5 Surprising Strengths of the Emotionally Neglected
Posted April 17, 2022 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
- There is a bright side to growing up emotionally ignored.
- Children who grow up this way also learn some amazing ways to fend for themselves emotionally.
- Compassion, generosity and flexibility are among the strengths these individuals value in themselves.
With their heads held high but their spirits lower than should be, they walk among us.
“I don’t need any help,” they say with a smile.
“But what do you need?” they ask others with genuine interest.
Loved and respected by those who know them, they struggle to love and respect themselves.
These are the people of childhood emotional neglect.
What is childhood emotional neglect? It’s a simple but powerful force in the life of a child. It requires growing up in a household where your feelings don’t matter.
Typically, I write about the special challenges of the emotionally neglected, such as self-blame, self-directed anger, and low self-compassion. That’s because I want to help these individuals overcome them.
But truth be told, the emotionally neglected are some of the strongest adults I have ever met. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but there is a bright side to growing up emotionally ignored.
5 Uncommon Strengths of the Emotionally Neglected
Independent. Growing up, you knew, even though it was perhaps never said out loud, that you were essentially on your own. Problem with a teacher? You solved it. Conflict with a friend? You figured it out yourself. Your childhood was a training ground for self-sufficiency. Now, as an adult, you likely prefer to do things yourself. Because you’re so very competent, the great thing is that for the most part, you can.
Compassionate. As a child, your feelings were far too often ignored. But that probably didn’t stop you from feeling for others. Research has shown that even young babies feel empathy. I have noticed that many people who were emotionally neglected in childhood have decreased access to their own feelings, but extra sensitivity to other people’s feelings. Compassion is a powerful, healing, and bonding force. And you have it in spades.
Giving. Having received a dearth of emotional acknowledgment and validation in childhood, you learned not to ask for things. Part of being independent and compassionate is that you are more aware of others' needs than you are of your own. So now as an adult, you don’t ask for a lot, but you do give a lot.
Flexible. As a child, you were probably not often consulted. Instead of being asked what you wanted or needed, you had no choice but to adjust to the situation at hand. So now, all grown up, you’re not demanding, pushy or controlling. Instead, you’re the opposite. You can go with the flow far better than most people. And you do.
Likable. The people of childhood emotional neglect tend to be some of the most likable in this world. Compassionate, giving, and selfless, you may be the one your friends seek out when they need help, advice, or support. You are there for your family and friends, and maybe even strangers too. Others know that they can rely on you. Are you ever puzzled about why people like you? It’s because you have these five unmistakably lovable qualities.
Many emotionally neglected people are secretly aware of their great strength, and value it in themselves. They say:
I don’t need help.
I don’t need anything.
I can handle it.
I’ll take care of it.
I’ll be fine with whatever you decide.
If this is true of you, the idea of changing yourself can be frightening. You don’t want to feel dependent on anyone, including a therapist, friend, or spouse. You’re afraid of appearing needy, weak, or helpless. You have a grave fear of becoming selfish.
But here is the beauty of childhood emotional neglect: Your strengths are so enduring that you can make them even better by balancing them.
So you remain independent, but you lose your fear of depending on someone when you need to. You remain as competent as you've always been, but you’re okay with asking for help when you need it. You stay flexible and can go with the flow, but you are also aware and mindful of your own needs.
You can still handle things. You’re just as strong as ever. More balanced and more open, you’re still loved and respected by all who know you. And the great thing is that now you also love and respect yourself.
© Jonice Webb, Ph.D.
This post was originally published on Yourtango.com.
Facebook/LinkedIn image: simona pilolla 2/Shutterstock
To determine whether you might be living with the effects of childhood emotional neglect, you can take the free Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. You'll find the link in my Bio.