“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” - Paulo Coelho
I’ve always thought that kids had a different perspective on the world. They’re so much more curious, carefree, and open-minded than us adults. While it is clear that behaving like a child is not a reasonable goal for an adult in everyday life, I’ve come to believe that there are ways for us all to channel the strengths and associated power of our inner child.
I first came across the concept of your “inner child” around a year ago when a friend suggested I look into the idea of “inner child healing”. I had no idea what it was, but of course, took the opportunity to do some research. And by research, I mean a totally unscientific process of me trawling through google results.
According to the interweb, whenever you feel childish tendencies or bouts of anger in your day-to-day life you can thank your inner child for making an appearance. When we talk about “healing” your inner child, we mean healing any unresolved pain that may be seeping into your adult life without you even realizing it. The pain doesn’t necessarily need to be something super dramatic, just anything that affected you as a kid. Essentially the childlike feeling and reactions become a part of our subconscious and this part of us doesn’t come out all the time, but come out it does.
However, I’m not here to talk about inner child healing, as there are a thousand-and-one books out there that do a much better job of explaining those concepts than I could. I just want to discuss some ideas I have around how connecting to your inner child can bring power into your life. Because as I did more and more of this work around inner child healing, I realized that I was feeling stronger and more connected to myself.
So what could we adults possibly have to learn from kids?
- Be curious.
- Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to fall down.
- Get messy.
- Love easily.
- Be yourself.
- Play. Have fun.
- Try new things.
- Let negative emotions pass quickly.
- Pay attention to little things.
- Ask for what you want. Speak your mind.
- Follow your intuition
- Live in the present.
- Use your imagination.
Somehow all of these things that came so naturally to us as children start to fade into the background as we trade them for the rational strengths of adulthood. But what if we could have both?
For a while, I felt like I was repressing my inner child. I have an extremely silly and crazy side to my personality as do most of us. But I would say to myself consciously or not, “Be serious now Grace”, “Be mature”, “Act like an adult”, “Don’t be weird”. And with each attempt to disguise my childlike tendencies I was burying my inner child and my true self under layers upon layers upon layers of socialization. At this point it was buried so deeply that I would only feel it peeking out whenever I was talking to a cute puppy or baby.
But as I began experimenting with inner child work, I became much more aware of that connection to my inner child. It’s one of those smile-so-that-you-feel-happy situations. So after I started doing things that I loved doing as a child, I actually started feeling more connected to my inner child. I’m still not exactly sure what this means or where I’m going with this but all I know is that so far, I’ve made slow (but steady) progress on all of the lessons I listed above and feel more at peace all around the board.
But how do we go about reconnecting to our inner child?
I think the first thing I did was try to find ways to play as an adult. A few months into my 365 day challenge I remember reading something about the importance of playing as an adult. For a few days, I tried to brainstorm ways to play and pretty much came up with nothing. I tried coloring outside the lines (literally), and that was nice but not exactly what I was looking for. I also (more successfully) started reviving habits that I enjoyed when I was a kid: reading fiction, writing, singing, wandering outside, making videos, and more. I started adding them one, at a time, but before I knew it momentum picked up and I found myself wanting to connect with myself more and more. Another approach that I alluded to before, which I’ll call the “smile-so-that-you-feel-happy” approach, involves just acting as if you were already connected to your inner child, perhaps by pushing yourself to exhibit some of those strengths I listed above. For example, try something new or let go of a negative emotion quickly and do so with a childlike spirit.
A final (and in my opinion under-utilised) approach is to actually hang out with kids. Even just moving back home for quarantine and spending a lot more time with my thirteen year old brothers has made me feel and act way more like my inner child. From them I re-learned how to play, how to venture out on missions with practically any purpose, no matter how small: figure out how to slow down without a brake when riding a ripstik scooter down hills, follow the stream and see where it ends, climb to the top of a pile of rocks just to see what’s on the other side, you get the point. I had almost forgotten how seemingly pointless and equally enjoyable these types of activities are, and I will forever be thankful for this opportunity to learn how to play again. Who knew this is where quarantine would take me!
I know all of this seems super vague and fluffy, and to be honest, I think it’s one of those things that only works if it resonates with you. So if all of this sounds like mumbo gumbo it might not be for you and that’s ok. But if connecting to your inner child sounds intriguing, fun, and freeing, then definitely give it a go and let me know what you think!