and my mother to this day allows it. I felt not really a part of the family and not really a person because I am a mistake.” — Liza C.

22. Your family members played favorites.

“My parents played favorites with six girls. It was never me, or three others. Always the same two. One for dad and one for mom. I turned 60 this summer and no one cared enough to call. I feel like I never mattered even though I was the oldest and was forced to help raise the other kids.” — Robin P.

“Being scolded for making anything less than a ‘B’ while my sibling was praised for making a ‘D.’” — Andrea Elizabeth S.

23. You were put down constantly.

“My dad saying I could not carry a tune with a bushel basket while my siblings and my mother were singing.” — Melanie W. R.

“Being laughed at by my mother when I told her how I felt after my sister was born.” — Megan A.

“Always feeling pulled down by others during interactions and ignored when I tried to lift them up to my level.” — Ben M.

24. Your parents didn’t show up for you.

“My parents never came to a soccer game or volleyball game because they were ‘too boring.’ Later that became not coming to my Army basic graduation, my airborne school graduation, my ranger assessment graduation.” — Joseph S.

25. People’s kindness surprises you as an adult.

“When my best friend helped me dress my self-harm wounds and sat with me all night to make me feel better. No judgment, no exasperated ‘Why would you do something like that?’ I realized in that moment that no one had ever asked ‘What drove you to this? What upset you so much and how can we make you feel better?’ But she did, and I wasn’t left to cope alone.” — Bethany A.

If your emotional needs weren’t met when you were a child, you’re not alone and it wasn’t your fault. You deserve to feel supported by the people closest to you. If reading this has been hard for you, please take care of yourself and remember that your feelings do matter. If you ever need someone to talk to, post a thought under the hashtag #CheckInWithMe to connect to Mighties who understand what you’re going through.

Getty image by Jorm Sangsorn

Originally published: December 20, 2019
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