update: how can I fix my procrastination problem?

Remember the letter-writer a couple of years ago wondering how to fix her procrastination problem? Here’s the update.

(Warning: this mentions suicide.)

It’s been several years and a pandemic since I wrote to you about my procrastination issues at work. Your answer and all the comments my letter received showed me that I was far from alone in that situation, and they helped me see that it was something that could be worked on instead of some horrible fatal flaw I had as a human being. I wish I could now say that procrastination is no longer an issue for me (alas, it still is, and as you can imagine having to work from home for close to a year did not do me any favors in that department), but what I can say is that I now understand the problem much better. I thought I would share some of what I learned on that journey for all the people out there who related to my letter.

In your original answer, the sentence that most stood out to me was this: “Being constantly terrified of getting fired and yet choosing to operate in a way that could get you fired is an interesting contradiction, and I suspect it’s not a coincidence.” When I read it, I immediately recognized it was true, and yet I couldn’t see what exactly could be the root of that behavior. Ironically, the thing that came and pushed me in the right direction turned out to have been bundled up with what triggered my procrastination problem in the first place: my brother’s accident (which I mentioned in my first letter).

In late 2019, my brother came to visit me. We watched old movies from our childhood, got a little drunk, and he told me that when the accident happened, he had intentionally gone to an unsafe road because he wanted to die. He hadn’t exactly crashed his car on purpose, but he described it as “getting what he was fishing for.” He survived, even though he was injured rather seriously. He now has some chronic pain and limited mobility, although it’s improving (he was still extremely lucky). I was shocked because although I had always had a kind of nagging sense that my brother wasn’t super happy with his life, I had no idea it was that bad. He had hidden how serious it was from pretty much everyone. I knew he’d started therapy afterwards, but I thought it was for the trauma of the accident itself. Turns out, it was for that and much, much more. He told me that he was doing so much better now, even factoring in the lingering effects of his injuries, but that even since puberty he’d been struggling with depression and feelings of worthlessness. He also said that with his therapist, he’d identified the main source of his issues as emotional neglect during childhood. Since we’d both been raised by loving but largely absent workaholics, he wanted to tell me in case I had been going through something similar.

Naturally, that was right on the money. Since I was maybe 15, I’ve had frequent depressive episodes complete with suicidal ideation, insomnia, and all the bells and whistles. During my worst years, I’ve spent maybe 6 months out of 12 being intensely depressed. And just like him, I hid it from everybody — I thought I was lesser than others and therefore did not deserve help or sympathy. I didn’t mention it in my original letter because at the time, I wasn’t seeing this pattern as a very concerning symptom — I thought it was a character flaw, basically, and that I just needed to stop being so dramatic. Realizing that my brother had been going through something similar impressed onto me that this was a real issue and I needed to stop minimizing it. We made a promise to check in and support each other, cried a bunch, and a couple months later, I decided to go to therapy.

It turned out to be very good timing, because a month or two after I found my therapist, the lockdown started. My therapist’s support during the pandemic was invaluable. Aside from supporting me in my feelings of anxiety around Covid-19, she also helped me uncover many things about myself — namely how the emotional neglect I experienced as a kid had shaped my behavior. Procrastination, as it turns out, was related to that, as were the depressive episodes. I also mentioned in a comment on the original letter that I’d been diagnosed with a chronic illness not long before, and that I had been working on managing the symptoms — and it turns out, the illness itself was largely caused by the constant stress and insomnia I was experiencing. All those things fed into each other.

So, what did I learn that’s worth sharing? Well, mostly that the way our parents treat us as children becomes a blueprint for how we treat ourselves, even when we might consciously decide to treat others differently. My parents love my brother and I a lot, but when we were growing up, they ignored us most of the time. This taught me that I wasn’t important and that I was worth less than the other kids, who had parents who paid attention to them even when they didn’t do anything to earn it. I learned that my needs were not important and that to be good, I had to be quiet and wait until it was convenient for others to pay attention to me.

That’s a valid adaptation for a helpless kid stuck in a sub-optimal situation. As an adult, it’s a recipe for depression, isolation, and unfulfillment. In hindsight, I think the biggest mistake I made with my terrible sales job was to take it at all! When I did, I wasn’t particularly strapped for cash and I knew the kind of work I wanted to do. I just didn’t believe I could really do it or that I deserved it, so I when I got that sales job offer, I took it, thinking I should be thankful to at least have a steady payheck. It ended up being a traumatizing experience, I developed bad habits, and the opportunity cost was high: for most of the time I spent there, I was too apathetic to look for design jobs, and it fueled my belief that I was not good enough to work in my chosen field.

The way I’ve come to understand procrastination for me is as a form of self-neglect reproducing the neglect experienced in childhood. If you think you’re not important, then your desires, ambitions, and reputation are also not important. They’re not worth the discomfort of effort. The lure of instant gratification will win every time because there’s a core element of motivation that’s missing, even if rationally you know your career and your ability to pay the bills are important. The problem is that you’re not emotionally invested in your own life because you don’t believe in your own worth. That makes it hard to truly care about anything you’re doing.

On top of that, adults who were emotionally neglected as children usually ignore their own emotions just like their parents did, and have trouble processing them. Procrastination is rooted in not wanting to confront a negative emotion (fear, performance anxiety, etc.), often because you don’t know how to deal with it. Emotionally neglected children also typically never learn discipline from their parents (who are too disengaged to enact consequences or reinforce good behavior), so they have a hard time with self-discipline as adults. It really does make sense when you think about it — self-discipline is a skill that needs to be developed, and it’s naturally a lot stronger if you’ve been training it since you were a child.

So, the work I’m doing in therapy right now is mostly building a sense of self-worth and learning to identify and process my emotions in a healthy way. It’s been a difficult road, but I feel like I’m improving. The effects on my procrastination behaviors are still mild for now, but I started having days where somehow I just… put away social media and do things without having to fight myself too much. I go “oh, I’ll feel better once this is done” and since I care more about how I feel, it turns into motivation and motivation turns into action. When that happens, it feels like magic. In general, working on not avoiding my feelings seems to be very important to the process. After all, if I’m procrastinating because I’m anxious about failure and inadequacy, then what I’m ultimately trying to do is not feel those things. If I can get in there and actually feel them without going to pieces, then I might be able to do what I need to do without first riding the procrasti-go-round for half an hour.

I know this will not apply to all procrastinators out there, but if there’s even one or two people who recognize themselves in what I’m saying, it will have been worthwhile. To anyone who read this and went “wow, are you talking about me?” I recommend looking up the concept of Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). It might provide a framework to help you understand your struggles better.

I know psychological help is hard to come by, but if you’re in a position where you can access it, do know that whoever you are, you’re worth it. I know I am, even if it took me until now to realize it. I feel like I’m in a much better place than I was when I wrote my letter and I hope things keep improving.

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. Watry*

    Oh, I’m so glad you’re doing better, OP! I went through a similar situation minus the neglect, so I know how demoralizing it is.

    1. Obiterdicta1980*

      Emotional neglect is a the root cause of most of my issues. The comment on discipline is interesting. Lack of discipline from parents causes many issues but so too arbitrary discipline. If a tiny infraction gets the same punishment as a major one or one child is expected to do more or better than another it’s also detrimental to both children. I was punished for the tiniest thing, my brother was a boy so expected to be naughty and given leniency. Didn’t serve either of us well

    1. I'mJustHereForThePaycheck*

      Same. I really needed this today. Thank you, OP. I’m glad you’ve learned so much and made so much progress.

    2. Anonymous For This*

      I am so happy OP is in a better place and is healthier now. She described my childhood and adulthood, I’m still scared and scarred from it. But I have hope.

      Thank you for the update, OP!

    3. AnonToday*

      Me too. This is so very helpful in reframing my struggle with procrastination. I thank you for sharing and for your transparency. You are writing my story – but my brother did not make it. Puzzle pieces are coming together here for me. I am grateful for this insight.

    4. Periwinkle*

      What a great update! I’m glad you got the help you needed. Bonding with your brother is also a bonus. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but look at all the good emotional work you’re doing now! I recognize some of the same impulses in me being raised by an emotionally neglectful parent. I procrastinate, get some stuff done at the last minute or not at all. I indulge myself a lot, so discipline is something to work on Thankfully I have a job I love (pet sitter) and work when I want to work. I’m now working with a marketer to attract more clients after launching a website & making a flyer. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far and looking forward to what’s next.

  2. ecnaseener*

    Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m glad you’re on a better path! Best wishes to you and your brother.

  3. Cendol*

    This update brought tears to my eyes. I’m also quite the procrastinator, and “If you think you’re not important, then your desires, ambitions, and reputation are also not important” really resonated. OP, thank you for sharing your wisdom, and I wish you and your brother all the best!

      1. Why isn't it Friday?*

        Me too. I’m going to need to come back and read it a few times. This was really helpful, OP. Good for you for doing the hard work in therapy to understand and take care of yourself. <3

          1. BubbleTea*

            You could also print to PDF or save the webpage as a HTML file on your computer, which achieves the same thing in one file instead of several images :)

      2. Cercis*

        Yep, this will be part of my conversation with my therapist next week. It hit hard enough I immediately copied and pasted the entire paragraph.

        (Also some guilt because I suspect I was similar with my own kids, because I just didn’t know how else to be.)

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! OP, there is a lot of wisdom in this update. It sounds like you’ve done some amazing work with your therapist. Thank you for sharing this! Wishing you all the best!

    2. Wolfie*

      I felt the same way about this line. A few others too! I’m going to bookmark this.
      Thanks, OP, for writing and sharing all this. I’m glad you’re doing better.

  4. Elaine Benes*

    Wowwwww. Just, thank you for this, letter writer. Definitely making some big things click for me and really well explained.

    1. code red*

      Agreed. Every time I read something like this I freak out about all the ways I could be damaging my kids and start to re-evaluate. I mean I know that’s good but so stressful.

      1. Lunch Ghost*

        Yeah, I don’t have kids and reading things like this makes me think I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I can get everything right and what if I ruined their lives? (Which, um, is fear of failure and inadequacy, isn’t it? But how am I supposed to tell fear from an accurate self-assessment when the stakes are so high?)

        1. Le Sigh*

          Disclosure that I don’t have kids either, but a few thoughts come to mind:
          -There is no possible way to get it all right. Period. You will make mistakes big and small, just like any part of life. But being self-aware (especially of your own faults and tendencies), being open to hearing from your kids and consider their opinions, and being willing to own those mistakes goes a long, long way in life, in raising kids, and modeling behavior for those kids.
          -What we know about raising kids evolves constantly. And, awareness of mental health and emotional needs has really grown in the last 40 years. This doesn’t excuse OP’s parents, to be clear, but I wonder if this kind of stuff was even on their radar (it certainly wasn’t for a lot of parents at that time, and I have friends who have had to navigate other challenges as adults because of it).
          -Kids are individuals! There are no question some styles of parenting that are just…bad or no good. But there’s a lot of nuance, too — and what works for one kid might not work or even harm another kid. Or how it impacts them and how they respond is different based on their personalities. That’s where paying attention to your kids as individuals — and really listening and being willing to adjust — helps.
          – If you have the resources, parenting classes (or books) and/or working with a therapist can really help, especially if you’re not sure of your own skills. I have a few friends that saw a therapist to work through some of their own traumas to break the cycle and took parenting classes to ensure they really understood how kids work at each age and how to model the behaviors they didn’t get as kids.

          I’m sure others can offer other thoughts but those feel like some big ones to me.

            1. Patty Mayonnaise*

              Yes! I bring up this concept all the time in my parenting circles. Such a helpful thing to remember, and backed by science!

        2. Sad Gifted Kid*

          You won’t get everything right, but their lives won’t be ruined. I was emotionally neglected as a child. Adult life has been a struggle, but my life isn’t ruined. It’s fine, honestly. I am in a healthy relationship. I own a house. I have no debt other than my mortgage. I have a job that doesn’t pay as much as I would like, but covers the therapy bills.

          If you do have kids, just do your best. And maybe save up to cover their therapy bills for the first couple of years that they’re on their own.

        3. Properlike*

          Well, there’s this couple in my neighborhood who don’t work outside the home, and their kids are nightmares (apples…trees) because the parents don’t want to discipline or enforce boundaries.

          My spouse and I have uncovered some trauma-level neglect with recent therapy. Sometimes we fall back into old scripts. But we have been very intentional about how we’ve raised our kids, understanding that we can’t possibly “get it right” (that way lies madness — I know because I tried it for the first three years), and doing your best to set up and enforce loving limits and expectations for how you all treat each other and what your family values are. Also big: an understanding of child development. That way, when your teenager is being A Teenager, you know it’s because their frontal lobe simply isn’t developed, and sneaking behind your back is a thing most kids do because they have to test their limits. Consquences apply, but you don’t take it personally. You’re shaping self-sufficient and independent adults who will not be you.

          A lot of people with screwed up childhoods are *amazing* parents!

          1. Squirrel Nutkin*

            YOU sound like an amazing parent, and I agree — thoughtful intentional parenting can make all the difference in breaking a toxic cycle, even if one’s own parents weren’t the greatest.

            My folks were both raised by extremely critical and controlling parents, but they broke the cycle. They waited a long while to have me, so they were at an age where they had a lot of patience, and like you, they decided to make a conscious effort to raise me differently. While they were still a bit neglectful (it was the ’70s, though, so that was kind of the norm), they always let me know how much joy I had brought into their lives and made me feel special to them.

            I remember reading a study somewhere that said that when they interviewed older people about what they appreciated that their parents had done for them, what they appreciated wasn’t money or fancy toys or piano lessons or taking them to the museum — the thing that was most important was just that their parents were kind to them. It sounds like your kids are going to remember your kindness and understanding very fondly.

        4. BubbleTea*

          As long as you’re getting it right about 40% of the time, a child who hasn’t experienced trauma will be fine. If you’re parenting a traumatised child, for instance as a foster carer, you need to be getting it right a bit more frequently, which is why it’s so important that foster carers get decent quality training and ongoing support. But no one needs 100% perfect parenting at all times.

          I have been having therapy since I was 18, specifically because I recognised my need to sort out some issues before having kids. Now that I am a parent, I feel the benefits of that work every day (and I am STILL in therapy because there’s more work to be done). It’s also had the unexpected bonus of helping me heal my relationship with my own mum.

      2. Why isn't it Friday?*

        A friend in college had a really great relationship with her parents (and they were really good parents). Her mom said all the time “Every parent fails their child in some way.” I think that’s such a freeing concept. We’re just human, we’re not perfect, and we will mess up in some way eventually. But I think what’s important is for the kid to know they’re loved, always have good intentions, spend time with your kid, and apologize and course-correct if needed. That’s my plan, at least until I actually have a kid and they blow my plan out of the water. =)

        1. Botanist*

          Just want to emphasize the need for parental apology. It’s actually a very trust building thing if you mean it sincerely and it does make up for a lot of the times that we do fail our children.

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            Failure without apology is neglect. Failure with justification is abuse.

            “Well it’s not my fault! You’re the one who’s being dramatic!” This taught me that my own needs weren’t valid and I was broken and wrong about what I was seeing. An actual apology with an admittance of wrongdoing didn’t happen in 49 years. It’s been nine years since I interacted with my parents. I wonder why….

          2. Dawbs*

            I literally just had a conversation with my kid that praised her hard work,told her that the things she was driving me nuts on today are things that prove shes my kid (honestly our weak ponts overlap) and that its nit fair for me to be extra snarly over them because of that, so, I’m sorry.

            That’s not me coming to show off stellar parenting, that’s me coming to show how fucking FREEING it is to be able to acknowledge my parentsl failings-it makes her more tolerant of them,it lets her see how apology should work, and it lets her know its not her fault when i fuck up
            (its easy,as a parent to fall into “look what you made me do!” bs, but, “wow. You did X& that made me mad. So we’ll talk about that in a few. But in response I did Y and I’m a grown up who knows better. Which isn’t ok. So I’m sorry” works better long term)

            (And plans change. I got an AMAZING kid but if you had told us we were signing up for a brilliant kid with ASD who would keep me dancing on my toes, my parenting plans would have been different. But “treat like a human being with needs and desires to be honored” hasn’t served me wrong yet.
            In fact, once i had a (late) diagnosis, i was so relieved that i hadn’t stuck to my guns on some things. )

      3. Anony*

        Yes, this is me… especially as a mother who works outside the home in a demanding career, the fear of damaging your children for life is always looming (and someone is usually there to remind you of it). It’s good to hear these stories and I’m glad the OP is doing the hard work. I try to be present as much as possible in the time I’m with my kid but it’s also terrifying.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Solidarity. Apparently, I’m damaging my sons to not respect women because I’ve (semi-voluntarily) taken a few years out of my career to be a stay at home parent. Whatever choice we make (and it is always assumed to be a totally free choice) we have chosen the wrong thing.

          1. Why isn't it Friday?*

            The degree to which we criticize mothers for their choices is completely unacceptable. It’s so often a no-win situation – you’re going to be criticized by society no matter what you do. You’re doing a great job. Don’t listen to anyone else. Except me. =)

          2. Batgirl*

            Or perhaps you’re teaching him to respect stay at home parents. There’s still way too much snark about the role just because it’s “the girls job”. It’s 2021 for crying out loud.

          3. Betteauroan*

            That is not true. Where do people get these ideas? The best possible choice you could make for your children is to be home with them at least until they are in kindergarten. Why pay a huge portion of your income for other people to raise your children when you can stay home with them? If you can make it work, financially, this is the best choice and you will never get those years back. They grow up so fast. You won’t regret it.

    2. Ellie*

      Me too… I don’t think I could have been loved any more by my mother growing up, but she was a single parent, with limited support, and I spent an awful lot of time on my own. This has made me really think about the time I’m spending with my own children.

      Thank you OP for sharing such a powerful letter.

  5. CarCarJabar*

    Whoa. Good for you, LW, for putting in all of that emotional work and thank you for sharing. May your path continue to be bright, even when it’s bumpy.

  6. Samantha F*

    “Raised by loving but largely absent workaholics”. I am now panicking because my husband and I are very busy with highly demanding professional jobs but thought that the love we shower on the children at other times is what’s important. I also thought that it’s better to let children develop self-discipline by not interfering too much, and letting them face consequences at school if, for example, they don’t complete their homework. I thought by seeing how their parents work hard and get things done at work and home, they will be set up for their own ambitious but fulfilling careers in the future. Have we been doing this wrong? What counts as “neglect” in your eyes?

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Depends on what you mean by interfering. If you mean solving all your kids’ problems for them so that they never learn their actions have consequences, then no you shouldn’t be interfering. If you mean basically ignoring them and letting them figure out school for themselves instead of actually parenting and teaching them skills, rewarding them when they do well, and reinforcing consequences when they don’t, then you should start paying more attention to your children. Parenting is an active practice, not a passive one where kids should just copy the parents’ values with no instruction or guidance along the way. What if they don’t want to be in high demanding jobs? What if they don’t want to be workaholics? Have you told them that’s okay? Do you know what they want out of life and what *their* values are?

      No one can really tell you whether you are parenting well because we don’t know you or your children and it’s impossible to judge you from a couple of lines on a comment thread. But there is definitely a lot to think about and if you are concerned that your children may need additional support and guidance that you can’t provide, you can always start family therapy, find mentoring programs and/or get the kids involved in scouts or other productive activities with built-in mentors, or if they are young, consider hiring a nanny.

      1. Le Sigh*

        +1. I get that there are parents in this thread worrying that they’re somehow doing to their kids what happened to OP. But the OP doesn’t owe us further discussion on her personal struggles or traumas, and it’s not up to them to make everyone feel better. I’d rather see people absorb this post and use it for introspection and interrogation of their parenting, maybe discuss it with others in this thread or in their life. It’s no OP to answer those questions.

      2. Jennie*

        I generally read comments here as open to the commentariat, unless explicitly directed otherwise…. let’s not scold someone for chiming in with perspective from the other side?

        1. BigHairNoHeart*

          It’s a fine line, but I feel the final question “what counts as neglect in your eyes?” on top of the rest of the comment is inevitably going to result in the op feeling like they have to justify their own experience of their childhood and trauma in order to respond to this comment (which they don’t have to of course, but lots of ops would feel compelled to do so). That doesn’t sit well with me.

