"The inner child is not a memory, but a living, breathing, feeling entity within us that has been with us since childhood. When we heal and connect with this inner child, we unlock a world of creativity, joy, and unlimited potential." ~ Catherine Woodward Thomas
People who know me will attest that I am anal about self-care. I am a big believer in looking after myself by listening to the little voice within.
To this end, my intention was to finish this newsletter before the long weekend but I had spent the last two weeks working on a launch in my other project and had no energy left.
My old habit would be to work through the long weekend to catch up, but having worked with my inner child for so long I knew that there would be negative consequences If I ignored that little voice within.
Our inner child is that part of us that needs balance. It's that part of me that says, “Enough of work, I need to get out into the sunshine and stretch my legs”.
If I don’t listen to it and push on, I find that I either get stuck, feel burnt out or the quality of the work I produce is compromised in some way.
I was introduced to the concept of the inner child nearly 15 years ago in a personal development workshop. I learnt that a little child exists within me that required my attention, love, and care.
I learnt that my inner child was neglected and therefore furious with me. Our first encounter was not pretty. You see I was very hard on myself and my inner dialogue was harsh and critical and I was always putting myself down. This was learnt behaviour that I continued for most of my life. Up until that point, I had no idea that this was going on. That initial inner child process was the beginning of changing that negative relationship with myself.
Psychologist, Dr Stephen Diamond says ” The inner child is real. Not literally, nor physically, but figuratively, and metaphorically real.
It is like a psychological or phenomenological reality, and an extraordinarily powerful one at that. We were all once children, and still have that child dwelling within us, but most adults are quite unaware of this. And this lack of conscious relatedness to our own inner child is precisely where so many behavioural, emotional and relationship difficulties stem from.”
How this plays out in relationships is that most of us have unspoken expectations and contracts with our friends, families and romantic partners.
It often says something like this, “I don’t approve of myself so the deal is, I will give you what you need emotionally and in return, you must shower me with loads of approval so I can feel good”.
This is not a conscious agreement and the other person doesn’t really know what they have agreed to. While they are meeting your needs, the relationship works, but over time things begin to change because neither of you really knows what is going on.
Your partner may get comfortable in the relationship and stop showering you with approval and you may begin to feel unapproved of and start to believe that they don’t love you anymore.
This can lead to you pushing them away to protect yourself or you do something that makes them reject you. The relationship disintegrates and you go off and find someone new to remake the contract with.
Though this explanation is simplistic, and we can edit the emotional needs, the circumstances and how it plays out are very similar in most cases.
Dr Diamond continues “The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting our own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned or rejected. We are told by society to ‘grow up’, putting childish things aside. To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child–representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness–must be stifled, quarantined or even killed. The inner child comprises and holds these positive qualities. But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas fears and anger. ‘Grown-ups’ are convinced they have successfully outgrown, jettisoned, and left this child–and its emotional baggage–long behind. But this is far from the truth”
Famous personal development author Louise Hay says “It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is a little child within who needs love and acceptance. If you’re a woman, no matter how self-reliant you are, you have a little girl who’s very tender and needs help. As women we are used to taking care of those around us, making sure that their needs are being met.
If you’re a man, no matter how macho you are, you still have a little boy inside who craves warmth and affection”.
Louise Hay continues, “As children, when something went wrong, we tended to believe that there was something wrong with us. Children develop the idea that if they could only do it right, then parents and caregivers would love them, and they wouldn’t punish them. In time, the child believes, "There is something wrong with me" or "I’m not good enough".
As we grow older, we carry these false beliefs with us and we learn to reject ourselves.
Hay concludes by reminding us that as there is an inner child within us, there is also an inner parent who can be critical and judgmental. However, the good news is this inner parent can also be loving, caring and nurturing.
As adults, we set goals for our self-care and although we begin enthusiastically, we quickly let ourselves down.
We may plan to rest more, take time out to meditate, exercise, read a book, go for a run or walk, eat more healthily, manage our finances better, or not get into destructive relationships.
We set these intentions with such conviction, believing that this time we will follow through.
Yet time and time again, we let ourselves down and we are back to our old limiting and unhealthy patterns of behaviour because these are familiar and thus more comfortable.
We become frustrated with ourselves and we may wonder why we do this?
Can we truly love ourselves if we continue to repeat this pattern of letting ourselves down?
Is there a missing link to this puzzle?
I believe so. I believe that we have not yet made peace with our inner children.
No matter how enthusiastic we are about setting self-care goals, if we have not met, acknowledged and made peace with the scares within our inner selves, it is difficult to be consistent with loving and nurturing ourselves.
Love is the greatest healing power in the universe. Love can heal even the deepest and most painful memories because love brings the light of understanding to the dark corners of our minds.
No matter how painful our early childhood was, loving our inner child now will help us to heal it.
In the privacy of our own minds, we can make new choices and think new thoughts. Thoughts of forgiveness and love for our inner child will open pathways, and allow us to truly show up for ourselves.
It’s never too late to undo the negative experiences of the past and recreate the relationship between our inner child and inner parent/s to bring more peace and harmony into our lives.
To continue doing the work on your inner child, check out my self-paced course, Self Care and the Inner Child.
Lots of hugs until next time.