lacking love

5 Signs You Were Lacking Love as a Child

Think about what a child needs emotionally. Were those basic needs of a child met for you emotionally? Does it feel like your childhood was lacking love that you so desperately needed?

Everybody knows that a child needs love, but many children are still lacking love. Sadly, many parents fail their children due to their inability to truly love a child in a healthy way.

One of the most basic needs of a child is to be loved. As I said, many children don’t get that need met. If you are reading this, you were probably one of those children.

Healing When Lacking Love from Childhood

In order to heal from that, you’ve got to understand what happened because you were lacking love as a child. A deficit of love in childhood affects every single aspect of your life. Not only that, but I promise it is still affecting you as an adult.

This post is not to blame parents who struggled to love their children in healthy ways. It’s about identifying what a child needs and healing when those basic needs of a child were not met.

Parents who struggled to love a child were swimming in their own difficulties and lacking love for themselves. It’s incredibly difficult to love and accept others, even your own children, if you don’t know how to love and accept yourself.

That results in parents who are emotionally unavailable to their children. If you feel like that describes your parents during your childhood or don’t know what that means, click here to learn more.

A Child Needs Love But Doesn’t Get It

When a child needs love but doesn’t get it, they form a belief that they are unlovable. That is often the foundation of a child’s identity, “I am unlovable.”

That is heart-breaking, but incredibly common. Now, if you ask parents if they love their children, they will say yes.

Believe me here, all parents want to believe they truly know how to love a child. If they were all able to do so, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Not only that, but our world would not be filled with so many people who believe they are never good enough for anything or anybody.

A child who is lacking love begins developing a huge pile of Not Good Enough Stuff, which are those feelings of never being good enough. If you want to learn more about how your own pile of Not Good Enough Stuff was created, click here.

The impact of a child lacking love is huge. If healing does not take place, that child becomes an adult with severe deficits in all aspects of life. Are you wondering if this is you?

5 Signs You Were a Child Lacking Love

  1. You have a conscious and/or subconscious belief that you are unlovable.
  2. You struggle with allowing others to love you.
  3. You don’t know how to love yourself.
  4. You have difficulties in all types of relationships.
  5. You believe you are never good enough, no matter what you do.

Belief of “I am unlovable”

As I previously mentioned a child needs love and without that, he or she creates the belief, “I am unlovable.” This typically unfolds in two very different ways.

The first is that the child will do anything and everything as an attempt to receive love. This often results in behaviors of acting out. You’ve all heard, “Bad attention is better than no attention.”

Think about how this unfolds as that child becomes an adult. He or she is difficult to employ due to those same behaviors of acting out. Not only that, but there aren’t many people who want to have friendships or romantic relationships with an adult who is often “acting out” like a child.

When those behaviors push people away, it only confirms that childhood belief of “I am unlovable” for the adult. So, the adult continues to try everything under the sun to be loved in unhealthy ways.

However, he or she never knew healthy love as a child. Therefore, he or she can’t know what that is or how to get it as an adult.

The second way a child who is lacking love reacts to his or her belief of “I am unlovable” is quite opposite of the first. This child becomes one of the “People Pleasers” we all know.

He or she will do anything and everything to feel love from his or her parents. A child needs love but doesn’t understand that his or her parents fail at that because of their own struggles.

It has nothing to do with the child, but the child feels as though it has everything to do with them. That sweet little “People Pleaser” becomes an adult who sacrifices his or her own well-being to tend to others.

If you relate to the that, then you are probably incredibly exhausted from always being available to help others. You are a rescuer, and you need to read my post Over-Worked Rescuer.

When Parents Fail to Give Healthy Love

Now, for a child who was lacking love and turns into an adult who doesn’t know how be loved in a healthy way. There are many outcomes for this kind of child.

That child may find relationships that are physically and/or emotionally abusive as an adult. Again, he or she never knew healthy love. So, they seek what they do know, which is incredibly unhealthy love.

If this child reminds you of yourself, you might also go through friend and romantic relationships often. You probably attract people with huge insecurities and Not Good Enough Stuff, just like your parents and yourself.

Your parents also had parents who failed them due to an inability to love themselves, resulting in an even bigger inability to love a child. That is a toxic and sad generational pattern.

To learn more about toxic generational patterns, click here. For now, just know that you can be the one to change that generational pattern for your family.

Loving Yourself

Now, how many times have you heard, “You just need to love yourself?” You’ve probably lost count and it probably annoys you to hear it.

I know that phrase annoyed me greatly before I realized the truth in it. Not only did I realize the truth in that, but I also learned how to love myself after having the belief that I was unlovable.

Very few of us are taught how to love ourselves. The reason for that is simple. Many parents fail to love themselves because they weren’t taught how to do that either.

So, expecting them to have taught you something they never knew is beyond unrealistic. You also need to know there are no A, B, C or 1, 2, 3 steps for everybody to learn how to love themselves.

Loving yourself is a process in your healing journey. If you feel stuck in your attempts at self-love, read my post 8 Self-Loving Affirmations: Learn to Love Yourself.

