How To Become Your Best Self Despite Childhood Emotional Neglect

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If you look around, and if you pay attention you will see something very interesting and surprising: The world is filled with people who have not yet discovered their best selves.

Many are wonderful people who care about others and are trying to do good things in the world. Many are looking for a relationship or are in one, are raising children, and working at their jobs and doing everything they are supposed to do.

So how can you tell if someone has not yet discovered his or her best self? And more importantly, how do you know if you have not yet discovered your best self?

Believe it or not, to answer those questions, first we must talk about emotion. Why? Because what you feel is who you are.

What It Means To Live As Your Best Self

First, some important facts about you:

  • Your emotions are literally wired into you at birth.
  • Your emotions are the most deeply personal, biological expression of who you are. In this way, they are communications from your deepest self.
  • What you genuinely feel is who you genuinely are.
  • What you do with your feelings determines who you choose to become.

Living as your best self requires you to be open to, and accepting of, your own feelings. Attending to what you are feeling is a way to attend to your true self. When you live this way, paying attention to your feelings and caring what they are, is living close to your heart. You are valuing and owning who you are, and this is a very important part of being your best self.

What Gets In The Way?

If your parents paid little attention to your emotions as they raised you (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN), then they did not teach you some vital things that you very much need to know. They failed to teach you what your emotions are and what they mean, or what you should do with them.

It’s much easier for us to accept our positive emotions as reflections of our deepest selves. When you feel love, joy, pride, happiness, warmth or connection, these emotions are much more comfortable to own and be. Yet these feelings are no more important than the emotions that make you uncomfortable.

It is at this step of accepting the feelings we do not like that many of us fail ourselves.

When you feel angry, sad, jealous, irritated, frustrated, envious, enraged, lost, confused, weak or judgmental, for example, these feelings we must also own as reflections of our deepest self. Every single person has felt each of these feelings many times during their lives. It is a part of being human.

We do not have the ability to choose what we feel. Who would choose to be jealous or confused? Who would want to feel weak or sad or angry? No one!

Instead, our feelings, including the uncomfortable ones, arise on their own from a well deep inside us. When you can accept and own these feelings in yourself, you have an opportunity to process and manage them and make decisions based upon them (or in spite of them). This is how your emotions can guide you and drive you.

If you refuse to believe or accept that you feel angry, sad, jealous, enraged or judgmental, for example, you are rejecting who you are. Unfortunately, those emotions are actually empowered by your rejection of them. They go underground and may seem to disappear, but they continue to seep around the edges of your life, influencing your decisions and choices without your knowledge. When this happens, you have taken steps away from your true self. The longer you continue to reject your feelings, the farther away you get from your true and best self.

What To Do

So how do you become the best version of yourself? Make an effort to notice what you are feeling, when and why. Accept all of your emotions, both positives and negatives. Never judge yourself for a having any feeling, no matter how much you dislike it. Listen to their messages, but know that what you do with them is your responsibility and yours alone.

So manage and use your feelings, and this will make you noticeably sincere, honest, and genuine. The people around you will notice, and they will respond with more trust in you. They will sense that you are living with integrity, and according to your true inner self.

As you pay attention, accept, own and trust yourself, you will be walking the path toward who you can be.

Because what you feel is who you are. And what you choose to do with your feelings is who you choose to become.

Who do you want to be?

Growing up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) takes you away from your true self. Since it can be difficult to see or remember, it may be hard to know if you have it. To find out Take The CEN Test. It’s free.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty No More. 


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Judy64 - March 13, 2018 Reply

Blah. I examine my emotions all the time because I want to be a better person. What I’m finding is I stink as a human being. Yesterday someone was complaining about having to help her adult son move to another state. I told her I never helped my adult children after they reached a certain age. Then I said I’m not saying this to judge you. I told her that’s on me because my daughter wound up killing herself. Maybe I should have been more involved. She went on to say how her son had helped her though her mother and her sister’s sickness and death giving anecdotes on some of the things he did which were very kind. She even showed me a picture of him. She wound up saying that both her sons turned out

    Judy64 - March 13, 2018 Reply

    great. She went away feeling really good. I went home feeling like a heel wishing I had kept my big mouth shut. Ah me.