          That being said, it’s clear that this update has struck a cord with a lot of people, since parental neglect (both experiencing it and the fear of performing it) can be pretty fraught! I hope everyone is attending to their emotional needs right now.

    2. MissGirl*

      I’m not in the OP’s circumstances but I was left to my own devices for other reasons as a kid. I think the problem for me was that there were responsibilities I was too young to take on but still had to face the consequences.

      For instance I have a distinct memory of volunteering to bring a prop to school for an activity and I forgot it. The teacher publicly admonished me about how I was always so forgetful. Thirty years later I still burn with shame even though I know that wasn’t an appropriate response from her.

      The thing was no one was checking my backpack at home for notes or to make sure my homework was done. That’s fine at 17 but not at 7. At the time, I’m sure I looked like a smart independent little kid but I really needed guidance and more structure.

      I really want to go back to that little girl and give her a hug and say, let me help you carry some of this.

      1. Batgirl*

        As a teacher, I honestly think homework sucks. You’re always in danger of judging people on their home lives.

    3. Sad Gifted Kid*

      I’m not the OP, but I was emotionally neglected as a child. My situation is a little different because my father passed away when I was little and my mom tried her best to raise three kids, one of whom was disabled, by herself. It’s not surprising that all of our emotional needs weren’t being met.

      I do think I can speak to the self-discipline part. Consequences at school for not doing homework did not help me at all in developing self-discipline. I was smart enough to get decent grades even if I didn’t do homework. All I learned from my mom letting the school give me consequences was how to lie to my teachers. I saw my mom work hard. It didn’t teach me not to procrastinate. My sister took the hard work to heart. She is a workaholic who works 10 hour days nearly 7 days a week on her own business. Her business is very successful, but I doubt she would ever see her husband if he did not also work for her business. I also doubt that she would ever see me if I didn’t chose to live literally next door to her and offer to cook her meals sometimes.

      I’m not saying you are wrong. I don’t have kids. I don’t know what the right answer is. It seems like every choice you make as a parent will have unintended consequences. I don’t know how old your kids are, but maybe talk to them? Can they talk about their emotions with you? Or do they try to hide them because they don’t want to bother you? Do your children think that your jobs are more important than they are? You might be meeting your kids emotional needs, or you may not, but I think your kids would know better than we do.

      1. Liz*

        I can relate so much to this. I was a bright, gifted kid who was a teacher’s pet as far as classwork was concerned, but useless when it came to homework. I’m still not entirely sure why, but there was something about the classroom setting, the buzz of discussion, and the instant gratification of finishing a task and handing it in there and then that made it easy to focus.

        For homework, the deadline was too far away, too hypothetical. As LW describes, there was no motivating force to give me focus. One time, my mother tried to insist I wasn’t allowed to do anything else until that day’s homework was done, so I just sat silently at the table until bed. In earlier years, I would feel an intense shame over not handing homework in, but once I realised there were no ACTUAL consequences, I just stopped trying.

        To this day, I’m a pretty terrible procrastinator. I’ve discovered that I’m best suited to tasks where something or someone is demanding my attention and action RIGHT NOW. But longer term tasks are still a challenge. I’ve requested a referral for adult AD(H)D and autism but working in mental health, I know this could take years as services are so oversubscribed.

    4. VtV*

      How do your kids feel about how much you work?

      If you don’t know, then that’s a sure sign you need to have that conversation with them. A real one – not one where you’re seeking reassurance from them that everything is alright.

      This is a subject where it’s very easy to project your own experiences onto others. My parents left me home alone for 3 weeks when I was 17, for example, and I interpret your post through the lens of my own experiences growing up.

      1. Batgirl*

        I think this is the key. Kids who are happy and open to talking about family life are not difficult to spot. Also, even if they’re totally fine with the status quo, it can’t hurt to let them know they’re the absolute priority and they can always speak up about any issues if they need to.

    5. Zenon*

      I can’t speak for OP, but if it helps, I’ve also dealt with adult mental health issues due to emotional neglect as a child (and now have a baby of my own, and am so terrified of repeating the same mistakes since, despite much improvement in therapy, I’m not exactly an expert at this “being well-adjusted” stuff). Anyway, you could also describe my parents as absent but loving. They clearly cared about me, made sure I went to a good school, supported me in activities I wanted to try, came to track meets/school plays/activities, etc. They also both worked and got divorced when I was 8, so there was also a lot of being shuffled around various caregivers/hanging out in the empty office next to my mom’s/etc. But I’ve never seen physical absence as the issue. The issue was that they also were both incapable (for the their own reasons) of dealing with their own emotional stuff, so they constantly put a ton of pressure on me to be the perfect kid to help their own insecurities. In retrospect I see that I was never allowed to feel bad or sad or make mistakes, even through negative emotions and experiences and frankly screw-ups that were entirely your own fault are a normal part of growing up, not a sign you’re bad/lazy/worthless. I think of it as emotional neglect because my emotions were never recognized or validated, and as an adult it took me a lot of therapy to 1) even realize what *my* feeling about something was (I tend to default to what others want/what I “have” to do, “want to” feels indulgent and selfish) and 2) not base my self-worth entirely on external validation. Put another way, even though they didn’t mean to give this impression, my parents’ love was very conditional. If I ever failed (and again, this is not just making a mistake, this also includes things like a school paperwork snafu that was not my fault and not being sufficiently positive at all times), they didn’t comfort me, they rejected me. And that’s what’s made adult-ing hard at times.

      All that to say, I think you can work a demanding job and NOT emotionally neglect your kid. It’s much more the quality of the interaction than the quantity. You can also do nice things for your kid and still be kinda emotionally abusive.

    6. nananon*

      Read Running on Empty, by Jonice Webb. It’s written for adults who were emotionally neglected as children, but includes a section for parents (since as I think OP mentioned, it’s common for parents who were emotionally neglected as children to also be emotionally absent parents).

    7. mlem*

      Kids don’t automatically “just know” how to do things. At their youngest, they need someone to help them connect “didn’t finish homework” to “had this consequence”, as well as how to plan their time to make sure their homework is done. They need help recognizing their emotions and learning how to handle them. They need someone to ask them, proactively, about their lives and interests.

      If all of that is part of the love you’re showering on your kids at those other times, then that’s good.

      But don’t assume they’ll perfectly understand the example you’re trying to set. Make it explicit, keep talking with them, and understand they may not actually want the same thing(s) for themselves that you value for yourselves.

      1. Your local password resetter*

        the setting an example approach wouldn’t even work with many adults
        I mean how many letters do we get where the solution is to tell people explicitly what you need from them and how they should do it?

    8. Botanist*

      I’m a little concerned at the idea of letting kids develop self-discipline on their own based on consequences because young kids . . . can’t do that. Or if they can, it’s almost certainly going to be maladaptive in nature and won’t serve them well as they get older.
      Other than that, from my pretty extensive reading/therapy/etc from my own experiences growing up with a form of emotional neglect and being expected to develop my own self discipline, the most important thing kids need is connection- adults who are there for them and allow them to have their emotions in a safe space, no matter what the emotions are, and adults who recognize that a child acting out is not a child who is *trying* to be bad, but a child in distress who needs firm limits and even more connection and love (ie, they don’t get to hit/throw/break things but they don’t get punished for it, they get some further kind of love).

    9. Archaeopteryx*

      Discipline is something kids need to learn from the outside in, both from parents and from teachers etc before they can learn it for themselves.

      Someone I know extremely well but who will remain anonymous was raised by extremely loving parents whose main flaw was that they would rather be friends than parents to their kids. So they showed them how to do various household tasks once or twice, but never made them responsible for regular chores, never really disciplined them if they messed up or held them to reasonably high standards or anything. Discipline never has to be punitive in order to be firm.

      Both kids had complete breakdowns once they got to college because they didn’t have that internal muscle for how satisfying it can be to make yourself regularly do laundry, dishes, do your homework with plenty of time to spare, etc. They didn’t feel like real adults until very painfully working through learning self-discipline over the next several years. One had trouble graduating and holding down jobs, and one had so little sense of self that they easily fell into extremely bad situation.

      If you think about it, self-discipline is an extremely mature virtue, so you really have to ease kids into it as their capacity for maturity increases. You also don’t want them to snap too far the other direction, where they never really were disciplined much as a child so they become obsessed with it to the extreme in adulthood, to the point of lacking moderation in an unhealthy way.

      All of which is to say, I’m sure you guys are both perfectly loving parents who are there for your kids when they need it, but if you are intentionally leaving discipline to anyone other than yourselves, yes that really could mess your kids up and I really would recommend making a point of it from now.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        (For the record, they’re both doing ok now, but it was a long and painful road that didn’t have to be so.)

    10. KeinName*

      I‘m sure you would notice if your kids are not thriving because of your parenting approach. Since you seem like you reflect on things. To me your approach sounds fine; I had parents who let me do many things by myself (i.e. Cook when I was a schoolchild, flat search and move for university at 18, take train rides to other countries at 15), and I am fine/successful/responsible and always was.

    11. Jessica Fletcher*

      I’m not OP, but here is my opinion, from my own experience: Kids don’t learn by osmosis. They need guidance and help to learn. For example, you need to help them learn how to plan out completing assignments, especially big projects that aren’t a simple one page homework assignment. I had to figure things out on my own, and it was pretty terrible. It’s still hard for me.

    12. FD*

      I think the big difference is whether your kids can ever get your attention. I obviously can’t speak for the OP, but it sounds like she and her brother didn’t get much emotional attention from their parents unless either they were doing something wrong or unless they did something especially significant. This can create a situation where on one hand a child can feel like they have to act out to get any attention, or conversely they feel like they have this incredible burden on them to perform in order to earn their parents attention.

      My dad worked a lot of overtime out of necessity for a lot of the time I was growing up, but one thing I really respect now that I’m adult is that he always really took time to understand what we were interested in and to do his best to ask good questions and pay attention to those things as well. Because of that, even growing up with five younger siblings, I never felt like work was more important than I was to him.