Relationship Struggles

Now, back to your struggles with relationships. Romantic and friend relationships between two people who struggle with allowing others to love them will never be healthy.

Let’s take a look at relationship struggles due to growing up as a child who was lacking love. You’ve already read a bit about the effects on relationships that it causes.

So, I won’t go into much detail here. I’ll just say that you’ve probably never had what most would consider a healthy relationship.

I don’t have to explain how that affects your life as an adult. You already know. That was one of my biggest struggles in my own healing journey. So, I send you so much love as you navigate the struggles of creating healthy relationships.

All of the previous signs are a culmination of your belief that you are never good enough. My guess is that you even use those signs as supposed evidenced that you are not good enough.

If so, then your evidence is actually wrong. It was based on a false belief to begin with. That false belief is the one I keep mentioning that children create of “I am unlovable.”

A child needs love and there is no child in the entire world who is not worthy of love. If you disagree with me on that, then I want to have a discussion with you.

“Bad” Children Do Not Exist

I have had many of my psychotherapy clients attempt to convince me they were “bad” children. Just as there are no children unworthy of love, there are no children who are “bad.”

My clients have told me stories of how they acted out, lied, stole, were promiscuous and everything else you could possibly think of in terms of a “bad” child. Now, let me explain why there are no “bad” children.

Children do no “act out” simply for the sake of “acting out.” Just like adults, there is ALWAYS a reason for the behaviors.

The “acting out” behavior is simply a result of a need not being met. If a child’s needs were met, then he or she would not be “acting out” to get the need met.

I have an amazing two -year old “baby boy.” He is a very happy, laid-back baby. Yes, I still call him a baby!

As the mother of a two-year-old, I am well-versed in a child’s attempts at getting needs met. If he has what most would consider a “tantrum,” it is because he needs or wants something and doesn’t know how to communicate that.

Just recently he had a meltdown in which he was screaming and crying for several minutes. He was so upset that I couldn’t understand what he was asking for. I just remained calm, comforted him as much as he would allow and assured him of my love for him.

Minutes later, he was able to tell me that he wanted some green beans. So, guess what! I gave him some green beans.

There are times when my husband and I are both cooking, and our baby will start running around and getting into everything he knows he’s not supposed to play with. His need in those moments is attention.

Communicating Needs

Now, if you show me a two-year old who knows how to verbally communicate, “I need attention,” I am beyond impressed. However, I communicate with my baby that I know he wants me to play with him and that I will do that as soon as I get done cooking.

That allows him to see that I recognize his need and that his needs are important. Also, I make sure his need is met as soon as I am able.

This same behavior that many consider “acting out” is still the same for children regardless of their age, even when they “should” be able to verbally communicate their needs. The reason they don’t verbally communicate their needs is that they were never taught to do so.

As I mentioned, the basic needs of a child must include love. A child who doesn’t have that need met, then turns to creating unhealthy ways to get it. Keep in mind that this is a subconscious and an innate human response.

Those children who are lacking love are not much different than the adults who also grew up lacking love. They both do things that society would consider to be behaviors of “acting out.”

The other similarity is that neither group was taught how to communicate their needs in a healthy manner. Both groups are simply trying to find ways to be loved.

Looking at Yourself

Are you thinking about yourself or others who “act out” when needs aren’t met? Do you try to do everything you can to receive attention or love from others? Does it seem like I was talking specifically to you when you were reading this?

If so, my guess is that you may have never realized that your behaviors are rooted in lacking love in your childhood. That could possibly bring up a lot of feelings towards your parents or caregivers.

If that’s the case or you are ready to learn how to love yourself, my advice is to find a licensed therapist. Please know that not all therapists are created equal! If you don’t know how to find a good therapist, please read my post 5 Steps for Finding a Good Therapist.

For somebody who was lacking love as a child, the journey towards self-love and finding healthy love is very tough. I know that all too well as I had to heal my own pain from lacking love in my childhood.

Please do not let that stop you though! Isn’t your life that is lacking love hard anyway? So, you just have to pick your hard, to heal or not to heal. That truly is a question that only you can answer.

If you recognize yourself in this post or have any questions for me, please comment below. As I always say, we can all learn from one another. So, share your thoughts with the Not Good Enough Stuff community.


This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.

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This was an amazing read. Wow! Thank you for sharing your perception. I try to do more mindfulness in my parenting now & it seems to be doing well.
Great Healing to you love.


Thank you soo much. All these years living in confusion,pain,hurt,anger and not feeling loved has led me to accept christ. As christ came into my life, I saw the wrongs of how I was treating myself and others. I am a mess. With all the mental torment and inner demons attack, God and I finally figured the root cause of all this. And it was the lack of not being love and knowing what love was. God is love and I never had god in my life. But love is so big. Never in a million years would I think I can forgive those who did me wrong, but I am free and have forgive everyone. Most importantly myself. Thank you


This is an amazing testimony thank you for sharing.