On the Outside

on the outside

I can’t stand feeling like I’m on the outside, looking in.

Whoever I’m with, I don’t feel I fit in.

When I’m with other people I may look fine, but I don’t feel fine.

The first item on the Emotional Neglect Questionnaire (ENQ) is:

– Do you sometimes feel like you don’t belong when you are with family or friends?

I put that question first in the ENQ on purpose. Because it is one of the most centrally defining qualities of a person who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect.

At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. Why would a person carry around a pervasive feeling of being out of place? Of not fitting in? Of being on the outside, looking in? Especially when among people who love you? It is a difficult to identify, difficult to name feeling; yet it can hold tremendous power over a person. It can make it hard to go to a social gathering, and difficult to stay very long. Perhaps you get irritable when you’re around other people and you’re not sure why. Perhaps you’re good at putting on a show to look like you’re having fun, but only you know that actually, you are not. Perhaps you are actually looking around at other people laughing and talking and appearing comfortable, and wondering what you are missing.

In over twenty years as a psychologist, I have heard many lovely people describe this feeling. They each use different words, but they all have one common factor which links them: they all grew up in a household with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

CEN happens when parents fail to respond enough to a child’s emotional needs. When you are a child whose feelings are largely ignored, you receive an indirect, but very powerful message from your parents. That message is, “Your feelings don’t matter.” I have seen time and time again, that when children receive this message, they automatically adapt. They push their feelings down and away so that they will not bother anyone. This may help the child survive, or even thrive, in a household that is not friendly to emotion. But in adulthood, it becomes a problem.

Your Emotions and Your Relationships

As adults, we need our emotions. Emotion is the glue that connects us to other people and the spice that keeps things interesting. When your emotions are pushed away, it’s hard to feel the emotional connection that binds people together at a party. It’s even harder to experience the spontaneous, happy synergy that occurs when people are truly fully present with each other. So instead, you are like a baker without yeast. You are operating without a key ingredient that everyone else has. And you feel it.

If you find yourself identifying with this, please remember that while the “On the Outside” feeling is a real feeling, it is not a real thing. The people you are with do not see you that way. They don’t see you on the outside. They don’t feel that you don’t belong. They want to connect with you and enjoy your company.

The best thing about CEN is that it can be overcome.

4 Tips to Overcome Your On the Outside Feeling

  1. Become more aware of your “On the Outside” feeling. Notice when you feel it. Take notice of the power it has over you. Keep it in the back of your mind at all times. Remind yourself that it’s just a feeling.
  2. Once you’re more aware of the feeling, its source, and its power, start to fight it. Force yourself to go to social gatherings, and constantly fight the feeling while you’re there.
  3. Tell someone (your spouse, a sibling, a good friend) about this feeling. Explain the source and your struggle. Ask that person for their support at family functions, parties, and other gatherings.
  4. Address your CEN. It’s important to attack your CEN from all angles. One of the best ways to do this is to start working on accepting and feeling your own emotions more. The better you get at this, the weaker your “On the Outside” feeling will become.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is invisible and difficult to remember so it can be hard to know if you have it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Questionnaire (ENQ). It’s free.

Becoming more comfortable with your emotions is a key part of this process, as well as learning how your feelings (and you) fit into relationships with other people. If you find yourself mystified or daunted by this, you can learn much more about how to use your emotions to enrich, enliven, and deepen your relationships in the book Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.

Once you realize what’s wrong, you are on your way to recovery. You’re on the path to a more connected, more comfortable, and more fully satisfying life. You don’t need to feel on the outside anymore.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Jackie - May 5, 2020 Reply

Hi there, well firstly thankyou for such a sincere write up. Today I hit a brick wall inside my self while at work, recently my mum died, there was a family fall out with mum and i although we messaged occasionally etc we didn’t see each other. Now she’s gone my emotionally disconnected dad and sister are my only original family members. Mum was the only one that made an effort to communicate with me and sent cards to my kids etc, since she’s died my dad has cut me off completely, his silence is deafening…Yet again I am filled with that sickening lonely feeling, I have a partner and kids etc so not fully alone but some days I’m filled with a feeling I can only describe as feeling like no one really like/loves me, just feel they have to like me because they “Have to”. Never feel good enough, never feel connected, have lots of social media friends but no personal close friendships. As a teen I never had a group of friends as I felt I never fit with anyone, I ran away from home because I was so sad at home and felt I didn’t belong, it was a horrible time of my life.. Should’ve been a great time as no drugs, alcohol abuse, no sexual abuse but the silence was deafening and it was apparent it was for me. I googled today “Why have I always felt I don’t belong anywhere” and I found this forum..I’m just letting it all out so it might be hard to read through..but I think I need to find someone to talk with.. I have always felt traumatized about being left and people leaving me, that’s a whole other trauma I’ve endured, having a baby at 15yrs old and being abandoned by my partner..The list goes on. I’m now 44yrs old. Life is a funny thing huh..Thank God I have my kids, they are the only thing that has kept me here some days, constantly feel like I’m a failure to them as well though so right now I feel I’m monitoring my self constantly to keep me afloat. Weird.

    Jackii - July 16, 2020 Reply

    I hope someone reads my comment and gains some comfort from it..I feel sharing helps.

      Jonice - July 17, 2020 Reply

      Sharing it does help Jackii!

