These parents cannot delight in their children because they are so preoccupied with their own unmet needs. Children are their responsibility and their role, but not their heart’s desire. These parents typically react to their children with cynicism and indifference, or criticism and control, rather than joy and camaraderie. It is a losing battle to feel emotionally close to such a parent.
What you learn from your parents can affect your most intimate adult relationships. Deep down, you may feel unimportant to others because in childhood you didn’t feel like you had much to offer – at least not enough to fully engage your parents. Tragically, this may have caused you to gravitate toward adult relationships where emotional security was tenuous at best. This wouldn’t seem strange to you because the lack of commitment to you would feel normal. You might have concluded that relationships offer crumbs not banquets.
Are you terrified that you will be found boring if you’re just being yourself? If so, you will hustle for acceptance, trying hard to make yourself more valuable, admirable, and lovable in other people’s eyes. You may believe you will be overlooked unless you convincingly market yourself as something exceptional. How exhausting!
Do you feel you have to promote a certain image to make others believe you are worthwhile enough to matter to them? Yet when someone shows real interest in you, do you panic that closeness will reveal you as an imposter lacking in substance and real worth?
Just being a living, vibrant child should have been enough to make a healthy parent love and enjoy you. But immature parents are too fixated on their own issues to appreciate the individuality of their unique child. You had plenty within you to be loved, but your emotionally limited parent might have been blind to the inner richness of you.
Emotionally immature parents cannot delight in their child because they are not attuned to their own inner life. They have never found their own real individuality and so cannot perceive it in their child. Their inner life is scary and repressed, so there is no emotional center from which they can resonate with their child.
Fortunately, you can reverse these feelings of unlovability if you become conscious of them and where they came from. You can always start anew to become interested in and committed to yourself, and what you want to accomplish.
The first step is one of radical trust. As a human being, you came into this world brimming with what it takes to be loved. Just by the miracle of being alive, you are completely capable of eliciting other people’s interest and concern – as long as they have the maturity to value someone outside of themselves. At first you can accept your lovability as a matter of faith, but later you can consciously trust that of course you have enough in you to be loved and celebrated, even if you don’t feel that way at times. Once you connect to this truth about yourself, you will be attracted to emotionally mature people who see that in you too.