    13. Moof*

      I want to (maybe?) provide some reassurance to you, because I sort of also had a stab of panic that parents can be both loving (per OP) but also so severely neglectful as to lead to multiple children being horribly depressed/suicidal as an adult – but also don’t want to lose site if the OP is reading this, you are amazing, this letter is amazing, and thank you for sharing! Don’t mind us fretful parents please!

      I’d say both my parents worked hard (especially my mom) and I was pretty much always in daycare and after school programs, but I wouldn’t say I was emotionally scarred or neglected at all. I have no idea what the LW went through, but it sounds like it was just really hard to get parental attention at all? For myself, at least, I always had the sense that my parents would be there/have my back if I needed something. If I was sick, they’d be there; if there was an activity or play or something, they’d be there. On the weekends we did stuff together. My mom had to work the hardest, but I always felt like I could ask anything of my dad (driving some place, playing games, etc) and it’d happen.
      So, sometimes I feel guilty because with covid, my kid’s dad and their grandma are home almost all the time; the kids were home all the time, I was the essential worker (and the main earner at this point) and they started in on me about why do I have to work etc etc, and uhg. But yeah, I make sure to be there if they need something, I put them to bed every night, I spend time with them on the weekends, and they have (3!) other adults who are also readily available to them. Don’t know yet how they’ll turn out but I think they are happy, even if they don’t always get what they want at the moment they want it?
      So I guess that’s the question, are you paying attention to your kids when they ask, and if you have to say “after work” – do you do it?, do you carve out time for them regularly, and if there’s an emergency / urgency of some kind, are you there for them?

      1. allathian*

        My mom was a SAHM until I started school, although I did go to part-time daycare when I was younger than that because my parents had the means, and thought it was important for me to spend time with other kids. This was in the mid-70s, so long before childhood socialization was a topic of general discussion. When I had my son, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to provide the same sort of “mom’s home” security that I had, and honestly I was a bit anxious about that when he started daycare. But he seems to be thriving, and I tell him often how much I love him and that he’s my top priority. That doesn’t mean his preferences determine everything, but we try to make sure we always listen to what he says, even if we ultimately can’t do what he wants, or allow him to do what he wants.

        I’m hoping that we’ve built enough trust with him so that he doesn’t have to rebel too much as a teen to grow into his own adult self. He’s 12 now, and most of the girls in his class have hit puberty, but he’s still preadolescent. I was never a rebellious teen, at least partly because I and my sister were allowed to disagree with our parents as kids, and they listened to us even when they didn’t always understand us. They had the last word, but they were able to hear even our negative emotions. That means a lot to me, and it’s something I’m trying my best to emulate.

        That said, although I had a great childhood, I’m still guilty of procrastination sometimes…

        LW, congrats on the amazing self-work you’ve done.

        1. Moof*

          I am so guilty of procrastination, but I looked up they symptoms for CEN and don’t relate to any of them – for me right now the bad procrastination is fatigue + burnout (pregnant = more tired + I’ve taken on a lot and now am a little past carrying capacity and working to scale back a bit because I realized it’s gotten unsustainable)

    14. Fried Eggs*

      Don’t beat yourself up. I don’t think OP was saying all driven, successful parents are neglectful. Just be careful to sometimes put your kids first so they can see that they’re the most important thing in your life.

      There are so many ways parents can mess up their kids. Reading this I thought man, my parents went too far in the opposite direction. I don’t have self-discipline, because in my house not doing my homework was NOT an option. My parents were always around and would notice and interfere if I was watching TV instead of doing my homework.

      Now that I’m an adult and can get away with procrastinating, I am SO bad at making myself do anything. The only thing that gets me to do stuff is to send myself on a guilt trip about how if I don’t work I’m lazy and worthless. As you can imagine, this only works sometimes and is terrible for my self esteem.

    15. MM*

      There is no evidence that you know how your kids feel or what they think about it here. Start there. I will say that every sentence in your comment does imply that the kids will kind of just absorb stuff from you passively, or that other people will teach them stuff (“consequences at school”)–it is a list of reasons why you do not need to actively parent–and that does, of course without its full context, sound maybe not ideal. But who knows, maybe your kids are very independent types who don’t want to be helicoptered. We don’t know your lives!

      But also maybe take this question to Care & Feeding, or other parents in your lives, or a therapist if you have one. Definitely it’s not OP’s job to define neglect for you so you can decide if you fit that definition and then either do nothing or panic (that would be, ironically, again ducking out of doing your own thinking and forming your own intentions and ideas about parenting). (Also, in the panic scenario, that probably looks like a weird phase shift that will mostly confuse your kids and inevitably won’t last. What you need if you’re serious about this question is some sustained consideration and thought.) But the first and most important source of information is the kids. I’m not saying sit down and have a fact-finding session about it (my parents LOVED formal meetings and I hated it), but you can observe them more closely and think about what you see, you can have some thoughtful conversations that you’ve prepared yourselves for, etc.

    16. Actual Vampire*

      I’m not a parent but I have two suggestions for you to keep in mind:
      1. Are you available for your kids on their schedule, or only on your schedule? I think a lot of busy parents try to squeeze in time with their kids whenever they can, which is great, but your kid won’t always want to hang out at the same time you are available to hang out. It’s important to respect their authority over their own time and not make them feel pressured to accommodate your busy schedule with no reciprocation.
      2. You said you shower your kids with love. That’s great, but a relationship requires more than love showers. Do you allow depth? Anger? Boredom? Sadness? Conflict?

    17. Betteauroan*

      It’s a blessing you are thinking about this now while you still have a chance to correct yourself and make some changes.

  7. Justme*

    OP- I am in tears reading this- thank you! Not just because of what you’ve overcome and your willingness to share- but also because, this is me!!! It’s like someone put all the pieces of the puzzle together for me and I understand why I do what I do. I will check out those resources you mentioned. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. infopubs*

    Wow! This is some amazing self-work, OP! Congratulations for getting the help you needed, and more importantly, for doing the hard work.

  9. Thank you*

    Wow. Thank you OP for sharing this – it is really striking a chord for me and how I’ve been feeling lately.

  10. Sad Gifted Kid*

    Oh boy. I was not ready to look that closely in the mirror when I opened Ask a Manager today to procrastinate.

    Thank you so much for sharing. It is truly eye opening. I know I struggle with depression and I know my mom loved me, but didn’t always have the time to meet all my needs. I never really saw them as connected or connected to my procrastination.

    1. Wolfie*

      I also procrastinate with this blog! I put it on my list of websites that I can’t read all day (I gave myself an hour and a half time of “screwing around on the internet” each day, but I just cheat and read this on a different browser!

  11. Still figuring it out*

    I see I am not the only one crying at this. The bells ringing should drown it out though. Thank you OP.

    1. CM*

      I kind of wish you hadn’t written this because it was hard to read? But it was hard to read because it rang so true. Thank you for sharing, I think I’ll need to go back and read this a few more times to absorb it.

  12. L in TX*

    LW I am giving you a standing ovation! Thank you so much for having the grace and courage to share this with the commentariat. I felt this on so many levels. I am at a therapy inflection point right now, and I have never explored CET. I definitely will now. And like Moi said, it will make me more mindful of my parenting strategies. This made my WEEK.

  13. Hills to Die On*

    “I’m procrastinating because I’m anxious about failure and inadequacy, then what I’m ultimately trying to do is not feel those things.”
    That almost brought me to tears. I have been struggling to keep up with…everything. I have all of these goals and I fail to live up to my own expectations and take the actions that will meet my goals and then I feel like crap. This was huge. Thank you!

  14. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    Well done you. I hope your new insights continue to move you toward a better career and a happier life!

  15. CommanderBanana*

    There is a tiny rainstorm on my face.

    OP, you don’t know me, but there is a stranger here on the other end of the Internet rooting for you.

    1. Flower*

      I love this.

      For a while now, I’ve thought of procrastinating as a form of self-harm; really, the only form of self-harm I personally engage in. It’s definitely a way for me to end up beating myself up for (not) doing something that I need to do, and then while beating myself up about it, just make the problem worse. By avoiding doing things I know I need (or even want on some level) to do and recognizing possible consequences for that avoidance, I’m making those consequences i want to avoid even worse. And simultaneously I’m hating myself and not letting myself relax or feel okay about things because of my avoidance. When I finish something I procrastinated on, there’s no pride or sense of accomplishment or satisfaction… It’s just momentary relief mixed with “wow you could have done that so easily so long ago, why weren’t you able to do that, self?”

      Mix in some executive dysfunction and bam, we’re in a messy cycle of emotional self-harm.

  16. Thank you*

    I’ve been reading Ask A Manager for years, and love it, but have never commented before. I honestly think this post might be going to change my life. Thank you so much

  17. Jackie Grow*

    I think I really needed to read this as a kick to get back into therapy. Good luck to OP, and please know there are so many passages where my jaw dropped because they feel so true to my own life: “The problem is that you’re not emotionally invested in your own life because you don’t believe in your own worth.” Wowowowowwwwww.

  18. Ignifer*

    Oh, is is so good to hear. Congratulations!

    This isn’t my exact issue (mine is more rooted in anxiety/perfectionism), but if anyone else is struggling with the cycle of procrastination and beating yourself up, this is one of my favorite things to reread a few times a year: https://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html

    For some reason, it helps to picture all the different mental processes as separate cartoon pieces and then move from there into accomplishing just a few small things at once to break the roadblock.

    1. Domino*

      I love those articles! The author also did a TED Talk based on the first one… and subsequently, an article about how badly he procrastinated on preparing for said TED Talk.

  19. Renee Remains the Same*

    I might save your update OP to reread more thoroughly. Such strong points and ones that I identify with to an almost frightening degree. It sounds like you’ve found a good, proactive therapist to help you work on yourself. I have been in and out of therapy for almost 20 years and to be honest, I’m starting to wonder whether I have the ability to change. It’s only recently that I’ve accepted the environment I was raised in, which was generally fine – but emotionally complicated. With two demanding siblings, a passive, loving father and an opinionated, loving mother – my emotional needs were largely ignored. I was taught exceptionally early that sharing my feelings – whether joy or pain – was not something that was encouraged. Over 40 years later, I still have trouble asking for what I want and to be honest, I even have trouble figuring out what it is that I actually want.

