Why You May Have Unclaimed Charisma: Childhood Emotional Neglect

charisma edited

Charisma: Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others

What makes a person charismatic? Is it a form of narcissism? No. Do you have to be born with it? Most people would say that you either have it or you don’t, but it’s not true.

I believe the truth is something far more complicated. Charisma is a special collection of personal traits that many people have. One quality that true charisma requires is being in touch with your feelings.

I see many people who grew up with their emotions ignored (Childhood Emotional Neglect or CEN) have many of the right qualities. But CEN people have learned how to hide their feelings. More comfortable outside the limelight, they have learned to tamp down their own light and hide.

If you grew up with CEN, with your emotions ignored or discouraged, you may have a charisma that you have not yet claimed. This is very important since an essential part of charisma is that you have to own it

As you read the list below, think about yourself and which of these qualities you may already have, which you are hiding, and which you can nurture in yourself.

The 8 Basic Qualities of Charisma

  • Integrity and authenticity – This involves being the real you and feeling good about it. When you know yourself, it allows others to know you too. When you’re knowable and visible to others (clearly not hiding anything), people know they can count on you because of who you are. People feel connected to you almost automatically. They are attracted to you.
  • Understanding and responding to emotion – When it comes to interpersonal relationships, emotion is power. When you own your own feelings and work with them, you are immediately empowered. When you recognize what others are feeling and respond to them; by validating, understanding, caring, or challenging, you naturally draw in the people around you.
  • Positive energy – Your energy is infectious. It spreads to others and stimulates and energizes them.
  • Enthusiasm – Enthusiasm gives you and others more energy. It motivates and empowers people. People are naturally drawn to those who are enthusiastic.
  • Fallibility and accountability – Social science research has shown that a speaker or leader who makes a mistake, like tripping over a power cord, for example, is immediately more liked by the audience. Everyone likes their leaders to be fallible. Owning your mistakes and showing that you’re OK with your own humanness is lovable and connecting. Trying to look like you know everything, or never make mistakes, is not.
  • Smile – Smiles hold great power, but only when they’re real; and only when they fit the situation. If you’re always smiling, people won’t connect to you, and if you never smile, people won’t like you. So smile when you feel it, and your smiles will empower you.
  • Being present in the moment – Attention is power. People can feel it when they, or an experience they are sharing with you, have your undivided attention. It’s an unspoken message to them that they matter. Everyone is drawn to this message. People can also sense divided attention, and it makes them feel less important and less connected.
  • Confidence – You can have all of the qualities above, but they will remain hidden unless you own them and project them with confidence. This is the final essential quality of the truly charismatic.

4 Best Quotes About Charisma

  1. How can you have charisma? Be more concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are about making them feel good about you — Dan Reiland
  2. Charisma is the fancy name given to the knack of giving people your full attention. — Robert Brault
  3. The essential element in personal magnetism is a consuming sincerity–an overwhelming faith in the importance of the work that one has to do. — Bruce Barton
  4. Charisma is the transference of enthusiasm. — Ralph Archbold

The world is full of wonderful people who listen, care, and give. People who smile, own their mistakes and quietly inspire others. People with bright lights shining within them, but who lack the confidence to allow others to see it.

If some little voice within you is saying, “This might be me,” I ask you to listen to the voice and believe in yourself.

Claim your qualities and build them, trust yourself, and stop hiding your light.

Because the world needs more people like you. We need your light.

To learn how to understand and work with emotions, and get to know the real you, see the book, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

This post was initially published on psychcentral.com. It has been updated and reproduced here with the permission of Psych Central and the author.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Angela - August 24, 2020 Reply

Thank you so much for this! This puts into words what I have been feeling my whole life.

I think I’ve unconsciously selected a partner that continues the emotional neglect – and now I am concerned I have been repeating this behavior with my own kids at times. I bought your books and now I need to find time to do the work.

    Jonice - August 24, 2020 Reply

    Dear Angela, that is what we humans unconsciously do. I’m so glad you are realizing what’s happening and are on the path to taking action for your own sake and your kids. All my best wishes to you!!

Heather - July 16, 2020 Reply

Dr. Webb, thank you for putting a label on something I’ve dealt with my whole life! I can also relate to NN in that I too over-analyze but I always thought it was just about trying to figure myself out – I didn’t know that too is part of CEN! Oof. Your information is some of the most valuable I’ve come across! Thank you!!

    Jonice - July 17, 2020 Reply

    I’m so glad, Heather. Thank you for listening and using my work well.

Trisha J Thomas - July 7, 2020 Reply

Thank you for the useful and informative article. I always enjoy your articles! I am grateful to be on your mailing list.

Val - July 6, 2020 Reply

Thank you for this highly useful article. During this time of Covid-19, I’m learning so much about healthy habits, and this article helps me understand more about the everyday dynamics around me, rather than simply criticise others for being wan—s !
Yes I have a CEN background, and it’s often easier to criticise others, because it’s what I learned. I’m a work in progress tho’, and thanks to your work in this area, I’m changing my life for the better. It’s never too late at 73 !
best wishes to you

    Jonice - July 6, 2020 Reply

    Good for you, Val. You are right, it is never too late!

No name - July 5, 2020 Reply

Hi! An “odd” question, but is cen somehow related to that, that I have always had very much analytical mind? I can analyze and deep-think everything. Maybe that’s why I found you and all this information about cen too, because I have this need to understand “cause and effect” and everything profoundly! 🙂
Sometimes this tendency can be almost obsessive and feel that I cannot “just” relax. But also, I have a curious mind and interest to study everything in detail. As a trivial example, I can buy a lipstick and read with great interest its chemical composition in all its details 🙂 Or if a romantic relationship fails, I can spend months (if not years) reflecting my own behaviour about “what went wrong”.
Sometimes analytical mind is an advantage. Maybe that’s why it was for example relatively easy to graduate from the university, do research etc. where this ability to focus on details and think analytically is really needed!
But: sometimes even a friend (?) has said “you think too much”. And my mother can quite clearly express both verbally and non-verbally, that I’m “too much”, a burden for her (to listen), she basically blames-shames me that I am “this way”. I think I was just born this way, it’s not my fault 🙁
This is all very painful for me. Not only (as a child, and even now as an adult) my feelings were neglected, parents telling me what I “should/shouldn’t” feel, but also people are trying to tell me what/how/how much I am “allowed” to think!! I think that is almost violent, in essence these people are telling me that my true being-ness, is somehow not ok.
Ever since childhood I have felt that people do not like, accept, approve the real, true me, that I must hide it and be people-pleasing, that I must figure out how I “should be” for other people, instead of “just be”. It’s painful when I feel that people don’t really like me. When they criticize me, I feel shame about myself. I cannot understand why, because I’m decent, benevolent, friendly, sweet person, yep and also this tendency to analyze so much 🙂 Nobody is perfect, then why of all the people in the planet I feel that is required from just ME? 🙁
This is really heart-breaking question Jonice, but is there really something wrong with me, should I change or “fix” something in me? I spend most of my time alone or with pets, because I feel somehow I cannot be whole, authentic, genuine with other people (I’m a woman by the way). And I would really, really love to connect genuinely with other people!!

    Jonice - July 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear NN, when we are disconnected from our emotions, we can become over-reliant on our thoughts. Therapists call it “intellectualizing.” CEN people are very prone to it, and it can make other people feel shut out or unable to connect to you the way they would like. I encourage you to start taking the steps of CEN recovery. Consider the possibility that beginning to value your feelings more could make a significant difference for you.

Leave a Comment: