Personal growth means putting in the work to make the change you want to see in yourself, but it can be hard to know where to start. Some like to start with fixing small bad habits and ramping up into bigger and more meaningful changes. Some go to therapy, which is a great tool but can get pricey, while others consume whatever self-help book they can get their hands on to jumpstart their growth journey. Me? I like to start by healing my inner child. But what does that mean?
What Is Your Inner Child
Your inner child is You. It’s not some weird infantilized version of you, but it’s the You with all of your repressed memories and undealt with trauma. The feelings that bubble up every once in a while come from your childhood. Taking note of your inner child is a great step in healing and growth.
Signs That Your Inner Child Needs Attention
Research has shown that relationships between parents/caregivers and kids are super important. A healthier relationship between kids and their parents is associated with more confidence, better academic performance, and fewer negative outcomes like drug abuse in teenagers or depression. These relationships impact us and can form how we connect with the world around us. They help form our attachment styles, our self-esteem, and trauma responses.
For example, if someone goes to their girlfriend for validation, and she is too busy to validate them, then they might feel unseen. Their longing for attention and need for validation may be their inner child crying out for attention. This can lead to fights over something that might seem small to one person but big to another who feels unseen, unheard, and neglected.
We can also see trauma responses when we don’t heal our inner child. Do you struggle to ask for help or avoid conflict altogether? Do you say you’re fine even when you’re not? Do you feel like a burden to others? These can all be because of some repressed feelings you have from your childhood.
Healing Your Inner Child
- Feed your inner child with fun things. Have you ever seen videos of older retirees who are gifted with a kid’s toy they never got in their youth? They always break down and cry. Those tears are coming from their inner child, feeling seen and validated. When I’m so stressed and sliding back into a negative headspace, I make the time to feed my inner child. My go-to is to pour myself a big bowl of Pops cereal (the best cereal ever!) and watch an episode or two of a cartoon I watched as a kid. (TMNT, Teen Titans, Sonic, etc.).
- Reparent your inner child. Reparenting gives you a chance for self-exploration and growth. What things did you want an adult to say to you when you were a kid? What can you say to your inner child and adult you? Through this process of reparenting, you can learn to release the shame of whatever you’ve been through in life and gain wisdom from your childhood wounds.
Growth, Trauma, And Breaking The Cycle
Growth is not easy. If it were, everyone would be a healthy functioning adult, but we aren’t. Some have wounds you can see, and others have hidden scars, but our trauma doesn’t define us. It may be a piece of us, but it’s not all that we are. Taking the time to look inward at your scared inner child will help you grow. If no one was there for you as a kid, step up and be there for the lost kid inside you. You can’t grow unless you help yourself past and present. Don’t let your parent’s mistakes be the ones you make later in life.