The experiences we have as a child — good and bad — can affect us long into adulthood. Many times, however, we don't even realize the little and big ways these experiences have left their mark, summing things up with, "That's just how I am," or "That's just how my family is." However, our own thought patterns can tell us a lot — and if you have these seven thoughts about your mom, you may suffer from Rejected Child Syndrome.
While "Rejected Child Syndrome" isn't an official diagnosis, it's nonetheless something experienced by many children. In an article for PsychCentral, licensed psychologist and marriage and family counselor Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker described the phenomenon. "It goes well beyond 'favoritism.' These teens and adults feel actively disliked by their parents," Dr. Hartwell-Walker explained. "They report being beaten, yelled at, berated, and belittled. Sometimes they even report not being adequately fed and cared for while other children in the family do get at least the minimums and often far more than the need." Because these children are being rejected in various ways by the person (or people) who are supposed to be their ultimate protector, it's particularly traumatizing.
In some instances, the Rejected Child Syndrome occurs or is exacerbated because of an underlying issue in your parent. "This is especially acute if you have a parent with borderline personality disorder or another mental health issue, which regularly dismisses a child's needs (for example, mental, emotional, social or physical)," Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child and creator of the website Growing Happy Kids, explains to Romper. In other cases, Rejected Child Syndrome can stem from an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, gender favoritism, or simply feeling overwhelmed. While there are many different ways Rejected Child Syndrome can manifest in adulthood, having the following thoughts about your mother can certainly be a symptom.
1. "I won't bother my mom with this."
In a healthy parent-child relationship, talking to your mother about your life and your feelings is anything but "bothering them." However, if you suffer from Rejected Child Syndrome, you've been shown or even told, repeatedly, that you are a nuisance.
As an adult, and likely long before adulthood, you simply learned to keep things to yourself. "Underlying a child feeling rejected is a feeling of unworthiness, not feeling valued, and generally feeling that there's something wrong with them," Healy tells Romper. While this feeling of unworthiness certainly makes you feel like your mom doesn't care about what you have to say, it may make you feel like no one does.
2. "I don't trust my mom."
If you were rejected as a child, you've never been able to trust your mother. From early on, she's shown you that she isn't a safe or reliable figure in your life, and that distrust is ingrained by adulthood. Whether it's a personal secret or an important task, you don't trust your mom with it.
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist, wrote in an article for Psychology Today about how interactions in childhood can become bad habits in adulthood: "As kids, we may have armed ourselves against our parents' shortcomings by keeping to ourselves, rebelling against restraints, or commanding a self-prescribed perfectionism. A father who broke promises may have taught us to be less trusting of those close to us. A mother who ignored us may have left us feeling self-reliant and guarded against wanting anything from someone else."
3. "My mom doesn't love me and I don't know why."
I was a difficult child and teenager, and my own mom often told me, "I will always love you, but I don't always like you." Even at our low points, I have never doubted that she loves me (and I could always tell you what I did that caused any temporary dislike back then). If you're experiencing Rejected Child Syndrome, that belief is shattered. You don't believe your mother loves you and you've never been able to pinpoint why.
Often, children who have experienced parental rejection will seek love and validation elsewhere. "Children who are rejected from their primary caregivers (typically parents) tend to display a level of insecurity and low self-esteem, which translates often into making poor choices," Healy explains to Romper. "They seek love, approval and acceptance from others, which may or may not be good influences on them."
4. "Nothing I do is good enough for my mom."
Repeated rejection as a child can often lead to feelings of inadequacy. It doesn't matter if you graduate at the top of your class, get the biggest promotion, raise brilliant children, or find the cure for cancer — nothing you achieve is enough to impress your mother (or that's what you assume).
"Children who feel rejected have trouble standing up tall, presenting confidence, and oftentimes feel or think 'I'm not good enough' at fill in the blank," Healy tells Romper. "This may be a result of parents being too demanding and not accepting that a child is in the process of learning — or parents that are absent not providing a level of reassurance or approval or outright sending messages of rejection to children." If you've never been told that your mother is proud of you, why would you believe she is now?
5. "My mom will judge me for that."
Sure, your mom will often have opinions about the things you do. However, even when I've inevitably made bad decisions, I know my mom loves and views me the same. She may make judgments about things I do or say, but she doesn't make judgments about my character. If you've been rejected by your mother, however, you can't say the same.
Many rejected children become perfectionists, feeling like minor mistake are the cause for this parental rejection. You may hide your flaws or any areas of your life that are less-than-perfect, constantly fearing criticism and judgment from your own mother.
6. "I don't want my mom to know I'm upset."
If you have a healthy relationship with your mother, you probably often turn to her when you've had a bad day or are going through something painful. If you're dealing with Rejected Child Syndrome, you likely hide unpleasant emotions from your mother or even from the world in general.
This is often attributed to the insecure attachment style that rejected children experience in childhood. "Being rejected by your parents (or other significant caretakers) is one of the main contributing factors to developing insecure attachment of the avoidant type," said Eran Katz, clinical psychologist, in an article with Bustle. Specifically, rejected children often experience an avoidant pattern of which "is characterized by having a dismissive attitude. This person shuns intimacy and has many difficulties reaching for others in times of need," according to Verywell Mind.
7. "If my own mother doesn't love me, no one will."
If one person in the world is supposed to love you, it's your mother. She gave you life, and is supposed to be your ultimate source of unconditional acceptance. When you don't receive that love and acceptance from her, it's not uncommon to believe you're never going to find it.
While it's not easy, Healy encourages adults experiencing Rejected Child Syndrome to actively pursue healing. "Adults need to heal their incorrect perceptions (for example, I'm not good enough) and learn to see themselves as valuable, worthy and capable," Healy tells Romper. "This can be done through attending classes, reading books, getting coached or receiving therapy, as examples. Ultimately, the change is within the person but can be also facilitated by healthy teachers and mentors on the path to wholeness."