      Nancy - March 22, 2018 Reply

      Hi Judy64. I feel compelled to comment because I have had those moments of thinking that maybe I just suck at being human. I think we do ourselves and others a disservice when we compare or measure our lives against someone else’s life because, while there can be similarities in our experiences, our life experiences are different. We had different parents, different opportunities etc and that changes everything. Most people do the best they can with the information they have in any given moment. So I’m guessing you did the best you could raising your family. And even if that wasn’t “good enough” in your view, then you still have a decision to make on how you want to go forward I.e. help other parents learn from your experience. The bottom line is not to negate yourself but to redeem yourself. The fact that you engaged in a conversation long enough to listen to another human beings story tells me you are a caring person. Keep on keeping on.

        Judy64 - March 24, 2018 Reply

        Thank you Nancy. You are very sweet to encourage me like that. I was having a bad day when I wrote that. I still think I should have never put in my two cents during that encounter though. I’m going to watch that from now on. Or maybe try a different approach next time. Thanks for your advice.

G - March 7, 2018 Reply

Too many of us including parents were taught by the culture to suppress their emotions and were made to believe that having certain emotions like laughing and crying were bad.

    Jonice Webb PhD - March 8, 2018 Reply

    Dear G, you are so right. And it is doing untold damage to millions of human beings every single day. Thank you for your comment.

Zig zag wanderer - March 5, 2018 Reply

Being told I have a vague personality disorder now by NHS psychiatrist in UK as antidepressants never helped…
My abusers were sociopaths (family was prison time) so this labelling almost killed me. I have no choice now but to totally disengage from all mental health and hope that she doesn’t label me this as I am on chemotherapy for a chronic autoimmune disease and I require basic medical care without such an unhelpful label for doctors to refer to.
This all particularly hurts as I have experienced a bleak isolated inner emotional life, but have always being happy that at least I have done no one any harm in my own life.
Please tell me I have options here. Not in the “system” you understand… I just want to be “the best person i can be!”

    Jonice Webb PhD - March 5, 2018 Reply

    Dear Zig zag. The key to being the best person you can be is to be more true to yourself. So I suggest you work hard to tune into yourself. It’s key to connect with yourself first, as that will enable you to connect with others. Begin to pay attention to your own feelings. Read back through my blog posts, if you haven’t already, or read Running on Empty and use it as your guide.

Chris - March 4, 2018 Reply

Can you give me an example. Im not quite following what you are saying so an example will be most helpful. Say an example of jealousy then go through the full process of what must we ask ourselves.

    Jonice Webb PhD - March 5, 2018 Reply

    Hi Chris, it’s hard to write that much in the comments but here’s a small brief example: If you feel jealousy, be aware of the feeling. Accept that you feel it, and resolve to manage it. Turning your attention inside, thinking through why you feel jealous, whether it is a helpful feeling or not, and whether this feeling is telling you something you want to act upon. Then make decisions about whether to do something differently or not.

Michelle - March 4, 2018 Reply

What do you do if you’re unable to feel anything at all?? It’s like being completely dead inside and makes life seem totally not worth living. I have essentially no one and I’m really at a loss.

    Jonice Webb PhD - March 4, 2018 Reply

    Dear Michelle, I cannot tell you how many people I have heard this exact description from. I assure you, your feelings are there. In My first book, Running on Empty there is a special exercise I designed to reach them. If that does not work, I encourage you to look into finding a trained and qualified therapist to help guide you.

      MichelleLD - March 4, 2018 Reply

      Thanks, Dr. Webb, where is that in the book, please? I’ve not finished reading it and don’t remember seeing that. Something really needs to help. I’ve checked myself into the hospital twice the last few months and have been trying to find a local counselor that can and will help but finances continue to be a big stumbling block.

      Thank you again.

        Jonice Webb PhD - March 4, 2018 Reply

        It’s the Identifying & Naming Exercise. You have to keep doing it, even if you come up with nothing. With persistence, it works.

          MichelleLD - March 4, 2018 Reply

          Thanks. I’ll try as you’ve suggested.

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