We all have an inner child. The inner child is just like a real child. It wants to play and be silly and feel free. A healthy inner child is open and vulnerable to learning new things and wants to know the answers to everything in order to grow and develop.
As a child, if you got all your needs met, then your inner child will have developed healthily. You’ll have known that you were safe. You would have felt safe enough to have just been a child. You would have played, explored, learned and been spontaneous. You would have felt that you could make mistakes and do silly things, knowing that you wouldn’t be judged or punished too harshly for any of them. You wouldn’t have felt shamed or made to believe that you were a bad person.
If your inner child developed healthily, you will have naturally become an adult who takes some risks and who feels generally safe and secure. You will have a tendency to be spontaneous and playful, mischievous and silly.
When your inner child hasn’t developed properly, because you haven’t had all of your needs met in earlier life, you may carry within you a wounded inner child. As an adult, this can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. You may hold negative beliefs about yourself and the world around you. An adult with a wounded inner child will often turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as addiction, self-harm and self-destructive behaviour.
Although, you may feel that your inner child did have their needs met when you were growing up, you may have become disconnected from your healthy inner child in adult life. You may not feel that you are as playful, spontaneous, silly and daring as you have been. You may have had your inner sense of security knocked by traumatic experiences, such as abuse, loss or bereavement. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to access your healthy inner child.
The good news is that it’s never too late to start to access your inner child and to start giving it what it needs to be healthy. Let’s look at ways you can start to do this now.
Your inner child needs to be vulnerable. A healthy child is open to new experiences and will take risks. A healthy child will climb tall trees, do wheelies on their bike, try out daring new dance moves. They will create art without caring whether it’s going to be judged or not. They just do it. They will test their limits by taking risks. Healthy children allow themselves to be vulnerable, because they know that it is safe to do so.
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable? Allowing yourself to be vulnerable doesn’t have to mean completely opening yourself up emotionally and putting it all out there at once. It can just mean being a little bit more open than usual.
If the idea of being vulnerable feels terrifying for you, don’t worry. That is expected for someone whose inner child needs have not been met. Maybe you learned that to show your feelings or to be open emotionally is wrong or makes you weak or inferior.
The truth is that vulnerability is an incredible strength. Being vulnerable is what allows us to develop and grow. It is by taking risks and letting ourselves feel fragile and unsure that we can keep moving forward and achieving our goals.
Ask yourself, for everything that you’ve achieved so far, was there some vulnerability involved? Did you have to feel nervous, unsure, uncertain, doubtful, fragile in order to get through that job interview, presentation, attend that course, ask that person out on a date, ask someone that difficult question, have that really hard conversation…?
Vulnerability is wonderful. It’s the driving force behind achievement and success. Basically, it gets results. Without allowing yourself, especially the inner child part of yourself, to be vulnerable you risk remaining stagnant and stuck where you are. You risk never achieving your goals or becoming the person you were born to be.
How could you be a little more vulnerable right now? You could be vulnerable with yourself. You could start to open up to yourself and admit to yourself what you are feeling. Are you feeling angry, sad, lonely, irritable, resentful? What are you really feeling?
Don’t filter yourself. Just be really honest and admit to yourself what you are feeling without censoring or editing the words. Say it into a mirror or write it down. Record it or video it so you can hear and see yourself saying it.
Once you get better at being vulnerable and open with yourself, maybe you could start to be more open with others you trust. Maybe you will risk telling a friend what’s really on your mind next time they ask you how you are.
Maybe you’ll start to be a little more open with to the idea of being vulnerable. Maybe you’ll do that thing you’ve been terrified of doing. Maybe you’ll put your ideas, your feelings, your talents, your creativity out there into the world where it can be seen and where you can be seen. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable, but that’s OK, and your inner child needs to know that.
Your inner child needs to be playful. Your inner child needs to know that they can play safely. Healthy children feel free to be silly and to explore through unfiltered and open play. Your inner child needs this too. When were you last silly and playful? When did you last have fun and laugh uncontrollably?
Certain people will bring this out in you. Think about who it is in your life that you can be silly and spontaneous with. Who is it that you are comfortable enough with to be silly and say and do daft, fun things that make you laugh and giggle? These are the people you need to be spending more time with and factoring in regular time to let your inner child out to play with them. This could be online or over the telephone, if you aren’t able to see them face to face.
You can also start to let your inner child out to play when you’re on your own. You could put some music on and spontaneously dance and sing in your home. You could put a funny film or programme on and let yourself laugh uncontrollably. How about going out for a walk and jumping in puddles or skipping through the fields. Take the filters off yourself and see how it feels to just let yourself play. Your inner child is crying out for it.
Your inner child needs to be curious. A healthy inner child is curious and interested and hungry to learn about themselves and the world around them. Healthy children ask lots of questions and have a hunger for learning and increasing their knowledge. It just comes naturally and is something your inner child continues to crave. What would you like to learn? Are you still eager to learn and grow?
If you don’t feel that you want to learn anything new, have a think about the last time you did. What was it you wanted to learn? What would you like to learn about yourself? The fact that you’re reading this article suggests that you’re wanting to learn and know more about how to develop yourself.
There are lots of ways to learn and grow. Reading, watching videos and documentaries, taking courses, attending talks and lectures, asking others for their opinions and feedback are all wonderful ways to learn and grow. Joining groups and forums online can really help you to learn about particular subjects as well as yourself.
Curiosity is the driving force behind learning, development and growth. The more you open yourself up and recognise what you want to know, then seek those answers through learning, personal growth and self-development, the healthier your inner child will be.
A direct way of connecting to your inner child is through allowing yourself to enjoy childish things. You could watch a film that you loved as a child. You could read a children’s book or a comic. Maybe play with some kids’ toys. Maybe do some arts and crafts in a childish way, without being too hung up on perfection, just enjoying it. Reconnect with the things you enjoyed doing as a child, or even find new children’s toys, books or comics to enjoy right now. If you’re a parent or a care-giver for children, you may feel that you already do this a lot and that’s great, but there is a huge difference between doing these things for children and actually doing it for yourself and for your own inner child.
Essentially, your inner child needs to know that it is allowed to be a child. The adult part of yourself isn’t going anywhere and is still going to be there whenever it’s needed. You’re not going to suddenly become an immature person or forget how to be an adult. You will actually be a much healthier adult by having a healthy, fulfilled inner child within.
A sense of vulnerability, playfulness and curiosity will allow you to be truly creative. You will dare to take risks and make mistakes and learn by them and grow. You will be eager to learn and to develop yourself to be the best version of yourself you can be. You will live playfully, and you will feel a new sense of freedom.
This is exactly what your inner child needs right now. I hope that this article will help you to start the process.