    I don’t procrastinate professionally, but OMG, my personal life could be a study of procrastination and all the validations and justifications I make for not doing something. (My therapist could probably write a dissertation on it)

    As an employee, I’m just too concerned about being judged, as the majority of my youth was trying to avoid it. So, I take on other people’s anxieties or crappy projects. I get praise for relieving them of their burdens, while ignoring my own. And then when I’m asked for my opinion and share it, people are sometimes not entirely accepting that I may have actual, unique thoughts. In the end, work drains my emotional bandwidth to the point that I spend most of my personal time distracting myself with nothing to avoid judging myself. It’s a cycle and a circle. Some days I’m hopeful I’ll break it.

    I appreciate you sharing your experience with us, because even though I don’t know you and you don’t know me, the fact that we can share some similarities strengthens my resolve somehow. And I do hope you can work yourself out of the mindset that you or your actions aren’t important. If for no other reason that today, for me, you are important and your words were important for me to hear. Good luck, friend.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      I’m stuck in your first paragraph, Renee Remains the Same, where you say the environment you were raised in was “generally fine.”

      Then, in the next sentence, you say that your emotional needs were largely ignored.

      That’s not fine. All children should have their needs met or at least acknowledged. You’re probably still in the middle of re-aligning your scale of good to bad. I used to think I was lucky to be brought up in such a stable home. It only looked stable from the outside; inside it was a complete nightmare. It’s easier to see physical bruises, but the emotional ones only leave marks on the inside. I had real trouble figuring out what I wanted after years of trying to please unpleasable parents. My most successful trick was to make a list of what I *didn’t* want, and work from there.

      Good luck to you.

      1. Renee Remains the Same*

        To be honest, I’m trying to unstick myself from my past. It’s not an entirely productive place for me to live. There were many aspects of my growing up that couldn’t be changed no matter how amazing my parents may have been at times. With three kids under 3, demands were what they were. If we look at the mantra of self-care during the days of the pandemic, I would argue that my parents deserved the same while facing their own personal crisis of little support and lots of responsibility. So, I forgive them for my childhood troubles. I’m less forgiving of their treatment of me now and have been pushing back on some family dynamics that I don’t want to participate in.

        In the meantime, it’s up to me to decide I want to change my own behavior and how to do it. The fact is, sometimes I simply decide I don’t want to. And until I understand the root cause of why I personally feel I’m not worth it – that’s no one’s fault but my own.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          That’s a completely legitimate way to handle your own world. I’m glad you’re acknowledging your own power – that’s a great thing! I could really relate to thinking things were fine and figuring out they weren’t, so I wanted to say so.

  20. animaniactoo*

    OP, this is so well thought out and articulated, and I really appreciate the time and effort that you put in to that. I’m glad that you and your brother are both in better shape, and have each other to openly rely on. Best of luck for your future, I am totally rooting for both of you, and thank you for sharing.

  21. JimmyJab*

    You should be so so so proud of yourself. I went through some self discovery as a result of self neglect and other things and it is life changing.

  22. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    Well I needed this today… apparently I have some thinking to do.
    Congratulations on figuring all this out for yourself and working to overcome it!

  23. The Smiling Pug*

    Thank you for this update, OP! I wish you and your brother the best in all things going forward.

  24. Jesse*

    I’m so pleased you and your brother found help and are doing such hard work, LW. Good on you!

  25. Emby*

    Thank you for posting! Like so many of the commenters, this post struck very close to home. My therapist says similar things to yours. and not seeing procrastination as a moral failing is probably the most important step I’m working on

    1. Amey*

      Ahh, and your post is what I needed! My procrastination comes from a different source than the OP’s, I think, but ‘not seeing procrastination as a moral failing’ is a really transformative thought for me. Thank you!

  26. Brain the Brian*

    This is a really intriguing, vulnerable update, and I’m quite glad that I read it; thank you, OP, for sharing.

    Alison, would you consider adding a content warning for suicide? The reference caught me slightly off-guard to read it, and although reading it didn’t impact me, I suspect it might pose trouble for readers navigating such situations themselves.

  27. Queen of the Winter Fae*

    Thank you for writing back in. This hit home: “the way our parents treat us as children becomes a blueprint for how we treat ourselves, even when we might consciously decide to treat others differently. My parents love my brother and I a lot, but when we were growing up, they ignored us most of the time. This taught me that I wasn’t important and that I was worth less than the other kids, who had parents who paid attention to them even when they didn’t do anything to earn it. I learned that my needs were not important…”

    1. Cookies For Breakfast*

      OMG, yes. Me too, these same exact words. If my mother read any English, I’d have her read them.

      OP, thank you for the update. You’ve clearly put lots of thought into writing it, which can’t have been easy. You’ve described everything with a clarity that is just so impressive. Wishing you and your brother all the best, and thank you again from the bottom of my heart. Your words are what I didn’t know I needed this whole damn pandemic.

  28. Caliente*

    What an amazing update! What an amazing person you must be OP to A. take this on – I know what its like to take on your issues and work to improve and B. to share what you learned. Kudos.

  29. Cheap Ass Rolls Royce*

    Thank you for this update. The work you’re doing takes courage. I’m going to look into CEN, I was basically feral growing up.

  30. Hacker For Hire*

    Thanks for sharing this, OP. I’m glad that you’re doing better, and I wish you all the best for your future.

  31. Fabulous*

    W.O.W. Your therapy attendance and learnings could have been my own (if I ever went to therapy…and I probably should.) I have the same procrastination problem, and your paragraph on what yours stems from SPEAKS to me:

    The way I’ve come to understand procrastination for me is as a form of self-neglect reproducing the neglect experienced in childhood. If you think you’re not important, then your desires, ambitions, and reputation are also not important. They’re not worth the discomfort of effort. The lure of instant gratification will win every time because there’s a core element of motivation that’s missing, even if rationally you know your career and your ability to pay the bills are important. The problem is that you’re not emotionally invested in your own life because you don’t believe in your own worth. That makes it hard to truly care about anything you’re doing.

    I can’t say my parents were neglectful per se—it was expected that I got good grades, had a curfew, etc—but there was no real consequence if I didn’t other than the ‘disappointment talk’. However, I didn’t have a lot of rules about cleaning my room, eating well, etc. and it definitely shows nowadays. I have absolutely no self-discipline or motivation when it comes to keeping a clean house, much to the chagrin of my husband…

    So, I guess all this to say – I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling this way too.

    1. Tazzy*

      The consequences for me were simply to be grounded. After a certain point in high school I became numb to that and simply stopped caring. What else was there to do to punish me if I wasn’t allowed to talk to friends, play games, or watch tv at home? Looking back, I can see a domino-effect of consequences from that method of parenting; my grades suffered and I only got into one school that I applied for… 800 miles from home. I developed more serious depression and anxiety while away from home and never finished my degree because the stress was too much and I didn’t have the developed skills to motivate myself to do and be better. I sometimes wonder if I have ADHD because I see a lot of executive dysfunction in myself and I know that symptoms present differently for everyone, but this hit hard. It’s so hard to separate a “real” disorder from a dysfunctional childhood.

      All this to say… It’s important to know that we aren’t alone in the way that we feel. Thanks to OP and everyone in the comments for sharing.

      1. Fabulous*

        Oooooh same with the ADHD for me. I’ve been getting noticeably worse the last few years since having kids and I feel like I might need to start doing something about it. I already feel so out of control and flighty and I’ve never had that problem before. I’ve been using “failsafes” for years that have worked for me, but ugh. It’s SO hard. A diagnosis and treatment would be SUCH a relief, but again, that whole “not emotionally invested in your own life because you don’t believe in your own worth” takes over… LOL

    2. Jackalope*

      I was so reminded of one of my experiences growing up. Every Saturday our family would have a cleaning day where we would all spend an hour or two cleaning. We would rotate rooms so no one got stuck doing the “hard rooms” all the time and then after that we would be off an do fun stuff. My bedroom was a chronic mess and sometimes I would want to clean my room instead. I would always get told that I had to do something to contribute to the rooms everyone lived in, and I needed to clean my room on my own time. I also didn’t have enough storage space (because of the size and shape of my room), and my dad wasn’t into organizing, so I didn’t have any help trying to figure out what to do with everything. Every now and then my dad would get frustrated and try to help me by grabbing a garbage bag and stuffing everything into it. That… didn’t go over well.

      I know they meant well. I know they were following the generally proclaimed parenting wisdom at the time which said that you shouldn’t take on the battle of the bedroom and just have kids contribute to other chores. But what I learned (again, not because this is what my parents wanted to teach me!) was that my private space wasn’t worth keeping clean because I wasn’t worth having a nonmessy area to live. To this day I struggle with cleaning my room. I’ve had so many times when I’ll set aside an hour or two in my schedule to work on my room and then end up spending that whole time cleaning something else (dishes, living room, whatever), since every other cleaning project is always and forever more important than me having a neat place to sleep. Since I got married it’s been a little better since I’m now maintaining that space for my husband too (and his half of the room is generally pretty neat; it’s almost all my stuff that’s a mess), but it’s still hard. So I fee you on this one.

      1. river*

        you and me, jackalope. I have worked for years learning to keep my place clean because I was never taught how. The rest of the house was tidy enough but I had no idea how to manage my stuff. For years I could never find anything, which was super frustrating, and things would get accidentally broken. I have made great strides, but I still struggle at times. I had a lonely childhood because my single parent was overwhelmed, and because I was “bright” I was left to figure it out myself.

  32. Maika*

    this nails my life-situation almost 100% in terms of childhood abandonment and neglect – my parents basically just walked out of my life and delegated the parenting to larger family members. Thanks for sharing OP. I’ve been working on improving self-worth myself and it’s been an uphill battle.

  33. Jay Gobbo*

    I didn’t cry while reading this, but I started to get pretty teary-eyed reading the comments.

    A few years ago this was me. Hell, one year ago this was me. I was constantly agonizing over wasting time at work even though *no one* was questioning my work. I was just depressed and stressed and killing time whenever I could — always looking for the next distraction.

