Since I shared a somewhat dismal but thought-provoking poem with you last week about the perils of family life and rough childhoods, I thought it only fair to cheer you up this week with a positive take on having a happy childhood NOW, even if your actual childhood was anything but. I thought it might be nice to celebrate our “inner child” in this article. I’m guessing that most of you know what I’m talking about when I say “inner child”, but for clarity’s sake, I’ll share with you what I mean by that term…
I am completely convinced that all of us grown-up women walk around with a vulnerable ‘little girl’ inside of us who gets our attention in some ingenious ways if we’re not tuned into her and can lead us down some very self-destructive paths. Many of my client’s inner children lead them to binge on food, get into disastrous relationships, or run themselves into the ground until they are completely burned out. Why? So that they will LISTEN to what she is trying to tell them!
Most often, it’s something like this:
“I wanna play! You’re working me too hard!”
“I’m tired- I need rest”
“I need to be loved”
“I need to be appreciated”
And the list goes on…
As a therapist, I see it as my job to help women re-connect with this sweet, innocent, and often wounded little girl, learn to tune into what she needs, and then give it to her. In essence, this is a process of “re-parenting” ourselves and learning to be unconditionally loving, accepting, and forgiving instead of beating ourselves up emotionally through myriad acts of self-destruction.
This is not an easy or a speedy process, but with much persistence, practice, and a lot of patience, it is unbelievably rewarding. I have done a lot of inner work personally (and continue to do so on a daily basis) and guided countless women through their own, and I hope I speak for all of us when I say that doing this difficult but absolutely essential work IS WORTH IT!
Let’s face it- the majority of us weren’t parented very well. I’m not saying this to blame our parents- I believe they probably did the best they could with what they had. But the fact is that no one has to go through “parenting school” and pass with flying colours in order to reproduce and raise offspring. Most people simply do the best they can with what they learned from their own parents. And that’s not always a formula for success when it comes to producing healthy, happy, and self-confident human beings.
But there is GOOD NEWS… even if your parents got a lot of it all wrong; you can undo a lot of the damage and repair as an adult. Phew! I am a living example of someone who had a pretty rough time growing up and has learned to be happy and healthy as an adult and I’m not the only one… they are all around us and we’re all dancing together in joyous celebration!
In fact, I’m of the belief that if you came from a very dysfunctional family, survived, and then turned your life into something wonderful as an adult, you are quite a remarkable person and a very valuable role model to younger women. Some of the greatest geniuses and valuable contributors to society didn’t exactly have ‘perfect’ childhoods- often, it was quite the opposite.
I also believe that old adage, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Our challenges can be turned into triumphs and lead us on to do amazing things in life. In fact, many of our strongest beliefs and values come from what we DID OR DIDN’T EXPERIENCE growing up. For example, someone I knew was abused by a family member as a child, and grew up with an unshakable conviction that every child has a right to be safe and protected from harm. As an adult, she educates parents and caregivers of children about preventing and stopping child abuse. She is one of the top experts in her field. Her passion for her work came from her unfortunate experiences in childhood.
I am not saying for one minute that we should have to go through horrible and traumatic events in our lives to help others. I feel that it is an absolute tragedy that so many of us have been through these things and that we should do all that we can to prevent them from happening in present and future generations. What I am saying is that we can greatly diminish, and sometimes even obliterate the effects of bad parenting as adults- that there is a lot of hope and joy to be experienced regardless of what happened to us as children.
I’d like to leave you with some hands-on tools you can use to get in touch with your own inner child so you can start feeling happier, healthier, and more peaceful…
Esther’s Top Five Tips to Begin Having a Happy Childhood NOW:
- Start spending time with your inner child every day – even five minutes will do. A good way to access her is to sit quietly with your eyes closed and your hand over your heart. Breathe deeply. Notice what she’s feeling and what she wants and needs.
- Start doing some of your favourite childhood activities, even if they seem silly or ‘frivolous’- I’m going to re-read comic books I enjoyed as a child!
- Find a photo of yourself when you were little and frame it. Talk to the adorable little girl staring back at you regularly and start enjoying her company.
- Hang out with children – easier if you have your own, but if not, I’m sure you can find a friend who would love to have you baby-sit! Study these amazing little people and play with them- they know how to have a good time. You’re inner child will love it!
- Bring back the ritual of NAP TIME! We never should have let that one go! Most of us are cranky and irritable or overly emotional due to lack of sleep. Turn the ringer off the phone, curl up on the couch with a blankie and have a nap! Your little girl will thank you!
“Little Esther” hopes that you and your “little one” enjoy lots of laughter, play, rest, and excitement together…