5 Subtle Signs Your Parents Loved You Conditionally

Being raised on conditional love can affect your self-worth all through adulthood.

Child with begging eyes, trying to please his displeased parents rattanakun via Canva | g-stockstudio via Canva | Ibrahem Bana via Canva

The truth is, it’s insane to see all the subtle behaviors that people tend to display when their parents only showed them love when they did whatever their parents asked them to.

The kids who grew up on a diet of conditional love didn’t do anything to deserve it. It’s their parents’ fault.

However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t lead fulfilling lives later on. I know because I’ve seen it in a lot of the people I know.


It’s not just one little thing. It’s a multitude of things that all build up and pile on. I want to make this article about the signs that your parents may have betrayed you.

Not sure if there are "tells" about your background? Let me show you the ones I personally pick up on…


RELATED: The #1 Indicator You Were Emotionally Neglected As A Kid

Here are 5 subtle signs your parents loved you conditionally: 

1. You're terrified of voicing your opinion or disagreeing with others

Call it "people pleasing" or an anxious attachment style, or what you will, but there definitely is a serious connection between being a people-pleaser and having parents who refused to show affection if you stepped out of line.

When you are punished with neglect or abuse for being your own person, you quickly learn to just go along with everything that you’re pressured into. You don’t want to raise a fuss because you grew terrified of upsetting others.

To a point, being raised on conditional love may even convince you that your true self isn’t worth loving. (Trust me, it is.)


2. You've been told that you are a "love addict"

Not many people realize how much having parents who give you conditional acceptance and love can mess up your mind. When you get that acceptance, it’s oh, so easy to feel like you’re getting a drug high.

You absolutely can become addicted to love, reassurance, and acceptance when you never really experienced it growing up. The more you feel it, the more you want it, simply because it’s nursing a primal hurt you have.

A lot of the people who had to strive for that next crumb of love end up taking that same cycle into dating. They can’t say no when someone asks to sleep with them, they can’t say no when people pursue them, and they become very vulnerable to love bombing.

Bad as this sounds, I noticed how many people who grew up with conditional love also tend to cheat as a result of this. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that they have to confront before they can have a truly healthy relationship.


RELATED: Why I Will Show My Kids What Unconditional Love Looks Like

3. Friends tend to remark on your tendency to overachieve — or mention your burnout

I’m going to point out that Show Pony Syndrome and conditional love are basically synonymous in many families. Parents who love conditionally often do so as a way to force their kids to become overachievers or "perfect kids" in the community.

This tends to lead to one of two things. On one hand, you might end up with a crazy overachiever who’s a ball of anxiety and insecurity. On the other hand, you end up with people who are so burnt out that they can’t function without drugs or professional aid.

Conditional love makes you feel like you’re not worthy unless you are outperforming everyone around you. Whether this is the "kabuki dance" of being a socialite or being a Harvard grad doesn’t matter. It hurts all the same.


4. You might have Borderline Personality Disorder 

Most people don’t want to hear this, but BPD is actually a trauma response. Read that again. If you’ve found yourself loving one person, pushing them away, then questioning why you can’t have a loving relationship, that’s why.

Borderline Personality Disorder happens when you have no sense of security in any of your relationships. You start to try to control your partner and cling to them as a way to try to guarantee yourself stability — even when it sabotages you in the long run.

There’s no real way to skirt the issue. If you see this trait in yourself, you’re going to have to be the one to put in work to rectify it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

RELATED: 5 Uncommon Strengths Of People Who Were Emotionally Neglected


5. You tend to be way more selfless and loving to others than most

Not many people will have the ability to empathize with others like those who haven’t been shown empathy themselves. They will be the ones who will usually cut others slack, even when it’s actually not good for them to do so.

A person who grew up with conditional love knows how it feels to be alone, to be hurt, and to feel rejected by those who are supposed to adore you. They also know what it’s like to not have anyone comfort you in tough times.

Don’t be shocked if you end up with a partner who seems almost superhumanly selfless if your partner grew up in such a household. In a lot of cases, it’s their way of showing the empathy they wish they got themselves to others.


At the end of the day, people who heal from this tend to be the folks who are dead set on making their own chosen family happy and unified. That makes them uniquely amazing friends to have on your side.

RELATED: 8 Low-Key Signs Someone Had A Rough Childhood

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.