    A change of departments in my company, getting rid of some excess baggage in my life, and exploring and really coming to terms with my gender identity this year has helped me finally feel a greater sense of self-worth, and I have more self-forgiveness when I make mistakes or procrastinate a little.

    I’m really glad this is resonating with so many people. It makes me sad, too, but if it leads to more people getting therapy and taking positive steps in their lives, then I’m grateful. Thank you to the OP for sending in this very vulnerable and beautiful letter update.

  34. KatAlyst*

    OP, I just (semi-discrerely?) fell to bits reading this in the backseat of my car, in the parking lot on “lunch.” It feels like you just said truths I didn’t even know until I read them.

    (Thankfully I recognized enough of myself in the first letter to be taking a break in the car, instead of … wait for it… procrastinating on social media while “eating at my desk”)

    I can’t process right now, emotionally, because I do have to go back in, but it feels like it was me you saved–I’m the “one or two people who recognize themselves” in your process. I haven’t felt like this since running out of short stories by Peter S. Beagle… it hurts, but it’s a true hurt.

    Alison, publishing this may have just saved me from having to read all the other stuff that would have been necessary to get another other job immediately after this one… the corollaries are eerie. Thank you for your first answer, and for publishing this on a day when a really needed it.

  35. Falling Diphthong*

    This is a wonderfully insightful update.

    OP, I particularly liked the insight about exhausting work that you hate having opportunity costs.

  36. Mary*

    Such an interesting update! As a female professional who experienced nearly the same thing, my first thought was that it sounded like textbook ADHD. I was diagnosed with it later in my professional career-I had a good job but couldn’t for the life of me get myself to stop procrastinating.

  37. Bog Standard*

    Thank you so much for this amazing update. I don’t think I can articulate how much your honesty means to me. And to so many, as I read through these comments.

    I wish I would have known earlier how so many of my behaviors, that I thought were problems or character defects, were unconscious strategies that in a weird way were trying to protect me. But as an adult made my life harder.

    Finally, I stumbled into a therapist who does Internal family Systems work and my entire life changed. It was hard, as you know and so beautifully shared, to sit with the ways that even the most loving parent can neglect us and how that neglect resonates through our lives. Neglect is the worst because there is no place to point to. Its just a wound that’s….not there. And yes impacts our lives so deeply.

    Thank you again. Was not expecting such a powerful response from an update on a Thursday <3

  38. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

    Well, this hit several nerves.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, OP: I can relate to quite a few of the things you have talked about here

    I’m going to bookmark this page to come back to.

  39. Candi*

    I feel you, OP. I only received emotional neglect from one parent, and it was still bad. It stays with you forever, even if the edges rub off over the years.

    Mother was semi-invested through much of my childhood, and once I hit the teenager years and didn’t turn into an outgoing extrovert, she pretty much checked out. My sister was much more social and was picked as her favorite. (We both hated it. Some years later I outright told my sister it wasn’t her fault, so she would know I never blamed her.) Dad was emotionally distant, but he demonstrated investment and care. (Boomer generation, so the distance was partially cultural.)

    After mother filed for divorce, she said some incredibly hurtful things, including “I don’t want you, you’re too much like your father.” And that’s when I stopped giving her space in my head; I realized I would never get her approval, so it wasn’t worth trying anymore.

    After that, she only showed interest in me twice: Once when she told me her mother, in the course of putting together an extended family history, had found multiple cases of what we now know as ASD. Mother said that ASD sounded exactly like me. She was right, and I tested out for what was then called Asperger’s Syndrome. (And my family on both sides is prone to depression and alcoholism.

    The other was when I had a son, who was promptly appointed her favorite. She ignored my younger kid (AFAB) until my son scolded her. If a six-year-old is getting on your case for neglecting his sibling, there’s something there.

    Mother died two years ago, just before Thanksgiving. It was difficult to respond politely to “sorry for your loss”, because the loss and grieving happened a long time ago. My second stepmother’s been Mom.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      FWIW, I think it’s awesome that you raised your son to be considerate of the feelings of others such that he will speak up in defense of his sibling like that. That takes courage for kids!

  40. Sparkles McFadden*

    Beautifully written, powerful piece. Thank you for sharing, LW. I wish you all the best.

  41. AvaMonroe*

    OP I’ll be saving this and reading it over and over again. So meaningful and well thought out. Thank you so much for taking the time to update us and best of luck to you!

  42. CaptainMouse*

    Thank you so much for this update. I’m glad you are doing better and I found your words extremely helpful. I also have a chronic procrastination problem. A recent household crisis—we lost our dental insurance because of my non-payment due to disorganization and procrastination—got me back into therapy. But this whole CEN piece is amazing and I’m now making connections and writing notes so I can talk to my therapist about this next week.

  43. VtV*

    I’m so, so glad to have read this update and I am so happy that you’ve been able to make positive changes in your life and have a support network in place. I also had profoundly neglectful parents and this post rang true on so many levels. Neglect can cause lifelong emotional pain, and our society needs to start taking it more seriously.

  44. Megabeth*

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have deeply affected me; I need to sit with your words for a bit for them to sink in. Lots of joy and luck to you on your journey, and thank you for giving me a gentle nudge along mine as well.

  45. K*

    Thanks so much for sharing, OP! This was beautifully written and really resonated with me. I’m so glad you (and your brother!) are doing so much better!

  46. Anon for Oct 7*

    Oh dear. I had to stop reading at paragraph 4 because everything started hitting way too close to home and I do not need to be crying at work. Skimmed the rest and will come back to read more deeply.

    Thank you for sharing.

  47. Anne*

    Thank you for this!! It raised a lot of things for me! I will need to read it again several times-to unpack and process all the wisdom and gentle loving thoughts that are covered here!!

    I want to say Thank You!! ❤️ to you-for articulating and sharing the hard work you did to get to a better place-and a BIG THANKS to Allison!! For making a place where people can uplift and support each other!!

    The “I will feel better when it’s done” mantra is going to help me get unstuck! In a few categories in my life right now!!! So thanks again!! And sending virtual hugs to you!!❤️

  48. Dwight Schrute*

    Well that hit me harder than I expected. Thanks for sharing OP! You’ve also made me misty eyed

  49. Cleo*

    Thank you for sharing your story OP! This is so important. Our culture tends to see procrastination as only a problem with will power or discipline instead of a symptom of underlying issues that can be / need to be dealt.

    My situation is different – different type of abusive childhood = different reasons for procrastination – but it still rings true.

    For so many years I thought my problem with procrastination was a problem with poor discipline or will power or just a character flaw. It wasn’t until I started seeing it as a symptom of my PTSD from childhood trauma and understanding how it served as a coping mechanism and healing some of those specific wounds that I started to make inroads.

    It’s still can be a struggle, but it’s more manageable. And I feel hopeful, which is a great thing to feel.

  50. Just a name*

    As someone who grew up with a mother who used the phrase “Don’t be so emotional” regularly, you’ve given me a lot to think about. Not sure I want to do the work though, because it’s rather scary.

  51. It's a Beautiful Day*

    WOW – this is amazing. I never connected my procrastination with my depression/childhood to this level. Super helpful. Thank you.

  52. ellekay*

    This all sounds… so familiar. Wow. I’ve never interpreted my procrastination issues as having anything to do with my childhood neglect, but I think I’m going to bring it up with my therapist now. Thank you for sending in this update!

  53. Neon Dreams*

    This hits me in the heart! My parents love me and did the best the could, but my dad was emotionally distant because his dad raised him the same way. I rarely heard he was proud of me until I was in high school.

  54. DC*

    Thank you for that! I am definitely looking up CEN. It sounded like you were talking about me in your letter!

  55. Porscha*

    Well, this is a bit relatable. I started therapy about 5 months before the pandemic due to be unhappy with my own life and career. I also struggle with procrastination. It’s surprising the things you find out about yourself. I realized this past summer I have a lot of self-esteem issues due to my dad being mostly emotionally unavailable and never really showing interest in me or my life.

  56. nananon*

    Best update letter ever! OP – I am so very impressed by everything you’ve achieved. You. Are. Amazing. Also, your brother! Huge kudos to both of you for getting past your upbringing to be able to talk about your emotions (gasp!).

    I had a very similar upbringing, and have also struggled with similar issues. If there’s anyone out there who this resonates with, and think that they might have experienced emotional neglect as children, I very strongly recommend Running on Empty, by Jonice Webb (recommended by my therapist). This book was life-changing for me, and really helped me to understand why I struggle with things that others seem to do so easily, and how to reduce some of my more self-defeating behaviors.

    1. Polly Hedron*

      Yes, wonderful update!
      I’ve always been a procrastinator too. I had never heard of Childhood Emotional Neglect, but OP described me to a T.
      I just ordered Janice Webb’s two books from the library:
      Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, 2012
      Running on Empty No More : Transform Your Relationships with Your Partner, Your Parents and Your Children, 2019
      Thank you, OP and all the commenters!

    2. Coffee*

      I looked up that book and had such a shock of recognition – will definitely check it out, thanks for the recommendation.

  57. Robin Ellacott*

    I’m so glad you’re doing well! Congratulations on all your insight and work. This isn’t me, but it might be (I think) a direct report of mine and the perspective is really helpful – thanks for sharing it.

  58. queen b*

    hello, just a question – could you please put this behind a cut or with a content warning for suicide? thank you much!

  59. WantonSeedStitc*

    I teared up a little reading this. I’m so, so happy to hear that you’re in a better place, OP! I hope and suspect that you and your brother will find that your relationship is even stronger because you’ve talked about these things together, and you can be a source of support for one another.

  60. Up and Away*

    What an amazing update, OP. I’m so glad you’ve been able to get the help you need to move forward. This is so timely – I’m actually reading Oprah Winfrey’s new book What Happened to You with Dr. Bruce Perry. It focuses on a lot of the concepts you mentioned, in particular how childhood trauma/abuse/neglect, even beginning in infancy can heavily influence brain development and how we view our life experiences through this lens. It’s a fascinating read. I wish you and your brother the best, and admire the work you’ve put into your lives. It’s not always easy.

  61. Anon for this*

    Oh, wow. Thanks for sharing, OP. This whole post resonated with me. Like, every word. Starting therapy next week, and I guess I know what the first topic after all the getting-to-know-you stuff should be.

