I can count on one hand how many times my mother told me that she loved me. And I can count on two fingers how many times she told me that I made her proud.

Those words matter. Not only to a child but also to an adult.

When I was growing up, had it not have been for my father who I saw irregularly, I would never have received affection at all. My mother was just not that type of person. As a child–when your perspective is rather limited to not much else besides your family–you think of things as “normal” because you don’t really know the difference.

I didn’t mind it then, not receiving affection, because I naturally assumed this was how all families are.

Clearly, I was wrong.

Not being affectionate with a child for several years plants a seed that can not be ripped out. It embeds deep into the very core of a human being and provides an excuse for why someone doesn’t feel a need to embrace another. If you’ve never received affection, chances are, you won’t be one to crave it.

Perhaps I am crazy, but I’ve heard stories over the years and I am well-aware that I am not the only person affected by this poisonous cycle.

It starts with a hug. For any person who is not affectionate, a hug can feel like an uncomfortable silence you pray ends promptly. The feeling of touching someone to feel connected is not something your brain feels it needs. It has become conditioned to feel nothing. It has trained itself that those things are not needed so that it does not feel hurt or neglect. It releases a feeling of strange discomfort in the moments when it actually occurs.

And to rewire it to think differently—to realize that those things are needed—is no simple task.

If I had not become a mother, I honestly don’t think I ever would have genuinely confronted this issue. I would have naturally dismissed it in my mind as being irrelevant and avoided it at all costs.

As soon as I held my first child in my arms, the day that I became a mother, I wanted nothing more than for her to feel loved every single second of her life in every little bone of her fragile baby body.

This was also a good day for me, because I got to hear both of those words I needed to hear from my mother as she saw me hold my firstborn in her arms.

I know that we are all different people, but having been deprived of my needs as a child made me suffer. I know I am not alone when I say this. I know that other people can relate. There is a wall that we create and build up so high for fear of someone seeing in and thinking we are weak because of it.

The first person who suffers greatly is your significant other. I have hurt my husband with my lack of affection. But he knows that I love him. We each show our love in different ways. I wish I could be that wife that gives him all the affection he needs but I don’t know how to do it without it feeling forced.

My kids will never, ever suffer like I had to. They are amazingly kind and loving, and I know that this is because my husband and I fill their little buckets up with love. Our children will grow up knowing that it is okay to show affection to those that you care about, and they will feel full because I will reach for their hand when we walk, I will give them hugs just because, and above all, I will verbally affirm to them each day that they are loved.