6 Traits of People Who Were Abused as Kids

Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

Whether you were abused as a child yourself or you suspect someone was abused growing up, it is useful to know the common traits of people who suffered abuse growing up.

If you see yourself, it boosts your self-awareness. If you see others, you’ll be able to be more sensitive towards them, allowing them to feel more seen.

Also, understand that people who were abused as kids are akin to the baby elephant tied down to the ground by a stake. When the baby grows up, they could easily lift the stake out of the ground by merely lifting their feet. But due to the conditioning that they cannot move the stake, it is unlikely that they will ever try.

1. Over-apologizing

Whether they are apologizing over and over again for a mistake on their part or apologizing for the actions of others, children who suffered abuse grow up to become adults who need to ensure that they are on others’ good sides.

In their past, not being on someone’s good side meant a lecture at best or some sort of physical punishment at worst. And no amount of apologizing was enough to change their fate.

As an adult, the solution is simple enough. Sincerely apologize when you make a mistake. If you really mean it, you won’t have to repeat yourself to prove that you really are sorry.

But because of past conditioning, this is easier said than done.

2. Over-compensating

People who were abused hate making mistakes because it causes them to have to apologize and revisit shame, an all too familiar emotion.

How do they mitigate this? They reason that by working very hard and achieving perfection, they will escape mistakes and therefore escape shame and guilt.

As a result, these folk will become people-pleasers and run into the wall of codependency where the only way they’ll know how to feel about themselves is based on how others feel about them.

Unfortunately, they are unconscious of the fact that their striving for perfection or for some lofty goal is due to the belief that they aren’t good enough. And if the primary belief is that you’re not good enough, you can work hard all you want but you will prove the primary but latent belief correct.

3. Self-sabotage

Self-sabotage can be thought of in a few different ways. In some cases, what would be typically labelled as self-sabotage was in fact two warring perspectives that had not come to a resolution on what to do.

This type of self-sabotage looks similar but is different. This type of self-sabotage is when the primary thought is that you aren’t good enough but then you try to do things so that others can see that you are, in fact, good enough.

But how are you going to accomplish this if you initially don’t think you’re good enough? It may be normal for self-doubt to creep in, but for someone who was abused growing up, they are going to believe that line because it’s familiar and due to selective bias, it will show all the times things didn’t work out.

If you don’t even think you can make the right decision, or better yet, if you can’t make a decision, fail and then have the wherewithal to redirect your efforts into a new path, these are the behaviors of someone who is on an unconscious mission to continue to fail.

4. Cannot believe they deserve good things

Abuse communicates that one isn’t good enough. It communicates that if one isn’t being treated well, that means they must be defective in some way. And if you are labelled as bad, you will be grouped with all the other things that are labelled as bad.

This perspective is somewhat reductionist. Sure, the things that some would consider bad are closely related to other things one considers bad. But with a little investigation, one can also see that there are people who are abusive who receive good things and there are good people who suffer.

Too bad this doesn’t occur to the person who was abused as a child. But even if it did, it wouldn’t matter because they have internalized the belief that if they were treated bad, that they must be bad.

As adults, they may be able to state that just because someone is treated poorly doesn’t mean that they deserve it. But because this childhood belief is still in operation, it will unconsciously cause them to look for problems when they really want solutions.

As a result, toxic relationships emerge as well as decision-making that leads them into perilous scenarios.

5. Avoid conflict

When you get right down to it, if it wasn’t for conflict, the person who was abused as a child wouldn’t be who they are now. They could easily say that conflict with others has never done them any good and as a result, they have a negative relationship with conflict.

They will avoid it at all costs, which may block them from opportunities and personal growth. They will be afraid to put their talents on display because they just don’t want to feel the shame they believe someone is going to levy at them.

Therefore, the best thing to do is to play it safe and be as agreeable as possible. They may know at some level that they may not grow, but it’s better to be safe than to grow.

6. Self-isolation

And in order to really stave off any potential conflict, one could isolate oneself from everyone. This never works because one can never get away from the negative thoughts one inherited from people and events in the past.

Isolation is a beguiling trap because it seems to keep you safe and away from things that could hurt you. But in reality, you are the one who’s hurting you and you can’t escape yourself.

Not to mention if you cut yourself off from your sources of love such as family, friends or just fellow human beings who are also trying to make sense of life, you really are in a trap. You got rid of the very things that could set you free.

Community is a risk but a necessary one. People will dislike you and disagree with you merely because you’re different. But you will do the same. Instead of hating on it, embrace it. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you have to be nasty.

And with community, you can get the feedback you need from others who see the talents that you are hiding, the abilities you aren’t maximizing, the activities that are distracting you from what you need to address, who challenge your negative self-talk and who will offer the invitations for you to consider a different way to live.

Former Edu. Psychologist | Current Writer | Constant Learner | “By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

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