If asked as to whether you were the victim of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), would you know how to answer? Perhaps not. CEN is often misunderstood and therefore, misdiagnosed.
Childhood emotional neglect means an individual was not provided the emotional support from parents or other caretakers that is necessary to grow up to be a confident person with a healthy sense of self. Though a parent may never physically harm the child and provide them with food, healthcare, clothing and shelter, they may still emotionally neglect their child causing psychological harm with long lasting effects.
Symptoms of CEN
In her book “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”, Dr. Jonice Webb discusses some of the most common symptoms of CEN:
- Feeling numb or cut off from your own feelings
- Feeling that something has always been missing
- Feeling hollow or void
- Having a low self-esteem
- Feeling the need for perfectionism
- Often being told you are overly-sensitive
- Lack of self-care while taking care of everyone else
That last symptom is very common. Have you noticed that for most of your life, your needs always came second (if not third or fourth?). If yes, it’s time to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.
With this in mind, here are some ways you can begin to treat yourself better:
Take Baby Steps
If you’ve spent years believing your needs didn’t matter, don’t expect that putting yourself first will come easy to you. It won’t. It will feel awkward and downright wrong to put yourself first. The important thing is that you take baby steps each day to show yourself you matter.
Ask Yourself What You Need
If you’ve experienced CEN, you’re most likely unaware what your needs are, so you might not be able to identify them right away. Take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself what you need and be sure to listen! Writing these thoughts in a journal can also be helpful!
Learn to Say No
Guess what? If you want to put yourself first more often, you’re going to sometimes have to say “no” to other people. Don’t feel guilty about doing this. Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not only your right to say no to others sometimes, it’s your personal responsibility.
As wonderful as your self-discovery journey will be, you most certainly will encounter bumps along the road. It’s important that you have someone who will support your efforts without judgements or criticism.
Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist or certified life coach who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to manage stress in the future. A therapist or coach will help you prioritize your needs moving forward and recognize your emotions and needs matter.
If you’d like to explore your options, please be in touch with us. We are here to help support you on your journey.