Pink. - April 17, 2020 Reply

I am 18 turning 19 this year, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression about 4 or 5 years ago.My dad passed away A month before I turned 5 in 2006, my mother and family was going through it, they had more time with him but I was confused and trying to understand what is going on, I think I knew though. I know I cried and peed the bed for a long time after he passed and I do remember silently crying myself to sleep next to my mom while she rested or watched tv. I actually forgot about that til now. Ultimately I’m not sure how my childhood went or how I was. I think I blocked
most of it out but I know my mom went into depression and she says I helped her to not go that route which is great but I did isolate myself from my family emotionally and mentally. I am just now beginning to make “connections” and “relationships” with my sisters and nephews. It is really challenging. I am trying to find myself as well. (A little background on me).. This feeling spiked about a year ago or I became aware. It delays me from everything. It’s like it just stops me In whatever I’m doing and scares me. Like a reminder that The black hole is behind me. I wonder constantly every time I get that feeling or, what I thought to be a “realization”, that I’m not supposed to be here. That I’m literally nowhere and should leave I’m so weird etc it even happens when I’m alone. ugh it’s ugly dude and I get a feeling along with it that everything I have been doing is pointless I look dumb, I get a real quick, in a second, EVERY-TIME, a glimpse of my whole life and where I am now and it just makes me forget what I’m thinking and what’s going on in front of me but at the same time being aware of what’s going on. It truly creates a wretched feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don’t think I can even describe it fully but that’s the best and all I’m willing to say about it AND yet ironically that’s because I don’t want to think or find out that im the weird one and completely alone in this. Like I’m the odd man out. But I do want to be understood and helped. Deeply.. thank you so very much for reading and listening. I know I rant, I kept a lot in b4 and I am learning how to let it out I’ve gotten better at explaining OK OFF TOPIC but yes, I hope this find whoever well and healthy as well as fighting. I pray that everything will be healed and settled and finally get better at managing these feelings to the point it is no more for everyone who feels this way or any way. Thank you have a good day.

    Jonice - April 17, 2020 Reply

    Dear Pink, there is nothing you share here that is odd or strange. You have faced some challenges and you have some intense feelings as a result. I encourage you to find a therapist to help you process all of this and also teach you how to understand and work through what you are feeling.

Ophelia - April 9, 2020 Reply

Hey guys,
Reading your comments has really made me feel connected to you all. I sometimes feel out of place as well. The more I push that feeling down, the more I get stuck in my head. I have felt and still feel so much shame for this feeling. It is as if I am making up problems where everything could be Fine.
I do not want to burden anyone else with this because I know it’s irrational and I feel like making a fuss about nothing. I just nurse myself and Home untill i feel ready to be Social again. I really hope we will be abled to open up to the people we love without shame. And be true to ourselves!

    Jonice - April 9, 2020 Reply

    Dear Ophelia, that feeling that you should always feel fine because everything is OK is a common effect of CEN. I strongly encourage you to use this time to focus in on your feelings, pay attention to them and honor them. It will change your life.

Anonymous - March 31, 2020 Reply

I’m 18 and grew up in a harsh environment where traumatic events happened often. I started using substances to cope when I was around 14 ( smoking cigarettes, drinking, which led to more intense partying) and was messed up most of the time until about a year ago. I used to be very social but now since trying to cope with my anxiety sober, I really haven’t left my house much or talked to anyone I used to be friends with. I don’t have social media anymore and the only place I go is occasionally to the grocery store. Its hard for me to even get outside to take a walk, so I walk around the house. Most of the time I feel like Im just stuck in this weird vibe like everything is weird, it’s very difficult to express with words. When I’m talking to people I zone out and get this quivery, echoey feeling in my ears. I journal a lot, cook, and try to keep myself busy but I still can’t seem to get out of my head. I want to take control of my life and be able to live my dream, does anyone have any tips that may help me build confidence and get move forward instead of staying stuck in my past? I feel like I’m just hollow and moving and doing things everyday without actually being alive.

    Jonice - March 31, 2020 Reply

    Dear Anonymous, CONGRATULATIONS on getting sober! That is an amazing feat and you should be very proud of yourself. Now, you need help to move forward, just as anyone in your shoes would. Please talk to a therapist and get yourself into a recovery group as soon as the covid crisis is over. You are frozen at age 14 socially because that’s what happens when people begin to use substances; it freezes you in place. Then, when you get sober, there are some years of socialization to catch up on. You can do this, but you must get help and support!

Joe - March 18, 2020 Reply

Ordered the book, hope it’ll help

Parents are great people, never hit us or anything, they don’t drink or do drugs, but they’re lovingly controlling and too much, and as the 1st born (30), they always need my help whereas my sisters are busy with their own lives.

It’s not all bad, no abuse, but you can’t really argue with Dad, he gets REAL defensive and as I work with him (Family business), always threatens to cut me off, so there’s no way to properly communicate and hash it out.

Mom, she’s a lot better to talk to and easier going, but if you screw up, she’s like a switchblade and snaps.

Grew up where my childhood was bad AHDH, all the meds took over for middle school, HS I was coming out of my shell and for ages, just wanted to leave the tri-state and move down south to get away, start a new life.

With all that said, do you think this’ll help?

    Jonice - March 18, 2020 Reply

    Dear Joe, your description of your parents does sound quite harsh. Being threatened to be cut off is very unhealthy and damaging, as is “switchblade” responses. I think the book will help you but I also encourage you to see a therapist for help figuring out how to make the decisions that are best for you. It’s possible that you may be more harmed in your current situation than you realize.

Mandy - December 7, 2019 Reply

Wow! I can identify with this. Never have heard this before but it totally makes sense.

    Mary - February 21, 2020 Reply

    I am 55 and have always been like this. I am now in a situation with literally no life- no family, no friends, no career, no job, badly depressed and even seem to have lost my ability to care about myself, literally just don’t even connect with myself. The anxiety around my upbringing impacted my menstrual cycle so badly, that I couldn’t hold down jobs and that in itself saw me being rejected all round. Now I am struggling with a host of of physical conditions also because none of what happened before seemed important enough to get fixed- but also meant I never had money to fix it with, the proverbial catch 22!

      Marina - March 25, 2020 Reply

      Hello Mary, Reading your post put me into tears. My heart goes for you, please dear you are not alone. The world is not right, it is not your fault, something went wrong in your life and that rippled into your current situation. Always do good to yourself and to others, even when you have no energy, or feel like it. Try to take each day each step. Think always about what you have with sense of gratitude, not what not have things can change any minute. Have no expectations of ANYONE in this world. But you do the right thing, be the bigger person, give something to someone who has less than you, be kind to others, even when they have not treated you right, even when it hurts. Big hug to you, I pray things get better for you.

        Jonice - March 29, 2020 Reply

        Dear Marina, thank you for your kind and supportive words for Mary.

dave - November 23, 2019 Reply

I am 50 and I’ve felt this way all my life. I’ve been alone my entire life too, no connection only one powerful unrequited love years ago. I don’t think I will ever be better but I like to read about it for some reason.
Thank you for writing this.
Regards, Dave.

