How to overcome the false self created by emotional neglect

false self
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you grew up with emotional neglect, chances are you’ve created a false self to survive or try to win your parents’ love and affection.

Dysfunctional families rely on roles its members play that have nothing to do with who they really are. If your thoughts and feelings got you punished or dismissed, you learned to silence them.

Dysfunctional families rely on roles its members play that have nothing to do with who they really are. Click To Tweet

That created a false self or mask you wear to avoid causing friction in a family that couldn’t tolerate true connection. Emotional neglect comes from parents who fear intimacy and will do almost anything to avoid it.

Here are 3 ways emotionally neglectful families force you to create a false self to fit in:

1. They discourage individuality

The glue that holds these families together is inauthenticity. If you show up as your true self, your parents see that as a threat to their need to avoid intimacy. They put the family unit ahead of the individual’s need for understanding.

Your parents viewed your authentic emotions as dangerous to the family unit. So they dismissed or punished you for having them. You learned to quash your emotions and tow the party (family) line, abandoning yourself in the process.

2. Parents’ needs take priority

In these families, the needs of the parents take priority over those of the children. The child grows up learning to put other people first, to not ask for help, and to minimize their own needs.

Rather than helping you develop your true strengths, your parents require you to conform to their own way of doing things. They may have ridiculed, instead of celebrating, your unique gifts and talents.

Your family undervalued your thoughts and feelings and refused to see you as an individual or treat you as a whole personal at all.

You are expected to play a role in the family that has nothing to do with who you are inside. All to help your parents avoid the intimacy and connection they fear.

false self

3. They alter your internal voice

What you think is your inner voice is actually your parents’ or caretakers’ voices that you’ve internalized and made your own. So, if you had loving, encouraging parents, your inner voice would reflect a positive attitude toward yourself.

What you think is your inner voice is actually your parents' or caretakers' voices that you've internalized and made your own. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately for many of us, an internal critic has taken over where our parents left off. As a result, even though we may have grown and moved far from our parents, they still control us.

The key to reclaiming our true voice of self-compassion lies in changing the way we treat ourselves. Adopting self care and self-advocacy (including self-discipline) as a way of life will change the way we view ourselves.

Gradually, our inner critic will soften and we’ll speak to ourselves with the loving voice of the parents we deserved.

Before I began my healing journey, I could not remember one time in my life when my inner voice spoke nicely to me. The first time that voice said something encouraging it stopped me in my tracks. Who was that?

The change came as a natural response to the new ways I’d begun to treat myself. My healthy self care regimen had altered my view of myself.

Now when my inner voice says, “you’re so stupid” (which still happens from time to time), I counter with a corrective, “no, you made a mistake.” Because now I believe it’s true.

Reference: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

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