When You Feel Unseen and Unheard…

“I find it hard to believe that your mother didn’t hug you or comfort you.”

Another writer questioned me about the personal story I submitted for the writing group.  My blandly titled “LIfe Moments #1” submission recounted the night that my mother left my father and my perspective about it.

I quickly replied I didn’t remember if my mother consoled me and added the justification that I was only four at the time. But, her question stuck with me.

Here’s the truth, I don’t believe that my mom tried to make the scared little girl version of me feel better. In fact, I feel like my mother was emotionally unavailable throughout my childhood. Expressing emotions was also discouraged. While she made me feel loved, took care of my basic needs, and encouraged me, I often felt unseen and unheard.

Accepting that maybe my childhood left me with emotional baggage is a hard pill to swallow. Signs of this truth have swirled around me for a while, but I wasn’t ready to see it. Does this recognition mean that I’m labeling my childhood terrible and my mother a failure? No, fucking way! I love my mother, and I’m grateful for her. Parenting is hard, and my mother did the absolutely she could with the tools she had.

When accepting, maybe my emotional needs weren’t met as a child, I get hung up comparing trauma. My mother suffered a childhood that was abusive in all the ways a childhood could be abusive. I only want to compare so I can justify why my feelings aren’t valid. But how can you even compare trauma? (My life coach helped me see that) Honestly, though, questioning my feelings and perceptions is a long-standing problem for me.

While I could continue this post by re-hashing the ways that I felt unseen and unheard as a child, but who would want to read that? Instead, I can tell you what this discovery means to me.

I’m pretty sure “Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) “affects me today. How does it show up? Lotsa ways. I minimize and question myself constantly. If I ask for help, I feel like a burden. Also, any praise gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. I’ve graduated past believing that I didn’t deserve kind words to feeling awkward and struggling about how to respond.

Pretty much emotions that aren’t happiness, anxiety, and low-grade sadness (my default state) make me super uncomfortable. Seeing someone in the midst of an emotional outburst freaks me out inside, and I judge them ruthlessly (unless they are under 3). See, even that comment was pretty judgy. I have an “EXPLICIT DENY ALL” when it comes to letting the majority of feelings flow out. I’ve also questioned my worth and my sense of belonging a lot. This post is not a “poor me” sob story, though. I have the power to change, and so do you!

I go back to this James Victore quote a lot.

Your job in life is to overcome yourself.

I’ve usually interpreted this with a habit spin like “Do the good things you need to do, especially when you don’t want to do them.”

This quote, though, is so much more. Your childhood trauma is the shit you need to overcome. These are the chains that will weigh you down and keep you from stepping into your power. Awareness, though, is the first step.


PS — I hesitated about whether to publish this post because I feel like some people in my life would take this post and try to create drama and use my words to hurt my mother. This post isn’t about judging my childhood.

This post is for the outsiders, always questioning their feelings and identity. You are enough!

Those feelings of not belonging aren’t because of your shortcomings. There’s a label for what ails you. You can overcome Childhood Emotional Neglect. If you need to talk, I’d love to hear from you!


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Becky Elliott

After dropping out of a liberal arts college that focused on reading and discussing the “Great Books”, Becky Elliott found her way to a career in IT. For 20+ years, she has held a number of roles in Dev and Ops, and the area in between the two. In working for organizations in which poor security practices can cost lives, she’s an ardent believer in integrating security through the entire design process. Becky holds a number of industry certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

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