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April 10, 2024

9 Signs You’re Struggling with “Good Child Syndrome” & 7 Ways to Get Out of It.

 

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“To take care of ourselves, we must go back to take good care of the wounded child inside us.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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They say that being an adult isn’t easy.

Well, being a child is not a piece of cake either.

When you’re young, you’re helpless and dependent on the world around you to validate your existence, to tell you that you matter, you’re good enough, and you’re worthy of something.

You learn that in order to get that validation, you will have to do certain things such as complying to others’ demands, fulfilling their needs and expectations, agreeing to everything that is being asked of you, and you do this even more when that validation doesn’t come your way.

That’s when you get caught in the “I want to be the good child syndrome,” the good child who never says no.

So many of us grow up in environments where our existence is not only questioned but doesn’t even make sense at some level. We wonder why we were even born if no one really cared to love and accept us the way we really were. We struggle to fit into molds that are too small or too big for us and then we get stuck.

Even when we grow up, we’re still confined to those molds and keep beating ourselves up to fit into that ill-fitting mold.

“Your inner child still needs to be loved in order to heal the complete self.” ~ Karen A. Baquiran

We want to be “good” all the time so that we can be accepted by a world that deep down doesn’t understand us, and in doing so, we either lose sight of or never even come to have a relationship with our own self. At times, we don’t even know who we are because we are too busy trying to be what the world wants us to be.

This good child syndrome often shows up even in adulthood as:

1. Being overly compliant. You often continue to prioritize pleasing others and conforming to expectations, even at the expense of your own needs and desires. You have difficulty asserting yourself or setting boundaries.

2. Fear of disappointing others. You have an intense fear of disappointing authority figures or loved ones, which can lead to feelings of guilt or anxiety when you feel you’ve not measured up to expectations.

3. Perfectionism. You feel compelled to excel in all areas of your lives and may struggle with feelings of inadequacy or failure when you aren’t able to live up to your own or others’ standards.

4. Difficulty expressing emotions. You have difficulty expressing emotions openly, particularly negative emotions such as anger or sadness. Perhaps you learned to suppress your feelings in order to maintain harmony by suppressing yourself.

5. Low self-esteem. No matter how successful you get, you still grapple with low self-esteem and often question your self-worth.

6. Dependency on external validation. You rely heavily on external validation and approval from others to feel worthy or valuable, which leads you to seek constant reassurance and validation from authority figures or seek out relationships where you can fulfill the role of the “good child.”

7. Difficulty making decisions. You struggle with making decisions independently, fearing that if you make the wrong choice, you may disappoint others and that’s not a risk you can afford to take.

8. Avoidance of conflict. Your intense fear of conflict will ensure that you’ll do anything to maintain peace, even if it costs you your peace.

9. Not asking for help. You struggle to ask for help because you’re afraid of how it will make you look—weak or incompetent. Perhaps, your earlier attempts at seeking support were met with an unpleasant response so you learnt to do everything on your own.

“Healing your lost inner child wounding takes time, gentle care, and learning to love and embrace your wounded parts.” ~ Robert Jackman

This intense need to be the quintessential good child stems from a vacuum of not being heard, validated, and seen. It comes from not being supported in ways you would have wanted and there’s nothing bad about it.

As human beings, it’s important to understand that it’s good to be good but not all the time. There’s more to life than just trying to fit into molds or being good. It’s important to be authentic, express who you are wholeheartedly, and invite and nurture relationships where you do feel seen, heard, and validated for who you are. You can’t live your entire life trying to be a version that fits into someone else’s story.

You’ve got to play the lead role in yours, and you do that by:

1. Acknowledging and accepting those needs that were not met as a child and the fact that you’re still trying to fill a void by trying to be what others want you to be.

2. Developing awareness of the ways in which you’re trying to fill that void. For example: people-pleasing, not taking decisions, avoiding conflict, not asking for help, or not speaking up for yourself.

3. Reminding yourself that you’re not that young, helpless, dependent child anymore.

4. Learning to value yourself.

5. Acknowledging and making friends with your emotions.

6. Asking for what you want instead of sitting on the side waiting for someone to come and fill your cup.

7. Respecting your needs.

Most importantly, loving and nurturing yourself the way you’ve always wanted someone to. Simply because you deserved it then and you deserve it now.

“Let us listen to the needs of our inner child that is being tamed and imprisoned by the rules of a grown-up world.” ~ Erik Pevernagie

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