You try to be a good friend, you pay rent mostly on time, and you spoil the heck out of your dog — in other words, you’re crushing the whole adulting thing. But you also can’t have your weekly parental FaceTime without a beer and a panic attack, and you apologize for literally everything. So even when you’re winning at your career, you might already be staring in the mirror at some signs that you grew up with toxic parents.
“It’s normal for parents to make mistakes (they are human, after all),” says Aude Henin, Ph.D., the co-director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Child Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Program. “However, when parents consistently engage in behaviors that disregard their children’s needs, that are abusive or neglectful, that are unrealistic or perfectionistic, or that are overprotective and controlling, these patterns of behavior may negatively impact children’s psychological growth.” In other words, that breakdown you had “for no reason” last weekend might go back longer than you thought.
Of course, not everyone with major trust issues has toxic parents, and Henin stresses that “toxic” isn’t a clinical term in the way “abuse” is. But if your boss giving you some constructive feedback feels just like getting sent to your room when you were a kid, you might want to check out these nine signs that you have toxic parents.
You Find Trusting Relationships Difficult
Your bestie has literally never lied to you and your new partner is giving you nothing but green flags. But you still can’t seem to believe them when they say they’re here for you. Not feeling like you can count on relationships is a potential sign of toxic parenting.
“Negative parent-child interactions can make it difficult to learn to trust in relationships as an adult by undermining the person’s sense that the world is a safe place and that people can respond appropriately to your needs,” Henin explains. When you weren’t taught to believe that people will have your back, Henin says that it can be extra hard to believe that you can trust in the real thing as an adult.
You Take Rejection & Failure Very Hard
Freak out when you miss a deadline or have your novel gently turned down by an agent? Children of toxic parents may experience more extreme shame and hurt than people whose parents were more outwardly loving. “You are striving to do something well because you are attempting to avoid a consequence,” says Sherese Ezelle, L.M.H.C., a licensed behavioral therapist at One Medical. “Therefore, the feeling of failure or rejection can lead to fear of punishment and associated feelings of guilt, sadness, and shame.” Even if your boss assures you that double-booking important meetings happens to the best of us, growing up with toxic parents can convince you that you’re the worst employee to ever exist.