    Jonice - November 24, 2019 Reply

    Dear Dave, perhaps you like to read about it because it’s helping you. And maybe you actually want to change yourself. Consider taking on your CEN by taking the steps to heal it.

    Rochelle - May 11, 2020 Reply

    Me too, Dave. Although I’m married, this doesn’t have me feeling “seen.”

    Living in solitude isn’t terrible. In the modern world, I can get most everything I need from strangers.

    If love and friendship was a requirement for life, I would have been dead a long time ago. I’ve stopped expecting emotional connection with humans. I’m pretty sure that’s why people get dogs.

Kim - October 10, 2019 Reply

I feel this all day, every day, even in my own home. I think it’s how I grew up, and how I live now, because of anxiety. I tell myself I’m weird, unwanted, and that I don’t belong, anywhere. When people seem kind to me, I tell myself they’re doing that because they pity me.

This was a nice read and find. It makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

    Tania - December 10, 2019 Reply

    Kim…I can identify with you completly. it feels like I could have written what you wrote because it’s exactly what goes through my mind everday. I have constant anxiety, and if my mother calls me it’s enough to send me into another dimension of panic. I walk around my 950 square foot condo like a zombie. It feels good to know that I am not the only one out there who feels like I’m neither here nor there.


nik - October 8, 2019 Reply

i feel the same , like i dont know where i belong i feel distant and not with it

    Jonice - October 9, 2019 Reply

    Dear Nik, there is a good reason you feel this way!

Anon - October 5, 2019 Reply

Finally an answer.

    David - November 10, 2019 Reply

    It happened like the very first incident. I felt as if yhey wanted me to choose something or igmf i haddent they do somwthing bad to me. I saw and feel the two as a 3rd is present as well. Just maki,g me feel somewhere else, a isolated feeling of a place that doesnot exiat. As im in that moment, which cam again 10years later I get scared , doubted , confused and affraid these ones.. Hold my key existance and or is that that is a temp to end me or to make me be somethi,g or somwone Im not. Is it a trick or a lie or is it?..

Akshay - September 19, 2019 Reply

Thank you so much for this post. I can’t tell you how much I relate to this post. Now I kind of have an idea as to why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. Growing up I had all the support from my parents but I still feel out of place from everywhere.

P - September 6, 2019 Reply

I see this being true for me, I have always felt like the back sheep. I come from a family of 5 sisters including myself. I am the middle child. I’ve always felt like my feelings and wants weren’t important, I still feel the same. Even when I attempted to put my wants first I was called out on it, I was ungrateful selfish rude and inconsiderate. I don’t talk to my sister because they disagree or disapprove of something, I’ve never known what it is, it seemed to always be something different. Now I have two kids and memories of what I felt surge and I try so hard to not do the same to them.

    Jonice - September 6, 2019 Reply

    Dear P, good for you for earnestly trying to do better with your own kids. I hope you will work on your Emotional Neglect and take the steps to heal it. All the best to you!

Ekramul - January 31, 2019 Reply

Ive come to a point were i want to move countries and start a new life i dont think anyone will ever understand, growing i was always a lonely child even have 4 other siblings and even more cousins but i still feel like I am not really a part of my family or even my friendships

Ashamed - December 17, 2018 Reply

I am both the emotionally neglected child, and now the parent of two kids. I’ve done a bit better than my own mother, but due to disabilities, had acute low energy and was not very ‘on’ for my kids and left them to play alone too much. My daughter now has anxiety, and feels she does not fit in. I also was forced to have children by an abusive husband and was denied when I wanted to seek help – this does not make me love the kids any less, I love them very much, none of this was ever their fault – but that stuff combined with my disabilities meant that I had extreme low energy, and depression, and sometimes just did not have words for the kids. The damage is now done, and I’m trying as hard as I can to be there and connected with my children, but I don’t think it will ever quite be enough. For those of you reading this, who are or were the emotionally neglected child, my heart goes out to you.

    Jonice - December 20, 2018 Reply

    Dear ashamed, do not give up on reaching your children. Persistence shows love and care and is the key.

Jinxie Clark - December 13, 2018 Reply

You say that feeling ‘isn’t real’ and that ‘people don’t really feel that way’ but WHAT happens when they DO feel that way? when they have all told you that you don’t belong? when they abandoned me after a near death accident, i needed them more than ever and nobody would help me? it would have been different if i didn’t tell the ‘secrets’. the things that i was never supposed to tell anyone. if only i could fake it, they would accept me, but i cannot fake it.

    Jonice - December 16, 2018 Reply

    Dear Jinxie, research shows that people tend to treat us the way we expect them to, which is usually the way we treat ourselves. I hope you will work on your own self-image and self-love. That is the place to start. All my best wishes to you.

    Angie - August 15, 2019 Reply

    I fell you jinxed! I’m always there for everyone giving them every last bit of me there is and the moment I’m not okay no one is even close. I reach out to people to try and hang out and get out of this headspace, push passed my emotions and try and stay connected. No one ever replies tho… kind confirms maybe I’m just not worth it. Maybe I am an outcast. I literally could move countries without anyone noticing. I could die and I think people wouldn’t know for weeks, let alone care too much. I’ve never been a part of my family, well felt it anyway and now as I’m an adult turns out it’s not just my family who don’t care It’s everyone I meet as well.

      Jonice - August 18, 2019 Reply

      Dear Angie, how much do you care about yourself? Because caring for yourself encourages others to care for you too. They are tightly connected for all of us. Please do focus on caring for yourself!

Josh - December 18, 2017 Reply

This is what am I looking for in all of the years of my existence. Thanks for this wonderful article and i’ll try the tips you gave in this. Kuddos!

