14 Signs Your Independent Streak Stems From A Lonely Childhood

14 Signs Your Independent Streak Stems From A Lonely Childhood

Sometimes, being fiercely independent isn’t about being strong-willed — it’s a survival tactic that you learned as a child because you had to in order to survive the sense of loneliness and isolation you felt growing up. If any of these sound painfully familiar, your lonely childhood might have left scars that shaped who you are today.

1. You take on way too much.

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Shouldering heavy responsibilities was likely a necessity when you were younger, not a choice. Now, even if you could ask for help, it feels unnatural. You logically know that you’re a human being and not a machine, and you’d even tell your friends not to hesitate to ask if they need any help, but for some reason, you just can’t put it into practice in your own life.

2. You’re exceptionally mature for your age.

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If you took care of your siblings or emotionally unstable parents, you learned to become an adult way too soon. Growing up too fasts robs you of childhood and skews your understanding of adult relationships. Not only did it feel incredibly lonely being separated from kids your age due to taking on so many additional responsibilities that they just didn’t have, but that feeling often extends into adulthood.

3. You have trouble trusting people.

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When those who should’ve protected you failed, it’s tough to let your guard down. You assume it’s always safer to go it alone than risk being disappointed yet again by someone you were foolish enough to put your trust in. What you don’t realize is that not everyone will let you down, but by assuming they will, you remain isolated.

4. You’re a bit too self-reliant.

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Asking for help feels like failure. If you didn’t get support early on, you learned the hard way that you’re the only person you can really depend on. As a result, you do everything on your own even when an extra pair of hands would really make things easier. Not only do you find it hard to ask for help, as mentioned before, but there’s a part of you that feels it’s your responsibility to do everything alone since that’s the way it’s always been.

5. You’re uncomfortable with deep connections.

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Intimacy makes you nervous. When you’re used to only relying on yourself, true emotional closeness feels unfamiliar and unsafe. You go out of your way to avoid getting too close to people, and when it happens unwittingly, you’re known to pull away out of nowhere or push the other person away in order to protect yourself.

6. You hide your vulnerability.

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Letting other people see your weaknesses feels risky. If childhood taught you that emotions make you a target, you hide them away to maintain a sense of control. If you don’t show any soft spots, other people won’t be able to take advantage of them or use them to hurt you, and that’s the way you like it.

7. You’re a bit of a control freak.

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When life felt chaotic as a child, you figured out the only way to survive was by tightly managing your world. That means you micromanage everything and everyone in your life down to the very finest detail. You’re not trying to be a control freak, it’s just what you had to do to survive and it’s a habit you can’t unlearn.

8. You have a very harsh inner critic.

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Needing constant reassurance as a kid and not getting it breeds a relentless internal voice that doubts your every move. This often pushes you to do more but can make success feel hollow. Instead of being able to enjoy everything you achieve, you end up brushing it off because you always think you need to do even more.

9. You always expect to be disappointed.

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If your childhood was full of broken promises, you anticipate everything will fall apart eventually. It’s self-protection, but also self-sabotage. If you don’t set your expectations too high, you’re less likely to be upset when things don’t pan out like you hoped they would.

10. You’re used to being the constant giver.

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You pour into others because you’re terrified of what happens if you stop. Your own needs? Those usually come last, if at all. There are many different motivations behind your overgenerosity. Maybe you think it will earn you more love and respect. Maybe you find it impossible to receive love, help, or care, so it’s easier for you to keep overextending yourself.

11. You’re quick to shut things down in love.

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When relationships get a little too close, you panic and pull away. It’s easier to end things yourself than risk trusting and getting hurt. It’s not that you don’t crave partnership — you truly do — it’s that you’re afraid that you don’t deserve it or that it doesn’t exist for you so you won’t allow yourself to be lulled into what you believe is a false sense of security.

12. You have a (not-so) secret fear of abandonment.

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Even if you seem stoic on the outside, losing people terrifies you. It echoes early experiences of feeling unseen and not mattering. You’ve experienced the profound devastation of loss in your life, whether from death or even someone emotionally removing themselves from your life, and it’s not a feeling you’re keen to experience again.

13. You’re overly protective of your loved ones.

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You never want those you care about to feel the loneliness you did, so you’ll sacrifice almost anything to shield them from pain. If you have kids of your own, this might result in helicopter parenting or being so overprotective that you don’t give them a chance to make their own mistakes and learn their own hard lessons. It comes from a good place, but it can have a negative impact on them.

14. You struggle to make friends (even if you really want them).

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Childhood teaches us social rules. When yours was lonely, the skills to form deep bonds may never have fully developed. As a result, you might find it hard to make friends as an adult even though you know you have so much to offer people.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.