Childhood Shame Can Affect Adult Relationships

Do you ever feel like you’re not good enough? That no matter what you do, you can’t please anyone? If so, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. But where do these feelings come from? Maybe you were always the ‘bad’ kid in school. Maybe you were never good enough for your parents. Or perhaps you experienced a trauma that left you feeling ashamed and embarrassed.

Childhood shame doesn’t just go away. It can stay with us into adulthood and have a profound impact on our relationships. We may not always recognize the signs of shame in ourselves, so it’s helpful to understand how it can manifest in our lives.

Let’s explore what that looks like…

Trust Issues

If we’ve been hurt or betrayed in the past, it can be hard to let people into our lives. We might be afraid of being rejected or abandoned, so we build walls around ourselves. This can make it hard to form close, intimate relationships. We might also have a hard time trusting our own instincts and intuition. Instead, we second-guess ourselves and doubt our decisions which makes it difficult to assert ourselves when communicating with others.

Different people deal with an inability to trust in different ways. Some might become overly controlling or possessive in their relationships. They might try to control every aspect of the relationship so that they never have to feel vulnerable again. Others might need constant reassurance and validation from their partner.

Difficulty Expressing Emotions

Sometimes people who experienced shame in childhood have difficulty expressing emotions. This might be because they learned to stuff down their feelings or bottle them up. Maybe they were taught that their emotions were invalid or unimportant. As a result, they never learned how to deal with emotions in a healthy way.

An inability to deal with our emotions can lead to problems communicating our needs or expressing how we’re feeling. We might bottle up our emotions until they explode in uncontrolled outbursts. Or we might become numb to our feelings and disconnect from ourselves and others.

Trouble Setting Boundaries

If we’ve been shamed in the past, we might not have learned how to set healthy boundaries. We may have been told we were ‘too much’ or ‘not enough.’ Maybe we were always expected to put others first and never had our own needs met. As a result, we might find it impossible to advocate for ourselves or say “no” when we need to.

We might have a hard time saying “no” to sex, even when we don’t want it. We might stay in relationships that are harmful or toxic because we’re afraid of being alone. We might allow others to take advantage of us or walk all over us because we don’t know how to stand up for ourselves. There may be a real fear of rejection or abandonment if we don’t do what others want us to do.

These are just a few of the ways childhood shame can affect our relationships as adults. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, there is help available. Trauma-informed therapy can be a great way to work through your shame and start to heal. If you’re not sure where to start, please reach out to a mental health professional for guidance. You deserve to live a life free from shame and full of love and joy.

What are your thoughts? Do you recognize any other signs of shame in your relationships? Feel free to share in the comments, and thanks for reading!


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