Linnie - December 12, 2017 Reply

Dr. Webb,

Guess I’ve finally found what I’ve wanted to tell every social worker, case manager, and therapist I’ve ever seen. What is described here is most definitely who I am and how I’ve felt not only in reaching adulthood but all my life. I can’t think of one single day that I’ve felt that I belonged anywhere other than in my own room, in my own space, away from the rest of the world. I now live alone in a one-bedroom apartment and it has been this way for more than five years now. In the past, I’ve lived with other people, had roommates, even married and had kids, but I’ve never felt any sort of continuous peace and comfort when around other people, not even my own family. This has all but ruined my life, and I’m up in age plus not good health. I have no friends, little family left and I really can’t blame them for not wanting to deal with me all that much. Everyone else around here in the small apartment complex where I live seems to treat me suspiciously since I just don’t engage with them. But then again, I also don’t care much for gossip and other people’s personal affairs. Whenever I’m around other people, it seems that’s all they have to talk about and I immediately tune out. I don’t know what else to say other than I probably have a lot more going on than just CEN. I haven’t yet taken the questionnaire but figure it’ll probably hit home with me. Thank you so much for this site.

    Mike - April 21, 2019 Reply

    Hi! I feel that way too. I feel like there’s more to it. Thing is, it’s not that I can’t have fun. It’s that I can but my kind of having fun is not most people’s. I know the kind of people that I would have fun with. I found most activities seen as fun by most people are basic. I just don’t enjoy those activities. While it’s true that I don’t show my emotions that much, but there’s just more to this. Hit me on michaelrbenjamin@gmail.com if you’re interested to share stories!

Domingo - November 4, 2017 Reply

This is me too my upcoming was not a very good memory nor do I like to sit there and think about it I always
feel for some reason that everywhere I go people are looking at me. my grandpa used to call me a faget and said I walked funny so now even walking in public I feel funny and have to pay attention the way I’m walking because I feel like I’m walking funny I hate it because I feel like I’m a strong person but when I’m in a crowd of strangers I feel very out of place and that what I say to people in general or even friends their not interested in my opinion I’m glad I read this post just knowing that I’m not the only one that feels this way is Comfort enough I’m 30 years old now I know it may never go away but hopefully one day I can be an outspoken person thank you

June - June 7, 2017 Reply

Thank You So Much. I had no idea there was a title and so many young children Suffering too. It would be an excellent idea to form a group session and I will Pray for every one.

Hunter - June 2, 2017 Reply

Wow ! This is me . When I read the definition of CEN . It is really what may have cause this . I just always blamed me . But maybe it’s several things just not me being wired wrong

Popps - April 2, 2017 Reply

I just got back from a night of clubbing. I felt comfortable with how I looked, had a fun amount to drink, shared a load of laughs, danced with my friends and talked to new people. But, I couldn’t help but cry when I got home because despite all this, I still felt entirely out of place. I’ve had this feeling all my life and regardless of why I feel this way, I follow these steps to ‘recovery’ and although they do lead me to have a nice time, my efforts seem pointless when I leave feeling just as empty and just as lonely, if not more. I’m at breaking point. I do try but I don’t make a splash that seems to be big enough and this is extremely frustrating and mentally draining. Despite having a number of decent people in my life I’m always a bit cut out of the circle in every situation. I push myself to get invited to events but it’s hardly being invited when it’s me either asking if I can go (which I hate doing) or organising it myself.
I’m pushing myself to do this more as cringe worthy as it is for me but it’s hard when I feel so unwelcome.
As I’m feeling impulsive, I’ll probably regret posting this but it’s nice to know that it’s maybe not as pointless as it all seems.
Much love to everyone.

    Yomi - May 4, 2017 Reply

    Popps, thought I was the only one really… with all my years studying psychology, I hadn’t found an answer to this why. Introspectively I can’t figure out where this feeling originates… and usually I just tell myself that my problems are not that big that no one would care to hear them.
    I should’ve seen this a long time ago… maybe now I can finally get rid of this feeling.

    Em - May 15, 2017 Reply

    I feel exactly the same way; I didn’t know anyone else did.

    Larry Smith - October 13, 2017 Reply

    I know how you feel, I’ve spent many years studying my feelings on everyday things i decided the worlds not going to change, so i need to change i wanted to know why i felt the way i did, why i get the feelings, even with close family I’ve over heard comments like im weird. I wanted to know what im doing for family to see me this way it was very hurtful and did something to my self esteem , im a every educated man that grew up being my dads punching bag with verbal abuse i hate using my youth expierances as an excuse for the ora i must send out, im kind and respectful to everyone i meet. So i can relate to your problem, I’d love to find a support group for people like us because we tend to beat our selves up over this thing we don’t underdtand. Plz feel free to cantact me anytime because I’d probably learn from you, hey you hang in there because you are very special. Plz let me know of a support group for people like us, or how can we start a support group we deserve more. Thanks Larry

sue - March 21, 2017 Reply

i cant get a job because of this, and i stay in unhealthy relationships

sue - March 21, 2017 Reply

i was thinking it would be nice if there was a home where people like us could live for a awhile and get the mental help we need to heal, with trained professionals, government sponsored of course

    Robin - May 13, 2017 Reply

    Wow, great idea. If you ever hear of a program or house for people like us would you email me? Robin

    Susannah - June 7, 2017 Reply

    So true, Sue. This is what should be available… very much needed.

Stacey (the wanderer) - March 21, 2017 Reply

I remember growing up with my older sister, having to stay inside most days because my parents were always working and at one point we’d rarely see them only to come home at midnight to sleep then leave again before we’d even wake up. My sister and I were good kids we didn’t dare have people over when no one was home and we certainly wouldn’t ask because no one would be home anyway.

Later on I got into some drug use then quit that because of my own will to not go into a fully downward spiral. I needed to be there for my sister if she needed someone since we both went through the same things.

I hardly see my sister anymore, she’s too wrapped up in men and only reaches out to me for favors.

Years ago when I was 19 I secretly married my high school sweetheart when he got out of the army. My dad (military mentaliity) has never forgiven me for that, but I didn’t find it important to include anyone since I’ve always felt alone. I wanted to leave my husband, so I left and went back to live with my parents/grandparents. During this time I slept on the floor even when they had a spare room but didn’t want to clean it out. I decided to get a divorce which was fine but he changed and started stalking me and wouldn’t leave me alone and then attacked me at my grandparents/parents home.

