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What People Who Grew Up in (Relatively) Functional Families Know


Have you heard the saying, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you likely don’t even realize all the life skills you lack and the viewpoints that those who were raised in more functional environments have that you don’t. So, here’s what you might not know but need to.

You can trust people. 

     Obviously, you can’t trust everyone for everything. You can’t expect everyone to know how to fly an airplane, cut your hair, or advise you on investments. When we talk about trusting people, we usually mean that we can trust them emotionally: Are they honest, ethical, dependable and reliable; will they validate our feelings, be there for us and take care of us? Not everyone will, but many will try their darndest to do so.

     If you grew up with parents who couldn’t (because of their upbringing) form strong, positive, healthy attachments with you, your experience tells you that people aren’t trustworthy. You can’t count on them emotionally or otherwise. You remain wary. People who grew up in healthier settings expect and seek out others who are kind, honest, reliable, etc. That is natural for them and what they seek—and find.

You are deserving of health and happiness.

     We are all deserving of living well. None of us were such awful children that we should settle for less than we deserve. Bad things may have happened in your childhood, but you were blameless because you were a child. Your care-takers were responsible for what happened to you and, though they often blamed you for their own shortcomings, that’s on them, not you.

     People who grew up with mentally healthier parents understand that humans are frail, fallible creatures. These parents accepted their children’s mistakes and were fair and supportive. They didn’t blame their progeny for their own limitations and tried their best to help children develop pride because they were pride-based themselves. If you’d grown up with parents who accepted themselves and strived to feel proud, chances are you’d feel that way today yourself. It would come naturally.

These are two building blocks of mental health you can’t do without. You must feel deserving of living well, receiving care, achieving success and enjoying life and you must be able to trust people to do this. If you had a dysfunctional upbringing, almost every fiber of your being may be saying that I’m off base, that there’s something defective about you and people can’t be trusted. You’re wrong on both counts. It’s time to let go of these unfounded beliefs and live as if you know better.