  62. GrumpyGnome*

    I really really don’t like how much this resonated with me.

    OP, I am truly happy that you are doing better and working on a better you. That line from Alison in the first email also made something in me ping but I haven’t done the same self-work you have since then. Some of my circumstances as a kid were different but a lot of what you said put some things in perspective for me.

    Thank you for this update, truly. This will be of great help to me as I resume therapy.

  63. Gothic Ms. Frizzle*

    Oh boy. I literally was talking about all of this in therapy today. I swear that my therapist has some sort of magical power to make things like this pop up at exactly the right time.

    I’m so happy for you, OP. Thank you for sharing with us your experiences.

  64. TiredMama*

    As a parent with young kids and a job, I am feeling very concerned. I hope my kids don’t feel this way.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      If you are worried reading this, you’re probably a conscientious parent who is doing just fine.

  65. Casey*

    This is brilliant, OP, and helps me so much. I’ve already saved it for further reflection and will absolutely be bringing up these concepts with my therapist! Thank you for your vulnerability and eloquence, and thank you Allison for publishing and amplifying this amazing update.

  66. Lizzo*

    This is a damn powerful update.

    It took a lot of guts to both do the work and then be transparent about the process so that others could benefit.

    OP: THANK YOU. You are worthy and valuable, and your courage is deeply appreciated.

  67. I don’t post often*

    This hits home today. We’ve been “making it through” since pandemic shutdown in March 2020. Daughter started kindergarten in 2020. Now in 1st grade her handwriting is terrible. And I’m thinking, “why”? Ahhhh because last year it was all about “just so this nonsense work on the computer and accompanying worksheet so we can turn this crap in.”
    But it’s more than that. Husband and I both had low level (that was sometimes high level, but mostly in check) depression and anxiety since before her birth. The pandemic kicked that into high gear for us both- luckily at different times.
    But Tuesday afternoon she got off the school bus as I received some bad news. I couldn’t deal with the news. Husband wasn’t home all evening. I couldn’t engage with her. I tried. I desperately tried. Instead we went out to dinner and I let her play at the play place for an hour (Covid numbers are still ridiculously high in our area, so she has only done something like that twice since March 2020).
    I was better the next morning. But there have been so many days and nights like that, I just don’t know what to do.
    Anyway, I’m getting help. Help really isn’t working, so the next step is medicine. And….. while I wanted to avoid that, after reading your post, I know I need to get better for her sake.
    Thank you for sharing

    1. Properlike*

      You are doing your very best with what you have, and you are showing love to your daughter. And you’re *conscious* of needing to show love to your daughter even when you’re feeling overwhelmed. That is big and wonderful. It’s really okay to also have “Mom is having a sad day” or “Mom had some bad news yesterday” because that helps your kid learn to name their own emotions and be empathetic. (You don’t have to give details.)

      This pandemic has done such a number on so many people. I’m glad you’re getting help. It’s hard to see where the help is working when everything is still so overwhelming and broken. If medicine works, how cool would that be? Getting the right medicine literally changed my life, but it took a while to find. You are doing FAR better than you think you are and I’m also rooting for you.

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      @ OP: May your journey continue to improve your ability to identify and pursue your desired goals and experiences. Thank you for sharing your story.

      @I don’t post often: More internet hugs if you want them, and no offense taken if you don’t. One data point is just one data point but I offer my experience as reassurance about taking medication: I take a daily antidepressant and expect to do this forever because my life is just better this way. It’s not a question of not having enough willpower. If I miss my meds for one or two days I start feeling overwhelming sadness even if nothing sad is happening. Some of us are just built this way, or maybe we developed a biochemical imbalance over time. (I’m at the limits of my knowledge here.)

      Two therapists separately told me that taking meds means that the patient gets help to think clearly and make healthy choices. It doesn’t mean being medicated until we’re too numb or too subdued to do anything else. I understand that being drugged into submission has happened and still happens, to unruly wives (in 19th-century fiction) or political prisoners or unhappy elders in a nursing home, but I’m not talking about these situations. I’m talking about situations in which pill-prescriber and pill-taker are mutually empowered and equally invested in helping the pill-taker find a path out of living with unrelieved depression and anxiety.

    3. Jean (just Jean)*

      Wrote a long post that vanished, basically thanking OPfor sharing their experience and reassuring I don’t post often that it’s not so bad to take psychiatric meds, that some of us are just wired this way, for whatever reason, and that we’re doing this to help ourselves think more clearly/feel less distress/make more healthy decisions–not to numb ourselves or our depression/anxiety.

      Side comment: Amazing how my ability to be brief improves when I have to re-type a long comment! Grrr. Why can’t I be brief the first time, and also not lose the comment into cyberspace?? But it’s not worth being upset about this. Keep calm and don’t sweat the small stuff. :-)

    1. Roberta*

      WARNING: Bad stuff ahead.

      Thank you for the link. It’s something I’m working through too. When your parents don’t ‘permit’ you to have feelings as a child, even when your best friend is murdered by her father who also kills himself, it really screws you up from 1 to 5. Not even a ‘there, there’…

      1. Betteauroan*

        Omgosh! I am so so sorry this happened to you. I never experienced a murder ofva close friend, but I was not allowed to have feelings or properly grieve my grandmother. This really screwed me up. My parents meant well, but they were really clueless about a lot of things. I had to spend years in therapy working through all the abuse and trauma, as well as alcoholism. It was awful but I made it to the other side. I hope you have been able to work through your complicated feelings with qualified, empathetic people. It makes all the difference.

  68. (I'll fill my name in later)*

    This letter really struck a cord with me. I think I might actually follow through with seeking therapy. I am a procrastinator to an extreme degree and a lot of what OP wrote resonates strongly with me. Thank you for writing this, and thank you, AAM for posting it. I think I really needed to see it today.

  69. not a doctor*

    OP, I skimmed a little bit once I saw where you were going with this, because I don’t really want to cry during working hours. I am going to go back and give it a deep and serious read later, because a lot of what I’ve already read hit *extremely* close to home. You’re not alone. And it’s good for some of us out here to remember that we aren’t, either.

  70. Web Crawler*

    Allison, could you add a content warning to the top of this update? I wasn’t expecting the letter to contain stuff about suicide, and I was pretty shaken by it.

    1. AnonAnonAnon*

      Honestly I wish this whole thing had a content warning. I had to stop less than halfway through.

  71. nananon*

    Best update ever! OP – you’re amazing, I’m so impressed by what you’ve achieved! And your brother too! Well done to both of you for being able to talk about these things, and help each other through.

  72. redflagday701*

    This is such a great letter, and one I really relate to as a lifelong chronic procrastinator with a brother in the same boat. Our parents did a lot for us, but grew up themselves with emotionally neglectful or abusive parents, and that definitely influenced how they parented us. I have plenty of real-world evidence that I am beyond capable in a lot of areas, in the form of test scores, professional achievements, and feedback from bosses and peers — but I have so much trouble believing it and taking steps to change my life in the ways I want to.

    I feel really fortunate to be alive at a time when we’re coming to understand so much about mental health and how to improve it, though. Pretty wild how it broadly comes down to: Take your issues seriously, be honest about them, and treat yourself with compassion and kindness if you want to do the hard work of changing, instead of beating yourself up for having a problem. There are still so many folks who need to hear it.

  73. Pan Troglodytes*

    Hi OP,

    I read your original letter recently when I was struggling with some severe procrastination issues at work (some days, I was 7/8 hours were fluff). I even wrote on an open thread about it.

    My parents sound a lot like yours. Lovely, affectionate when they were in a good mood… but just not there emotionally… largely due to overwork/underpay. There was a lot of shutting up or monitoring moods before saying anything at all. A lot of ignoring how you feel because no one would listen, or it all blurting out in one volcanic emotion explosion. My siblings and I were never asked what we thought or how our day was… it was like life was to be endured rather than enjoyed together… and I remember being shocked when I saw other parents talking to their kids like they were ‘real people’!.

    I’ve always had a sense that this feeds into my behaviour at work- but I think you just put the pieces of the puzzle together. I also had tears spring to my eyes as I read it! Especially as I just wrapped up another day of frustration with the casual classism and sexism that is unspoken in my (very male, white and middle classed) job.

    It’s so helpful to know other people experience these things, and awesome to read something so insightful that has helped me put my stuff together.


    1. Pan Troglodytes*

      Also just reading about CEN… and having an out-of-body experience as it describes my whole life til now!

  74. Princess Deviant*

    Oh wow. OP, thank you for your sharing your incredible emotional honesty with us. I really appreciate it. It’s hit me in the feels and I’m crying now.
    All the best to you.

  75. Pennyworth*

    “If you think you’re not important, then your desires, ambitions, and reputation are also not important.”
    My life in one sentence. Now I understand why I seem totally unable to make myself do things that I really want to get done. Lack of self worth + ADHD + no expectation of getting anything done (again) = perpetual procrastination.

    Thank you for this insight.

  76. Confiscated Toad*

    Well, this is a bit too much of a mirror for me today. I was diagnosed ADHD, but I can frankly see where childhood patterns could be as much a root of struggle as my neurodivergent brain.

  77. A*

    I am so thankful for this writer sharing!

    I’ve been on a similar path to trying to understand procrastination for about two years. I would literally read any article that mentioned procrastination until one finally said procrastination was about managing emotions and not managing time. It hit me like a baseball bat and led me to explore what I was avoiding and why the avoidance only made me more anxious.

  78. Chilipepper attitude*

    You wrote so clearly about the issues surrounding procrastination, that was maybe the most helpful thing I have ever read on it! And about the impact of that kind of neglect.

    Super helpful, Thank you!

  79. A*

    Thank you for sharing – this is very relatable and something I’ve saved and will be returning to with my journal. Lots here to take to my own therapist.
    It can’t have been easy to write – thank you so much for the care and time you put into sharing what you’ve learned.

  80. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Having had really severe depression for over 25 years now let me say I’m sincerely and truly impressed how much work and self realisation you’ve done to live with what is, in my opinion, one of the worst illnesses to have.

