Childhood Emotional Neglect May Be Skewing Your Self-Perception: Here's How

  • Have you ever wondered why your self-perception seems to be amiss? Why you’re unsure about your interests, your talents, or your likes and dislikes?
  • Have you ever felt lost about your direction in life? Like a loser because the career path you chose didn’t work out? Or like a misfit, because you’re unable to hold a steady job, changing work again and again?
  • Have you ever lamented your apparent lack of resolve? Or your tendency to give up when a challenge presents itself?
  • Have you noticed you downplay or can’t identify your strengths, yet over-emphasize your weaknesses?

Stop for a moment and consider what the answers could reveal.

Self-Perception Becomes Skewed by Childhood Emotional Neglect

If you could see yourself reflected in the hypothetical questions above, you may be struggling with two specific effects of childhood emotional neglect – unrealistic self-appraisal and low self-esteem.

Self-appraisal is the ability to identify one’s own preferences, strengths and weaknesses, and personality traits. It lays the foundation for your self-esteem as well as confidence in your own worth and abilities.

In your case, both have become skewed. But how?

How Your Self-Perception Develops

The concept you hold of yourself determines your choices in life. It helps you to choose what to strive for, what skills to work on, what schooling to seek, what career to pick, and even what intimate relationships to pursue.

Your appraisal or perception of yourself develops from the feedback you receive from your environment – your social interactions. That feedback gives you information about your skills, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and shortcomings. While many people throughout your life will have input, your parents provide you the most important feedback with the strongest impact.

How Your Self-Perception Becomes Skewed

Emotional neglect often robs you of this valuable feedback. When your parents did not attend to your feelings – ignoring or invalidating your emotional needs – you missed out on pertinent information. With that lack of feedback, you were, in turn, unable to understand yourself and develop a sense of who you are. Your identity.

Not only did the effects of childhood emotional neglect begin to show back then, they continued to impact your life going forward. Your difficulties pinpointing your wants and needs and making decisions about your life are a manifestation of these effects. It’s like you’re expected to make important choices for a person you don’t know. You.

How Your Self-Perception Impacts Your Self-Esteem

Since your appraisal of yourself is at the base of your self-esteem, a negative or unrealistic self-perception negatively affects your self-esteem. Subsequently, it erodes your confidence, happiness, and well-being.

For example:

  • If your parents didn’t listen when you talked, you may appraise yourself as boring and uninteresting. Apparently, you had nothing of interest to say.
  • If your parents didn’t seem to spend a lot of time around you, you may conclude that you’re not as fun as other people. And perhaps, others may not like you once they get to know you.
  • If your parents belittled you or shamed you, you may perceive yourself as unlovable, worthless, or incapable of success.
  • If your parents didn’t treat you as attractive, you may have developed a distorted view of your body, thinking that no one will want to have an intimate relationship with you.

Over time, this skewed self-perception may have become a big part of your personality. It isn’t always negative, but it’s usually highly inaccurate. And, ultimately, it leads you to derail yourself, impacting your career, your relationships, your whole life.

The good news? All of these distorted thoughts and beliefs are not fact. They’re fiction. They’re relics from long ago. And they are changeable. They don’t have to shape your perception of yourself anymore!