Now divorced (one month shy of 24) I live either at my parents house or my boyfriends, constantly going back and fourth when I just want to be planted in one place.

I’ve bounced around in my life going from one place to another trying to get away from my ex husband and now I do it because of some problems at my bfs house with his kids too.

I never feel like I actually belong anywhere, often feel depressed but again I feel no one understands. I use to see a counselor about the attack with my ex but stopped going because she was only there for a year. I’m so busy these days working a full time job and going to school full time I feel like I don’t have time. I’m constantly in my car to which I have called home and often cry in on my ways to work or school or “home” wherever that is.

I never feel like I’m ever having in the moment fun time, I could be the life of the jokes but no one knows me, I have maybe one friend if even which I speak to once in a blue moon. I feel alone constantly even when people say they understand I don’t believe they do. I never travel light, I never know if ever one day on my way to work I say eff it and keep driving and ditch it all.

I’m often told by people I should write a book…

    Stacey (the wanderer) - March 21, 2017 Reply

    Btw I can say, I believe I can relate to this article, growing up and my dad always downplaying things trying for me and my sister getting his point of view (he’s always right) and we were just kids, I think that’s too much to ask of a kid. If I ask him nowadays what’s wrong with his health he tells me to refer to HIPPA. I’ve even told my parents I felt depressed and they make no comments. My mom is old school Korean and follows the man basically so she doesn’t really say much of her own.

    The only thing that seems to get their attention is if someone is threatening my life, then they seem worried but that doesn’t last. It’s always the tough it out method. My boyfriend says I don’t tell him my feelings or share my emotions. I’ve bottled them up so long idk how I could truly feel anyway. I don’t sympathize or empathize well. I’m to the extreme in both directions, never a middle ground.

      Joram Dade - July 9, 2017 Reply

      Man, this sums it up for me. No gray area. My Dad did me the same way. I dont know how to shake it.I’m depressed now and I cant cry and I dont know how to unpack all of these feelings. I’m lost as to what to do.

Don - February 25, 2017 Reply

“Perhaps you are actually looking around at other people laughing and talking and appearing comfortable, and wondering what you are missing”

The story of my life.

    Kassie - October 4, 2017 Reply

    It’s 2:40am here and I couldn’t take it anymore. I have no one to talk to. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way. My life has been miserable almost all my life. It surprises me to read other people’s comments and know that I am not alone. We all have different situations, I hope and pray that one day we overcome this.

Julie - February 24, 2017 Reply

I feel this way. It’s so lonely. The worst part is that I constantly feel rejected. I am always the odd one out, and am seldom invited to out or to gatherings. I can’t figure out why. I feel like I’m socially aware, smart, hard working, and even funny sometimes, but in all of my friend and work groups (since 4th grade), I’ve been the third wheel, or the friend on the periphery of the circle. The description in the article is shockingly accurate to how I feel, but I don’t know how much of it applies to my childhood. I know my childhood wasn’t ideal, but certainly other people have had it worse. I grew up knowing my mother loves me. My parents divorced when I was young. My dad remarried when I was in 5th grade and I know my stepmom doesn’t like me or my sister (still doesn’t). She’s always said horrible things to us and about us (and still does, and I’m 29). My Dad is not really vocal, and keeps to himself. I spent most of my childhood reading. I know I’m capable of love, and I care about a lot of people. I feel like I can express it, mostly, but I don’t know why people don’t seem to feel the same way about me.

    Jay - March 16, 2017 Reply

    Hi Julie,

    After reading this, I wanted to reach out to you and let you know that you’re not alone in some of these feelings, indeed a lot of us suffer from our emotional needs not being met. It doesn’t make you weak, but it makes you vulnerable.

    Perhaps finding a pen pal or someone you can write to, might help you in the long run.

    Do you want to become friends?

      June - June 8, 2017 Reply

      CI would like to become c friends, this feeling of loneliness in company is very uncomfortableness and then wanting to escape. But we can get better I have found out that no body knows how you feel.

    Kassie - October 4, 2017 Reply

    I can totally relate on this Julie… I’m always the one left behind. Whenever my friends and I would walk (like in the mall), I would be the one with noone to talk to. There was this one time I said to my friend that I want to go back to the gaming place we went to, then she mentioned she could bring her friend (who I don’t know), then she got worried that I might get out of place.. I mean we’re friends but why would she think that.. There were also instances when my friends/cousins would forget to call me for a night out. Am I really that insignificant??

    My dad also remarried when I was 6th grade I think.. They actually never told my that they got married, my stepmom just suddenly started using our last name. Anyway, my parents and siblings are still alive. But until now, I have NEVER felt that I was part of a family. I know there are people who’s had worse. But no one would ever understand the pain that I’ve been through and the pain that I am going through right now.

Mag - December 18, 2016 Reply

I was bullied in junior high and forced to stay at school of hell St.R J HIGH for 3 years. NO matter how I dressed, if I was nice, indifferent or snapped back at my bullies I was treated really badly and although I am pretty and attractive in my bully’s eyes I was worthless, ugly and not needed in the world. My parents forced me to stay at St.R all 3 years, but Even though the bullying stopped in high school- the damage inflicted in those 3 years has stayed with me. Now at 31 I don’t trust people easy, I don’t feel comfortable being or hanging around large groups of people my age, I am not married and have few friends, despite holding 2 degrees I don’t have a permenant job, I feel I don’t belong in my family, feel lonely, anxious, always second guessing myself. I know I am smarter then all the people that caused me harm at St.R and even my parents who didn’t seem to care about how bad things were for me because they were too self absorbed in their own world to care how bullying and lack of friends would negatively impact and influence me as an adult. Some people say move on, but 9 years ago those bullies tried belittling me on Facebook, of course I blocked them and have no contact with these people because part of letting go of the past is letting go of the people who hurt you in the first place that’s the only way I believe and I am working on having a normal life even if I struggle with not belonging, the past has a way of haunting you or catching up with you, but it doesn’t have to.

