The Impact of Being Unloved As a Child in Your Adulthood

Last Update on May 3, 2024 : Published on May 5, 2024

Our childhood is a time when we’re the most vulnerable. We rely on our parents and caregivers for not just physical needs, but also for emotional ones. Love, acceptance, and a sense of safety become the cornerstone on which our self-image is built.

However, when these elements are missing, the effects can reverberate far into adulthood, influencing our relationships, self-esteem, and well-being. 

You can’t see a young plant survive in barren soil. It’ll desperately seek water and sunlight to thrive. The same is true for a child. A child deprived of love experiences similar struggles. Without the emotional safety, love, and validation that comes from a parent can cause their sense of self to wither. 

This lack of love can manifest in various ways in your adulthood, influencing everything from how you connect with others to your mental health. Let’s read on to know how being unloved as a child can impact your adulthood. 

Insecure Attachment Style  

Our earliest relationships with our parents and caregivers lay the foundation for our attachment style, a mental model that influences how we connect with others as adults.

Children who receive consistent love and support develop a secure attachment style. They feel comfortable expressing their needs, trusting their parents will be there for them. 

Conversely, children who experience neglect or emotional unavailability develop insecure attachment styles. These insecure attachment styles can be categorized as anxious, avoidant, or disorganized. 

Anxious attachment, for example, can manifest in a constant fear of abandonment. Adults with this attachment style might cling to relationships, becoming overly reliant on their partners for validation.

They might also struggle with low self-esteem and constantly seek reassurance. On the other hand, if you have an avoidant attachment style, then you might push intimacy away.

You may fear rejection, being vulnerable, and committing to a relationship. You might also prefer emotional distance rather than risking rejection. 

The impact of insecure attachment styles can extend beyond romantic relationships. They can also influence your friendships, professional relationships, and even your ability to ask for help and support in times of need. 

The Impact of Being Unloved as a Child 

The absence of love as a child can have a profound impact (and long-lasting, too) on different aspects of your life as an adult. Here are some common effects of being unloved as a child; 

1. Low Self-Esteem

As a child who feels unloved and unwanted by everyone, you might internalize the message that you are unworthy and unlovable. This feeling and belief can manifest itself in your adult life as chronic self-doubt, difficulty accepting compliments, and a constant need for external validation. 

2. Trust Issues

A child should be able to rely on their parents the most. However, if the parents fail to show their love and support, it can create a deep sense of betrayal in the child’s heart.

This can further lead to difficulties trusting others in adulthood, making it hard to form healthy and fulfilling relationships. 

3. Self-Sabotaging Behaviors 

Some adults who feel unloved as a child can also develop self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to subconsciously fulfill their unmet needs for love, attention, and support. This can manifest in risky behaviors such as substance abuse or engaging in unhealthy and toxic relationships. 

4. Mental Health Issues 

Did you know that research suggests a strong link between childhood emotional neglect and mental health conditions like depression disorders, anxiety disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Being unloved as a child can not only influence your relationships but can also affect your mental health. 

These are just some ways that feeling unloved as a child can impact your life. The specific effects can vary from person to person as well as the severity of the neglect and abuse experienced as a child. 

Here’s an example to help you understand this better;

A person who rarely receives emotional support from their parents can develop an anxious attachment style. In their romantic relationships, they become overly attached and clingy to their partner and constantly seek reassurance.

This behavior can push their partner away, confirming their fear of abandonment. This cycle can be hard to break without understanding the root cause – the insecure attachment style caused by childhood emotional neglect. 

How to Heal As An Adult?

The good news is that it’s never too late to heal from the pain of an unloved childhood. Here are some ways you can help yourself and rewrite your emotional narrative; 

1. Acknowledge your pain:

The first thing you can do to heal yourself is to acknowledge your painful experiences and whatever damage they caused. Suppressing these emotions can hinder your healing process, so acknowledge them and let them go. 

2. Be self-compassionate:

Next, treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend going through a tough time. Just because you suffered, doesn’t mean that you should continue to do so. You need to be kind to yourself too. 

3. Challenge negative self-beliefs:

The negative messages such as “I’m unworthy” and “I’m unloved” that you’ve internalized as a child are more than likely to feed your low self-esteem. Challenge yourself and these beliefs with evidence to the contrary. Focus on your strengths and remind yourself of them, daily. 

4. Set boundaries:

If you’ve felt unloved as a child, then you might often struggle with setting healthy boundaries in your relationships. To heal from unhealthy patterns, you need to learn to say “NO” to unreasonable demands. Protect your mental and emotional well-being first! 

5. Seek professional help:

If you’re still struggling with letting go and healing from feeling unloved and unwanted by everyone, know that it’s OK to seek help from a professional. A therapist can help you unpack your issues, make sense of them, and teach you tools to heal yourself. 

Wrap Up…

Healing from feeling unloved as a child can take some time, patience, loads of self-compassion, and a willingness to confront your past. The good news is that with constant effort, you can rewrite your narrative and build a life filled with love, healthy relationships, and a strong sense of self. 

Therapy can be a powerful tool in your healing process. A therapist can provide a safe space to explore your experiences and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Support groups can also offer a sense of connection and understanding from others who’ve lived through similar experiences. 

Know that you’re not defined by your past. The lack of love you felt as a child does not have to carry forward in the future. Taking the steps to heal, you can cultivate a strong sense of self-worth, and experience the love and support you deserve. 

Did this article help you understand the impact of being unloved as a child? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Take Care! 

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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