  81. yesIhaveatherapist*

    Oh my god, you just described what I’ve JUST started to learn – with my it’s physical too. I only just realized when a therapist in a webinar I attended mentioned it that (TMI ahead) I’ve never just gone to bathroom when I needed too. I always wait until it’s an absolute necessity. And then I realized I do that with other basic needs too. And THEN I realized that it’s because I have a core belief that my basic bodily needs are both annoying and unimportant. So now, I’m unpacking other ways that belief shows up in my life – that what I need or want doesn’t really matter and is actually kind of a nuisance.

    And it TOTALLY comes up in work scenarios (for example, in the form of having no idea how to advocate for myself while also being a good employee. Like I can do one or the other, but never both at once. It’s a total mystery to me how other people do it.)

  82. Leonine*

    I literally couldn’t sleep last night because I’m going through so many of the things you talk about here, LW. I really needed to hear this today. Thank you so much. <3

  83. Anonmom*

    I look at this letter and think WOW! Not just because of what I am experiencing in my life now, but what I experienced growing up and how I am raising my children. Growing up, my father worked multiple jobs and my mother was emotionally unavailable and relied on my father for everything . We never had much, but it was always just enough to get by financially.

    Today I have a very successful career as a manager in a high ranking nationally known company. I worry that I am neglectful to my children because I am always shooing them off, not because I want to, but because I feel I want to prove I am capable of providing a future for them independently from a financial perspective and that I am a strong women that they can look up to.

    This is something that makes me step back and think, how can I do things differently going forward.

  84. Anthony J Crowley*

    Oh my god, my lovely letter writer. I’m sitting here crying, because all this resonates so very very much.

    Well done for making so much progress. And thank you so very much for sharing it. I needed it more than I can say. And whatever I do with it next will hopefully improve my son’s life too <3

    Just. Thank you.

  85. Anne Boleyn's Necklace*

    Thank you for this amazing update OP! So glad to hear that you and your brother had a good talk and you have found such a transformational understanding of yourself, upbringing, and procrastination. You are clearly an amazing writer too! Delighted you are doing well :)

  86. charlottez*

    “The lure of instant gratification will win every time because there’s a core element of motivation that’s missing, even if rationally you know your career and your ability to pay the bills are important. The problem is that you’re not emotionally invested in your own life because you don’t believe in your own worth. That makes it hard to truly care about anything you’re doing.”

    This was so incredibly eye-opening. Thank you for sharing. I have not struggled with depression much myself but have some dear friends, family and coworkers who do. I have definitely noticed a pattern among many of these folks who struggle with depression that they also struggle to show up on time for work, stick with jobs, turn projects in on time, etc. I have never really processed that connection until reading what you wrote today. I admit sometimes uncharitably thinking, “She quit again?!? That’s her fourth job this year. I don’t get it.” What you’ve written has helped me understand what’s going on better and I hope to have more empathy and understanding for these loverd ones and coworkers situations.

    1. Liz*

      Thank you for your honesty here, and I’m glad you’ve had this insight. I’m on the other end of this dynamic and it’s often incredibly hard to get people to understand the struggle. Many of those around me have baffled at my lack of ambition, especially those who recognise how little I valued myself for years.

      I have an extremely overachieving friend who tried to relate to my past hardship by telling me how she had to work 3 jobs after finishing her postgrad, and had to bike between them because she couldn’t afford a car. But she persevered because “failure was not an option”. I was honestly envious of this. I couldn’t imagine having that kind of drive, not for anything, not even to survive. At my lowest, failure was absolutely an option. Even an attractive one, because once you fail, nobody demands anything of you any more, and the constant pressure just stops. Failure seems an appealing prospect when you secretly feel you’ve already failed on some level anyway.

  87. Properlike*

    I am torn between wanting to hug every commenter and the OP, and forming one big support group.

    Thank you, OP. This helps name some things I’m dealing with.

  88. WoodswomanWrites*

    What a beautiful letter, OP. I’m moved not only by your courage in making this journey, but also your effort and kindness to share such an articulate update to help and inspire others. You are an amazing human.

  89. Nayo*

    This was incredibly well written and so insightful! I think you’ve helped a lot of readers today, so thank you so much for sharing your story with us :)

  90. Them Boots*

    OP, you are my hero. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this. This explains so much about myself, procrastination, isolation and my frustration at myself for not busting my butt more to kick ass at the dream job i have (dream jobs are NOT perfect, but they can still be a dream job). Pleased to also notice that some of my meditation work and yes, limited therapy (though *apparently* about a non-related topic) plus slow slow progress in the ‘Unf#ck Your Habitat’ workbook have been coming together over the last year to where my procrastination is weaker than my ‘do thing because it will make you happier to have it done!!’ This makes sense why (learning what my feelings are? I have them! What to do with them?) Even today I took a harsh critique (that was proven off base) that would have normally caused me to get defensive and stop trying and been a nasty spin cycle downhill. Instead I handled me & we identified a weak spot in the project that will now be addressed and my boss ended up giving me kudos on my work. It’s a really good feeling when I do this or I tackle something I traditionally would procrastinate on. I’ve been wondering why this is coming together when it never has before and now i can see why. Lots of thinking to do! Thank you again for sharing and internet hugs to you and your brother. I’m gonna tag my sister now

  91. Ezri Dax*

    Saw someone else mention it already, but seconding the book Running on Empty by Jonice Webb, for those who are seeing themselves in the OP. Its a great resource for learning more about childhood neglect and offers some great tools for starting the recovery process, even if you don’t have access to or can’t afford therapy.

  92. ASquared*

    This was amazing. Congratulations on these hard-won and beautifully expressed insights and thank you for sharing. I will be re-reading for sure! Sending all good wishes to you and your brother.

  93. Quidge*

    This is a beautiful, beautiful update. OP, I’m glad you and your brother are in much better places now.

  94. Infrequent Commenter*

    I am one if those readers thinking “are you talking about me?” – I had never thought that my procrastination problems could be linked to a childhood where showing emotions equalled being dramatic and needy. Thank you for giving me something to look into, OP, and I’m so glad you’re doing better.

  95. Ailsa McNonagon*

    Thank you for sharing this OP, and I’m so glad you’re doing better!

    For those of us raised by parents who were terrible at being parents, it can be hard to figure out what is and isn’t normal in relationships. Add to that the unspoken rules of workplace norms and lots of us end up completely overwhelmed, depressed and sometimes su*cidal. Therapy has been vital in helping figure out who I am and what I need from life, and I’d encourage everyone who’s struggling a bit to get some extra support.

  96. Zweisatz*

    I cannot recommend Lindsay Gibson’s Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents and her previous book on the same topic highly enough, for anyone who is struggling with a history of neglectful parents.

  97. Van Wilder*

    Beautifully written.

    While this is mostly not my situation, I think there’s a little bit in here for everyone. We can all be kinder to ourselves.

    And again, you’re really an excellent writer. Very moving.

  98. esmerelda*

    I’m so happy for you OP, that you’re on the journey to healing! I want to echo all the other thank yous already in the comments – truly, thank you OP for writing this and thank you to Alison for choosing to publish this. I couldn’t have read this at a better time. A lot of this resonated for me and I’ll need to come back later and reflect further.

  99. Tina Belcher*

    I am also a procrastinator and pretty disorganized to the point that it cost me my job 2 years ago. I changed to a new field and I am doing better but I still have some bad habits. I have often wondered if my procrastination and disorganization were a deeper issue and had wondered if therapy would be helpful to dig deeper on my issues. This letter reinforced this curiosity and I will be looking into therapy.

  100. Rufus Bumblesplat*

    Thanks for writing in, OP. I looked up CEN, and uh, wow. Seems like I tick a lot of the boxes. “Raised by loving but largely absent workaholics” is also eerily accurate. I have one sibling who survived a suicide attempt. I have another sibling who I lost to suicide.

    I’ve vaguely considered therapy over the years but have never gone as I’d feel like a fraud as there’s nothing really *wrong*. You’ve given ne a lot to think about, so thank you. I’m glad both you and your brother are making progress and are doing better.

  101. Identifeye*

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad you’re in a better place, and it sounds like you are on a good path towards healing. I read and reread your update three times, and I can’t believe how much it resonated with me…what you described fits my own childhood experience exactly, but I never knew there was a term for it! I’ve moved through life assuming that my feelings/desires didn’t matter as much as others’, and, like you, I took a super toxic and awful job right out of college because I felt I could not do any better. I still have a tough time asking for what I want, especially from superiors. You’ve opened my eyes – thank you!!

  102. Elyse*

    This just hit me so hard. In a deep, profound way, not in a bad way. Thank you for taking the time to write it and share it. I’ve saved it and I know I’ll be reading it over and over. Congratulations on your journey.

  103. Anon (and on and on)*

    WOW! I’ve been in therapy for a lot of similar issues and I related to your original letter and this update so, so much. The entire paragraph beginning “The way I’ve come to understand procrastination for me is as a form of self-neglect” is absolutely brilliant, particularly the concept of “the discomfort of effort.” It’s so succinct and self-aware and profound that if I wasn’t working from home in my bedroom I’d probably tape it above my computer.

    For me, my feelings of low self-worth and related procrastination is rooted in perfectionism rather than emotional neglect. Anything less than 100% exceptional performance on all fronts at all times is failure, and failure means that I’m worthless. Overwhelming feelings of shame and worthlessness are, naturally, motivation killers, so the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle.

    Thank you for being so open and sharing what you’ve learned!

  104. Amanda Whitecross*

    Wow, I am glad I stumbled across this. It was like reading a diary. Good for you, OP on getting what you need and prioritizing yourself. I hope to be able to see a therapist someday.

  105. Cabbage Fan*

    Thank you so so much for this raw and beautiful update, OP. I was not expecting work advice to bring more insight and healing than I’ve found in the past year of therapy. Bookmarking this to go over with my (new) therapist next week. Thank you for sharing.

    Others in the comments have recommended Running on Empty and the Crappy Childhood Fairy and I can second those recommendations! The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori is also fantastic.

  106. Anon for today*

    Wow, what a great (and powerful) update. Thank you a million times over, OP. I’m going to just… sit with this for a while. It’s not exactly news to me but it’s still pretty huge to see someone else just lay it all out.

Comments are closed.