T - September 15, 2016 Reply

I feel that i do better getting the job done and keeping to my self but lately i have been talking to co workers more but the feeling i get with the things i have told them leave me feeling like it would of been better if i had not said any thing , i feel like i want to start all over so i could keep to my self better , cuz once you open up i feel like all the attention is on you now and its time now to impress or see my mess , im a mess and they all exspect me to impress, i should of stuck to my self , im stuck with my foot im my mouth and letting the beast drag with the negative claw i need to pull it back and fix this, but how do i hide this face i have let others see, is it too late,

Mel - September 12, 2016 Reply

I’ve always felt like I don’t belong. My parents were young when they had me and never stayed together. I went to live with my maternal grandparents with my mother, but it was my grandparents who raised me. My mother was too busy seeking a new life of her own. My father’s presence in my childhood was virtually non existent. Both my parents went on to have new families of their own and I was more or less forgotten. I did go to live with my mum and her new family several times, but it never worked. I just didn’t belong, I was a burden for her new life. I always returned to my grandparents. At 13 I became too much for my grandparents and was again shifted to my mother’s. Again I didn’t belong and was often blamed for any trouble that occurred. At 15 I started to run away and at 16 I finally moved out. In the eyes of others I was a problem child and would never amount to anything. I’m an adult now with two young adult children, and happy to say I’ve done quite good for myself, but inside I feel so alone. For years I tried to be a part of the family, but I gave up when it became clear they didn’t see me as part of their family. Some of my younger cousins on my fathers side did not even know my father was my father. Attending my half brother’s 30th, a lot of the guests didn’t even know who I was. I felt so embarrassed having to explain I was actually the host’s sister. Attending a Christmas gathering my niece’s and nephew’s did not know I was there aunt, even if only half. My parents didn’t even attend my 40th birthday, making up pathetic excuses. I no longer bother trying to include myself cause it hurts too much when you get rejected. It would be easier if everyone just left me alone, but every so often I receive a text message from my mother or father, nothing important, always just complaining about how sick they are, or how well or hard done by my half siblings are doing; messages to make me feel guilty. They think I’m lucky because I’m doing well for myself, but that’s the life I chose. However, it doesn’t stop the mental torment I suffer daily.

Jack - July 17, 2016 Reply

I didn’t grow up with an anti loving family. Every day my mother and father would kiss us (my brothers and I) and tell us they love us. But growing up the youngest and right when my family lost all of its money and my father was blacklisted. I can’t help but feel like my emotions and personal challenges growing up were ignored. I felt I never could talk with my parents about my insecurities. Especially sex, puberty, and school related issues. Most times they weren’t issues, just questions preying on my mind as a young boy. However, plenty of them were issues. This feeling I developed made me feel as though what I thought didn’t matter to anyone. And I know that sounds extremely overreactive, but this inability to talk with someone at an early age cemented this early on. Leaving me without a “father figure” is how I blame most of my problems with trust on. I have very little memories of my father until he lost his job when I was 6. For many years it felt as though I didn’t have a father, because all the kids I went to school with starting at 3 would get picked up from their dads. But I never was. Leaving all the kids to think I didn’t have one and me as well. He did attend my pre k “graduation” which left me elated. Even when I confine to my father now ( I am 19, turning 20 in 2 weeks) he will not acknowledge that I felt that way as a child. Telling me, “you’re wrong! I loved you so much”. Even when I tell him it did not feel that way for me, he ignores it.

That was a mouth full. Feels good to vent baby!

I’m no good on paper. So I apologize if it’s impossible to relate or empathize with me.

    Anonymous - January 29, 2017 Reply

    I feel you on another level and totally emphasize with that. I just turned 20 also and went through similar bull. We should talk!!

Annonimous - June 28, 2016 Reply

I grew up on a family of 5, me being the eldest girl. My mother worked a full time job to support our family which kept me as the baby sitter making me waste half of my life babysitting children that did not respect or listen to me. I am not an adult and I can’t get over the neglect from my family and now from my siblings who I took care of and didn’t have a childhood making sure to look after them amongst other things that I was responsible for. I now feel no emotional attachment to my siblings all but my youngest sister, and i can barely attend any family functions with feeling a type of way for how I’m treated by them today.

Shan - May 16, 2016 Reply

Glad I came upon this article. I feel like I have been an outsider most of my life. My parents clothed and feed us,took us the odd little road in the summer, however there was never any conversation. You were told to shut your mouth if you opened it. No,”How was your day at school”? No hugs good night. I grew up in a house of domestic violence. My siblings and I don’t have much interaction. Sadly when we do get together it reminds us of the shit our parents put us through, unfortunately, that is what we have in common. We all agree that we learned from our parents what not to be.
Every family has there issue’s. When I am around families that somewhat have it together and see how they interact and care for one anothers happiness, it somewhat saddens me. In my mind I see what potential there could have been, what kind of person could I have become if I known and felt like someone cared and showed support and encouragement, instead of feeling like was just a stupid little kid. I am well into my adulthood, I do okay, it is difficult to relate with people I keep my background to myself because most people I know had pretty decent up bringing .Yet mine is so negative and unhappy, I don’t want sympathy. At the same time I feel like explaining it so people might understand why I am so reclusive.

If I don’t interact with my parents, life seems to be alright I get passed it. However if they come around which is not very often, They bring on the bull shit. Which really gets depressing.

If anyone asked what the best thing that happened in my life.
I would have to say “getting away from my parents”.

    Shan - January 30, 2017 Reply

    With having a feeling of lonliness and neglect, And thinking of how I can positively renforce my life , to make myself feel good at the endof the day, that I made an effort (even just in the slightest)to make this world a better place. Now yes I am an animal lover, and I know that not everyone is. However 13 years ago I adopted a pup from a kenel.Was a hard choice to make ,these animals like overselves coping with CEN, to myself are dealing with a similar circumstance. Most were wanted perhaps at first then novilty wore off and here they are caged in a pound just hoping for someone to come along and showthem a little affection. Think of this , if your down and out on life go help someone , say hello ! there are elderly people sitting in nursing homes that would love to hold a conversation, or read too. Go to a animal shelter , take a dog out for a walk ,breath in some fresh air. Opening your heart up to the people and creatures of this planet that somewhat feel the same way we do , at the end of the day , it will give us a little more love for ourselves.

