Enduring the Trauma of not being the Family Favourite

Joanna Daniel
5 min readJan 4, 2022


Families that have favourites have existed for generations. They show up in characters is in the Bible as much as they are present, perhaps in your home and your neighbours.

The Bible story of Joseph shows how the father’s favouritism created jealousy among the siblings. Jacobs sons hated Joseph and sold him into slavery. He lost his home and family and everything familiar. Their story teaches us that the actions of the leaders in the family can negatively impact the rest of the household.

Despite such powerful examples and others recorded in history, many parents have favourites among their children. Some parents are not emotionally mature enough to be covert in their actions and attitudes, damaging the children left out.

Parents who are show favouritism are often emotionally immature and lacks emotional intelligence.

Emotionally immature parents

Emotionally immature parents lack awareness and misunderstand their role as parents. Instead of guiding and providing safety for their children, they often require care from their children. They are fragile and need constant reassurance. In these homes, children usually take on a caretaking role, looking after the feelings of parents as opposed to the other way around.

Sometimes a child will figure out a way to function in this system. Some children adopt people-pleasing behaviours as a way to survive. They’ve worked out the things to say and when to tell them, which means they get speared from unfounded anger and malice.

The people pleaser is the child that sometimes becomes the favourite. However, there’s no reason or system for choosing the favourite for some families, and the children get saddled with the burden of managing ill will from other siblings.

Healing and self-awareness help siblings navigate this legacy and carve a life where there is harmony. Without healing, this pattern can go into adulthood and impacts the next generation.

Favourites usually exist in families where there are other dysfunction presents. Parents with emotional baggage and a lack of understanding of their role use favouritism as a strategy to control.

It’s insensitive to have a favourite child, but many families do it. Parents show their preferences in many ways, and children struggle to grasp and understand what is going on.

As they grow older and realise that the treatment their young brain was trying to understand was favouritism, the adult take steps to heal and look after self.

Healing might mean limiting time with relatives and creating boundaries that help the younger child heal and have a healthy relationship with themself and others.

What happens when you are not the chosen one

The trauma of not being chosen can weigh heavily on some and help form negative thoughts about self. It could help impact how you connect with others. The negative view of self instils fear of relationships. The message of not being good enough to be chosen is challenging to heal, but it is possible to heal and build solid, nurturing relationships.

You might experience yourself as fearful, a perfectionist and often sabotaging relationships. The above happens because you feel unloveable due to not being the favourite in the family.

Updating the child

The adult, you might struggle with the feelings you have now because you feel you shouldn’t feel the way you do, or as an adult, you should be ok now; however, the child that was hurt was hurt, and it’s challenging to manage those feelings of hurt and loss when you were young.

A child doesn’t know how to explain or reason away the actions of adults. They know that it’s present, and they have to find a way to live in a space where not being favourite could also mean being treated harshly and being punished for any interaction. The child who wasn’t the favourite could also suffer emotional neglect and physical abuse.

Living in an environment with physical abuse, neglect and abandonment can be highly damaging for a child. The feelings of being trapped can dysregulate the nervous system and leave crippling pain.

The child who experiences this can feel like it will never be over; though you grow up chronologically, those feelings of fear will still linger until you heal.

If you grew up in a home where you weren’t the favourite, it wasn’t your fault. You weren’t chosen because you were ‘bad’ or did anything wrong. The truth is you did everything right; this choice was not dependent on abilities or lack of abilities.

This favourite choice could be a long family tradition that takes pain from one generation to another.

Knowing you weren’t the cause won’t necessarily remove the pain, but hopefully, it will alleviate a lifetime of hurt and help you get to a healing path.

Don’t be trapped in the lie of working your way into your parents’ affection; it’s a trap that never yields any positive results. Many before you have tried to perform their way into parents’ preferences without success. The truth is they who cannot love. You are not the problem, and whatever you do will never fix it.

The problems lie solely with the adults, and therefore, the work of change lies with them. Find safe, supportive spaces to talk about your experiences and heal.

Break the cycle

You can do things to ensure this broken blueprint will not move onto the next generation; you can heal, you can grow, and you can make different choices with the younger people in your family or circle.

You can show them what it feels like to be accepted for who they are and help them learn to embrace people because they are people.

You can break the cycle when you heal your parents’ wound created for you. It is not your fault; they didn’t choose your siblings because of something you did or didn’t do. Choosing had no formula, and whatever you do now won’t change their attitude towards you.

They won’t change because the problem lies with them, not you. Find safe spaces to process your hurt. If you’ve denied the pain or blame yourself for it, I hope you can begin to heal and find a resolution that will help you move forward.

Affirm your efforts to find understanding and healing. Affirm your efforts to change the narrative and free yourself from the story that perhaps held you back your whole life.



Joanna Daniel

I write about trauma, healing and the Christian community.