Why Am I Never Good Enough for My Parents?

So you think you’re not good enough for your parents? You probably believe there’s nothing you can do to change this fact.

In this post I’ll try to address this conundrum, but at this point I’m just going to say up front that such conundrum is likely untrue, for reasons I’ll dive into later.

Because you are good enough. You might say that’s debatable. But I don’t know where you’re from. I don’t know how you started in life. I don’t know your motivations and mannerisms and whatnot.

But this I know: You can improve yourself with the belief that you are good enough—good enough to understand these words, good enough to learn at your own pace, and good enough to admit there’s definitely some room for growth.

Let’s get into it!

why am i never good enough for my parents

Why am I never good enough for my parents?

Most likely you have toxic parents. They make you or your siblings feel you’re not good enough for various reasons—mostly about them making everything about themselves or your family’s image to the outside world, and not about your relationship with them or your wellbeing.

I know you probably didn’t want to hear that, but good enough parents generally don’t make their children feel that way.

In essence, you’ve been conditioned by your parents to think or feel that way—deliberately or not. There can be a million tiny reasons for that, as is the case with toxic parents, but let me break it down to a few fundamental reasons.

Just remember that whatever happens between you and your parents, you should never feel that way. Conflicts are normal in any relationship, but they’re not a reason for things to go that bad.

Related: Nothing I Do Is Good Enough for My Parents (What to Do)

To break it down, here are 13 reasons you feel you’re never good enough for your parents.

1. “No pain, no gain.”

Your parents have probably gone through some form of suffering like poverty, inhumane working conditions, or public shaming.

Even if they’re free from those elements by now, the idea that you must suffer to “gain” something you wish for just stuck and they raised you with that philosophy in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I am for hard work, responsibility, and accountability. This is “good pain,” if you will.

But to make your life hell—unnecessarily—is pointless and can even be harmful.

I’m talking about something like being forced to take a degree you knew you wouldn’t love, and then painstakingly trying to keep studying even though it was clear you needed to rest, and then being screamed at because apparently that’s how your parents “inspired” you. (I’m not discounting the fact that there are much worse examples than that.)

2. Your parents prioritized “having a good child” over the relationship itself.

In their quest to become the Joneses in your community, your parents blindly tried to achieve only the “best” without understanding how it works.

Comparison indeed is the thief of joy, and it came at your expense.

This meant you were told to be this and that without considering how it would fit you with all your personality, uniqueness, and brand of weirdness.

You learned that there are “good child standards” but you couldn’t measure up.

Related: How to Be Good Enough for Your Parents (Maybe Not What You Think)

3. Your parents couldn’t love you unconditionally.

Thus it was only natural for you to keep trying to win their attention and love. You grew to believe this was the only way to live.

There’s tough love, sure, but this can still be a form of unconditional love in the pursuit of an objective for your own good, like learning a lesson (the hard way).

Love—as an action word—is not withdrawn in healthy families. In its extreme forms, the opposite of love can be abuse and maltreatment.

4. You were a parentified child.

You were parentified if the roles of your parents and yourself were reversed, and the responsibilities assigned to you were not age-appropriate.

This may be instrumental parentification (cooking meals for the family, doing the laundry, taking care of a sick sibling), or emotional parentification (being a confidant whenever your parents fought, taking care of a drunk of a parent, being a dumpster for their behavioral trash).

Because you could not accomplish those responsibilities, you believed you’d never be good enough.

Related: My Parents Make Me Feel Bad about Myself (10 Tips!)

5. Your parents were constantly critical of you but made sure you did not “outshine” them.

If someone always criticized you, you would think you’d have no chance to please them.

For whatever end they were trying to achieve, the means were rather harmful. What were they trying to accomplish or instill in you? Didn’t matter, being critical was the only way they knew to “discipline” you.

To make matters worse, doing a good job seemed to threaten their identity. They did not like it and so they would look for “imperfections” and use those to attack you again.

This confused you. Where did you stand? Were you good enough? For whom? Nobody else was around.

6. They manipulated you and wanted control over you.

A mark of developing intelligence is curiosity. The more questions, the better. This leads to a good grasp of how to do or fix (simple) things in general. Narrowing that down can lead to the mastery of one or two skills.

But for some reason, it bothered your insecure parents to be this growing person, and to them this made them look bad.

They then manipulated you to be just like them, when you thought you could be someone else. This made you think you’d never be good enough if you didn’t grow up to be like them.

7. Your parents have already “decided” who and what you are to them.

Because why not? They made you feel (or even outright told you) that you’re never going to be good enough, and they didn’t need to justify that.

They didn’t like you as a kid? You were an accidental baby? Your verbal and motor development was delayed?

It didn’t really matter. Like narcissistic parents, they only believed what they wanted and didn’t bother to do the work to learn how to become real parents.

Related: Why Do I Feel Like a Failure to My Parents? (How to Stop It?)

8. Your parents wanted you to fill a void they could not.

Until they own up and take responsibility for themselves, you’ll never fill that void.

Did they fail to:

  • get a college degree?
  • build a business?
  • treat an addiction?
  • manage pathological behaviors?
  • simply be happy?

…and somehow you’re managing to thrive in those areas—for yourself?

9. All about expectations.

It’s one thing for them to expect you to become someone you didn’t like. But it’s another to expect excellence in that forced-upon-you trade.

No doubt you’d feel inadequate merely with expectations alone.

It crept into all aspects of your life. You would act like a zombie, devoid of life, in carrying out even the most mundane tasks because the expectations you’re working against were your parents’, not yours.

An impossible realization of these misplaced expectations made you feel you’re never good enough.

10. Help was not available in your formative years and you’ve grown to believe it’s the norm.

Imagine if by serendipity you just had an uncle or aunt who told you that you were enough, who had the guts to tell you your parents might have had a huge problem that it was bringing out the worst in them, who told you that outside help was available.

Being able to get help in any way possible can enlighten you about a lot of things. You were essentially trapped in a dysfunctional home and it was everything you knew.

Related: My Parents Make Me Feel Worthless (14 Lessons to Contemplate)

11. As a kid, you blamed yourself for something bad that happened in your family.

Did your parents divorce? Was your father an alcoholic and always throwing a fit? Did your mother always come home late and go to work so early that you barely had time together?

Whatever traumatic experience you had, you internalized it. It was incomprehensible, but it felt horrible and it should be your fault. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t act that way, you thought.

12. You’ve done some huge wrongdoing and you couldn’t move on.

You may have legitimately screwed up big time somewhere. Maybe with money. Or you lied. And its consequences are huge enough that they created longstanding rifts within your family.

To be fair, this is a reason to feel you’re not good enough.

But you may want to see this from a different angle. Instead of dwelling on things past, you could identify small actionable steps you can do right now to make amends.

13. You haven’t accepted the fact that your parents are toxic.

There’s no such thing as being “good enough for your parents,” but you believe it. It’s true across the spectrum of family dynamics, from the dysfunctional end to the good enough.

The attachment you have with your toxic parents is complicated and misleading that you probably think you owe them anything, when the truth is you don’t!

They have imparted to you lots of wrong notions about how a parent-child relationship should be and you’re suffering because of them. You think there’s something to prove. There isn’t.


Photo by Florian Schmetz on Unsplash

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