    Ashamed - December 17, 2018 Reply

    So sorry to hear that happened to you. I know how that sadness feels, seeing families that seem truly connected and that support each other, and how you might have been if you had that instead of abuse.

Oliver - February 25, 2016 Reply

I feel like this most of the time. I put on a show infront of everyone because I want to feel strong but on the inside I know I’m not happy. I’m not an adult yet but I want to have a sucsessful life I just feel like sometimes my life isn’t worth living. I do the same things every day. Wake up, go to school, come home and regret everything I did wrong in the day then I feel guilty later on. I want to feel happy for real but I just don’t fit in with everyone else. I’m constantly making mistakes repeatably and every day I regret eveything Ive done.

Wow that felt could to finaly get off my chest.

Ezekiel - February 5, 2016 Reply

I’m the youngest of five. There are so many memories my older siblings talk about that I wasn’t involved in. my father loved baseball and my brother was a talented athlete I played sports too but I wasn’t very good and even though my dad tried to split up his time between us it was obvious he saw more potential in my brother.My dad died at an early age and even though I know he had no control over it it still made me feel a little abandoned. When my mom began to date again she made her boyfriends a priority furthering my feeling of being pushed in the corner.

For so many years I felt like I was damaged but couldn’t quite figure out how. I’ve always had very little friends and never felt confident enough to even attempt at a girlfriend. After trying shrooms I got this feeling something was wrong and have been slowly unraveling my problems for the past couple months but this article explains everything so clearly.

Michael - January 26, 2016 Reply

This is an amazingly insightful article.

It is so bizarre to feel out of place, especially with family. To question if you even belong there during a gathering and fighting a desire to leave.

Your tips are a boon for recovery even as the battle still rages on inside. One thought at a time, though, one thought at a time

Sydnae - January 24, 2016 Reply

I can identify with always feeling out of place. Growing up my parents split when I was 4. My mother left me and my younger brother while she took her older children. She was in my life. She Spoiled us, took us on trips, and gave us money. She never spoke of our or her emotions. And living with my dad was not horrible but he wasn’t an emotional person either. He rarely was home and we were raised by a step mother who was very jealous and hurtful. She tried her best But until she had her own child, I could see that she only felt obligated to care for us but no where loved us like she loves her son. I grew up feeling like no one had my back and even cared about how I felt. No one to cheer for me. I’m 26 and still healing from the past. I have only one childhood friend I keep in touch with. It’s hard for me to keep relationships. I do like to be alone. I want to have a relationship in the future that can be caring and supportive. I have children of my own now and I try to be the mom I never had.

    Annika - September 14, 2016 Reply

    By being aware of what happened to you, as well as being conscious of giving emotional support to your children, you are more highly evolved than your parents. I am in my 40s and suffered emotional abuse and neglect. It has become a part of me and always will. I have to fight every day as I am a mom too. I think people like us are older souls. Best wishes to you. You should be proud of yourself!

A - January 1, 2016 Reply

I have always felt like this….I imagine I will always continue to feel this way…I just don’t fit….with friends…with family….I lack something due to my families neglect…by 15 I was hopping around home to home..before that, my younger years were filled with my mom’s drug addictions…I never got to grow up with my little sister who I loved dearly…I never grew up period….I hate all of them, for the way they just seem to forget and move on….even my mother is experiencing a “rebirth”…she has come out unaffected…hardly just for someone that caused so much pain to me…and I have to parade myself around as if I’m not a total mess…it’s very hard…the more I try to be a great parent myself. The more I wonder why my parents or aunts or grandparents did not make the effort for me.

    Annika - September 14, 2016 Reply

    I empathize with you in so many ways. Although I grew up in a nuclear family, it was dysfunctional and degrading. My mother rejected me early in my life, left me alone in the apartment, terrorized me, shamed me. It has made me an outsider, susceptible to bullying, anxious and with crippling low self-esteem. I’m in my 40s trying to raise my children with love I never had, and I fight the battle every day. SHE is in denial, won’t talk about it. I guess my point is that you are not alone. I hope you have peace in loving a real family; your own.

George - December 26, 2015 Reply

I am glad I found this, I have dealt with feeling like an outsider for as long as I can remember. School was like a series of forced social interactions and adult life has been no better. Hopefully I can begin to fix this now that I know what it is and feel more comfortable around anybody. I took the emotional neglect questionnaire and answered yes to all but 2.

alicesun - October 11, 2015 Reply

Hi, Thank you for explaining this. It makes complete sense for me. My dad was not in life at all & my mom had Addison’s that made her a flat line emotionally. I’m very frustrated with her as she still doesn’t ask about my life or work. It makes her seem selfish but u know she loves me. Thanks

    alicesun - October 11, 2015 Reply

    Ps…meant to type that I know she loves me.

Victoria - July 25, 2015 Reply

I don’t really know when i started feeling out of place but it has been going on for at least 5 years. Now that i’m almost 18 and university is starting soon i dread the fact that i will be forced to meet new people. Just to get through senior year i would literally count the days until i never have to make the effort to force a smile or a laugh or a conversation. I feel like my existence is quite pointless and i have no desire to keep relationships, not even with my friends. It makes me sad but at the same time i don’t care. My parents have given me the ideal life with everything i have ever wanted and they love me to death. But i still never feel normal. At any gathering i always have that moment(s) where i sit and look at everyone laughing and being themselves while i think to myself “what the heck am i doing here?” I rather be at home alone.

Kaysie - June 26, 2015 Reply

This is what I’ve been looking for forever. I didn’t know exactly how to describe the feeling and learning about childhood emotional neglect really opened my eyes to how serious this matter is. I’ve been feeling this way since I was about 12 now that I’m 17 nothing has really changed. I love my friends and family but in a way I feel disconnected from them. And I also feel that there’s no one to talk to about personal matter etc. my feelings. And it’s a really weird phenomenon where I get slightly depressed out of no where and I try to combat it with thinking positive, but no matter what the negative thoughts come back. Maybe I’m lonely because I don’t have that “best friend I could tell anything to”

    Jonice Webb - June 28, 2015 Reply

    Dear Kaysie, it is vital that you choose one person to confide in, and talk to them. Often, it just takes one trustworthy person to start breaking through your barriers. If the concept of CEN rings true with you, it would be helpful for you to read Running on Empty. You are young and you have plenty of time to heal. But it’s best to start now so you’ll have a head start in life. Take care!

