On the outside looking in...

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Have you ever experienced the feeling of being on the outside looking in?  It could have been at a party, a work meeting, when you were at school or even with your friends or family.  It feels as if you could just about be invisible, that somehow you are separate or different to everyone else.  You may have experienced it on the odd occasion, or it may be something that you feel on a regular basis.

If you say yes, then please know you are not alone.  I have had this feeling all my life but could never clearly articulate it or why I had felt that way for all these years until recently.  People probably look at me and would never guess.  I can make conversation with people I haven’t met.  I am not shy to speak up and address an audience.  I even get on video and feel totally comfortable but somehow, I have always felt different.  Then I stumbled across a concept recently which was like a lightbulb going off inside me - that it isn’t so much about the things that you experienced or that happened to you during childhood, but rather the things that you didn’t experience or receive that that you really, really needed at a formative time in your life.

The time that you were hurt or bullied at school but when you tried to share it with a parent or carer it was brushed aside or you were just told to ignore it or toughen up.   The time you needed guidance with a problem but they were too busy or not interested in what you had to share because their focus was on themselves.  It could have been as simple as wanting a hug or a kind word when you really needed it but showing affection was not something that your family did.

Emotional neglect is not abuse. It is an empty space, not a space filled with hurt, so it's therefore difficult to pinpoint what it is in our past that leaves us feeling lost and empty.  It's the unacknowledged parts of ourselves and our childhood that create the biggest holes within us.  It’s looking back at your past and thinking it wasn’t so horrible or traumatic but yet you still feel different.  It’s looking at other people and feeling separate somehow, not able to connect as easily.  Yes, it’s all about connection. 

So, we carry around this emptiness – this feeling that there is a hole inside us that can never be filled, because we may never have been taught how to feel the feelings that we needed to experience that make us who we are.  This can lead to depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and difficulties in personal relationships.  Don’t get me wrong, this is also not about shaming and blaming our parents and our upbringing.  People live what they learn and they also can’t give what they don’t have.  It’s about recognising why we feel like we do.  If we don’t we tend to carry on the pattern and hand it down to our children and the cycle continues.

I have found this absolutely life-changing as it helps me make sense of how I have felt and lived in the world.  Now I can recognize the things that may have been missing for me and start to give them to myself; start to identify and name what it is that I am feeling and allow myself to feel those feelings … and most of all to be kind to myself along the journey.