“Stop trying to ‘fix’ yourself; you’re not broken! You are perfectly imperfect and powerful beyond measure.” ~Steve Maraboli
Have you ever thought about why you can’t move forward? Have you wondered why you sabotage yourself? Have you ever questioned why you so easily feel anxious, depressed, and self-critical?
Inside each of us there’s an inner child that was once wounded.
To avoid the pain, we’ve tried to ignore that child, but s/he never goes away. Our inner child lives in our unconscious mind and influences how we make choices, respond to challenges, and live our lives.
My mum left me when I was six. I didn’t see her again until I was fourteen.
I don’t remember ever missing her. I told myself it was a good thing that she left, because no one was beating me anymore.
But now I had to prove myself to make my dad proud. He was all I had.
So I was one of the popular kids at school. I got good grades. I went to a top university to get a commerce degree and was hired into a big bank’s graduate program before I even graduated.
I worked for years in the finance industry, writing corporate lending deals, meeting clients, and selling derivatives trading tools. But I saw firsthand and up close how that was destroying people’s wealth and lives.
It didn’t align with my values. I felt like a zombie, taking the transit every day back and forth, living like a fraud.
But what else could I do? I had always believed that getting into finance was the way to success, and the wounded child within me was afraid of failing and disappointing my dad.
Then, on my twenty-ninth birthday, I stumbled upon an online art course and discovered my passion. But ditching finance to pursue the life of an artist wasn’t easy for me.
My dad was disappointed and angry, and he tried to change my mind. Now I understand that he was afraid for me. But at the time I was angry with him for not supporting me because deep down I was scared that he would no longer love me.
I knew then, to have the courage and strength to continue down the road less traveled, I had to heal my fearful, wounded inner child.
If you too feel lost, lonely, small, and afraid of losing love and acceptance, you may also benefit from healing the inner child who once felt insecure and not good enough. Saying these things to yourself is a good start.
Say These 7 Things to Heal and Nurture Your Inner Child
1. I love you.
As children, a lot of us believed that we needed to accomplish goals—get good grades, make the team, fill our older siblings’ footsteps—to be lovable.
We may not have had parents who told us we deserved love, no matter what we achieved. Some of us may have had parents who considered showing love and tenderness to be a sign of weakness. But we can tell ourselves that we are loveable now.
Say it whenever you see yourself in the mirror. Say it in any random moments. Love is the key to healing, so give it to yourself.
2. I hear you.
Oftentimes when we feel hurt, we push down our feelings and try to act strong. For a lot of us, this stems from childhood, when we frequently heard, “Quit your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
But those feelings don’t just go away. They fester inside of us, affecting the choices we make as adults until we make the conscious effort to hear them.
I never acknowledged that I felt abandoned when my mum left, but I did, and I carried that into my adult relationships. To heal, I had to acknowledge how her leaving affected me. I had to give a voice to all the pain I stuffed down back then.
Instead of suppressing the voice of your inner child, say, “I hear you. We’ll work through it. It’s going to be okay.”
3. You didn’t deserve this.
As children, many of us assumed that we deserved to be abused, shamed, or abandoned. We told ourselves that we were a bad kid, that we did something wrong.
But that’s simply not true. In many cases, the people who wounded us simply didn’t know any other way. Perhaps my mum was beaten as a child, so it was the only way she knew how to parent her daughter.
A child is innocent and pure. A child does not deserve to be abused, shamed, or abandoned. It’s not the child’s fault, and though we may not have had the capacity to understand this then, now, as adults, we do.
4. I’m sorry.
I’ve always been an overachiever. I considered slowing down a sign of weakness.
Not too long ago, I was constantly stressed about not doing enough. I couldn’t enjoy time with my kids because I’d be thinking about work.
One day it dawned on me that since I was a child I’d been pushing myself too hard. I never cut myself any slack. I would criticize myself if I simply wanted to rest. So I told my inner child I was sorry.
She didn’t deserve to be pushed so hard, and I don’t deserve it now as an adult either.
I’ve since allowed myself a lot more downtime, and my relationships with my loved ones have improved as a result.
5. I forgive you.
One of the quickest ways to destroy ourselves is to hold on to shame and regret.
The first night my mum returned home when I was fourteen, she asked to sleep with me. We only had two beds at that time, one for me and one for my dad. I couldn’t fall asleep, and I kept rolling around. Then all of a sudden, my mum blurted out, “Stop moving, you *sshole!”
The next day, I put a sign on my door that read “No Unauthorized Entry” to prevent her from coming in. My mum left again. Then, a few days after, my dad told me that they were getting a divorce (after being separated for eight years).
I thought it was my fault. Why did I have to roll around and so childishly put up a sign?
But now I know that their divorce wasn’t my fault. And I forgive myself for anything I could have done better. I was only a kid, and like everyone, I was and am human and imperfect.
6. Thank you.
Thank your inner child for never giving up, for getting through the tough moments in life together with you with strength and perseverance.
Thank your inner child for trying to protect you, even if her way was holding on to painful memories.
Your inner child doesn’t deserve your judgment. S/he deserves your gratitude and respect.
7. You did your best.
As a child, I always tried to outperform, to overachieve, to meet someone else’s standard, to be “perfect.”
I was always demanding and cruel to myself, and no matter how well I did, I never felt it was good enough.
But I did the best I could at the time, and you did too. We’re still doing the best we can, and we deserve credit for that.
When we let go of perfection, the fear of failure recedes. Then we can allow ourselves to experiment and see how things unfold.
I started saying these things to my inner child as I was recovering from depression. They’ve helped me experience more love, joy, and peace. They’ve helped me become more confident and compassionate.
My social worker, who first came to work with me after a self-cutting incident, recently asked me how I got to be so content and happy.
It started from acknowledging, accepting, and beginning the ongoing process of re-parenting my inner child.
What is the one thing you most want to say to your inner child today?
Sad child image via Shutterstock