Vincent - June 14, 2015 Reply

I have struggles with regards to my life in high school. This grade 10, I transferred from my former school to another school due to my experience of bullying and discrimination. Even though my new classmates are kind to me, still I feel like I am out of place there. I am planning to drop out and have homeschooling instead. What should I do?

    Jonice Webb - June 16, 2015 Reply

    Vincent, it sounds like you’re now in a good school that suits you, and you’re having difficulty accepting it. That’s understandable, considering what you’ve been through. I encourage you to stay in school, and make effort to accept your classmates’ kindness. It will go further in preparing you for life. I’m sorry you’ve had such difficulties. You deserve far better. Take care!

Carol - May 20, 2015 Reply

I have always had this reeling of not fitting in. I grew up in a household with parents who reacted to my emotional trauma by being silent, then talking about something else. It was really bad and I have ever since felt out of place everywhere. My husband of eight years was being a little help, but he died of cancer when he was 38. That just made things worse. Also, dealing with bipolar disorder isn’t helping.


Marie - April 5, 2015 Reply

Thank you so much. This helped alot. I will get the book and foolow these tips. I’m 55 and have lived with this all these years. Its ways been easier to be a loner.

Kayla Carlyle - March 13, 2015 Reply

I am so grateful I found this when I did. I am at the breaking point where it is just unbearable to continue to go on like this day after day after day. I feel out of place with my own age group which is all teenagers. I feel a little more comfortable talking with adults but then I feel out of place because they are adults and not my age; so it’s not like I can hang out with them. I feel as though the support I do receive makes me feel as though I am bombarding everyone and it is obvious that my depressive feelings are annoying everyone. Between school and work I have rarely any time to socialize. And I am forced to admit (because it is effecting all avenues of my life) that I am struggling.

    Jonice Webb - March 15, 2015 Reply

    Kayla, I hope you can find a way to see a counselor. You should not let yourself struggle alone, without help. There are people who can help and will understand if you reach out. All my best wishes to you!

    Vanessa - June 21, 2015 Reply

    I know truly how you feel and I can empathise deeply and I’ve never felt that towards another before. You will be okay x

John - September 22, 2014 Reply

I’ve felt this for a long time. I grew up in a single-parent household and never had much contact w/ my father. The problem is even in the relationship w/ my two siblings and my mother, I often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. I’ve gotten to where I feel that way quite often. When my father died last year, it got even tougher.

    Jonice Webb - September 22, 2014 Reply

    Hi John, you are not alone with this feeling. You can read more about it on psychcentral.com’s Childhood Emotional Neglect Page. My most recent post is called Not Sad Not Hurt Not Angry: Empty. Thank you for sharing with us and I wish you all the best!

lee - August 7, 2014 Reply

Wow, first line hit the nail on the head after searching for “feeling out of place”

Carole - August 3, 2014 Reply

I have this feeling however I was very loved as a child by both parents and siblings yet I still don’t feel I belong at family gatherings and try to get out of them I am beginning to think I have something missing in my emotional make up. These feelings have got worse since my mother,s recent death.

    Devin - April 13, 2015 Reply

    I was wondering if you have come up with a solution. I to have the loving family but I alwys feel out of place.

      Jonice Webb - April 15, 2015 Reply

      Hi Devin, CEN causes lack of access to feelings, which makes it difficult to feel connected, even with people who love you. Feeling disconnected makes it hard to feel that you belong. The solution is to get in touch with your feelings, and start being more open and emotionally vulnerable with your loving family. That is, if they capable of having that kind of relationship with you. If they are not, then work on it with other people, friends, etc. who are capable. I hope this answers your question. Wishing you all the best.

    eiris - August 10, 2015 Reply

    i just like to express the feelings i am keeping. i really feel im out of place. with my family as well as my friends. i just felt like they dont want me to join them . or am i just felling it but it was not the reality. my co-workers/ friends are eating lunch together and im left to stay at the store and do the job. breaks my heart to do it alone and deal with the customers all by myself . i just felt unwanted. they alwatys go out together to buy the things they want and always leaving me alone. im so irritated about it. feels like i dont want to see them anymore.

Nevea Willis - October 17, 2013 Reply

Dr. Webb, I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you have given this phenomenon a name and given us who have endured it a platform upon which we may use our collective voice to join you in bringing to light this universally pervasive issue. Like you, I am especially passionate about this matter, particularly since I am witnessing the damaging impact it is having upon my children even as I write this. This is no imaginary or mamby pamby matter. The future destinies of many of our children, like those of so many of us, are determined by whether CEN is truly overcome. This is especially critical in the African American community and other disenfranchised groups.

Clover - October 13, 2013 Reply

Thank you so much for this… I know a couple of people who have or had parents with traits of autism/Aspergers who suffer incredibly. It is so sad as no-one understands, at all, so increasing the feelings of isolation.

    Jonice Webb - October 14, 2013 Reply

    Yes, I think that parents with Asbergers can be a perfect example of the “Well-Meaning” but emotionally neglectful parent. It’s not their fault, but the result is the same for the child. Thanks for your comment!

      Clover - October 13, 2015 Reply

      I recently had an Asperger’s assessment which came out positive – mostly the problems stem from impaired Theory of Mind, which makes me lag socially and explains why I feel so alone sometimes & suffer with anxiety and depression.
      Growing up, my closest friend had sociopathic traits and I think this caused me to behave out of fear of derision at any emotional state I might display. I had to survive by numbing out and had that disconnected feeling you speak of, which I now see wasn’t sustainable. I now try to accept the full sweep of intense emotions felt at times, and realise how lucky I am to find genuine caring people with who to share my life and history with, however much shame it can induce at times, and have learnt to trust that they will not react to me the way the sociopath did… it’s not an easy ride. Hugs to everyone here.

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