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7 Things Your Inner Child Needs to Hear You Say

Sad Child

“Stop trying to ‘fixyourself; youre 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

About Lucy Chen

Lucy Chen is a Chinese-born, Australian-grown, Sydney-based artist, and a vegan chef for her family of two kids. She healed herself from depression through painting. Click here to download her latest book “Reconnect with Your Intelligent and Classy Inner Self Through Art”, and start the journey of reconnecting with your most authentic self.

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  • Rebekah Jones

    Great post Lucy! For me, a lot of my childhood issues dealt with older siblings and how they treated me along with how some extended family treated me. All of it just got replayed in a long, unhappy marriage. I’ve learned it’s never too late to love our inner child and it’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves.

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  • “Surprisingly”, Rebekah, my childhood issues resulted in a “long, unhappy marriage”, too!

  • Bullyinglte

    What a truly perfect article, Lucy. I certainly can understand much of what you talk about, particularly when dealing with childhood trauma (CPTSD), like bullying. It’s amazing how, as adults, we still allow our child brain to talk to us in such was and can be influenced by these thoughts. We choose to be happy, be angry, be however we feel. It is hard to comprehend, but once we do, we can find true peace and happiness. Thank you for sharing this important article.

  • Congratulations, Lucy, for your transition from financial industry (the “real” job) to art. I know that wasn’t easy, especially with a lack of support from your dad.

    I had a similar story pursuing a career as an attorney or a prosecutor, based on something my mom said when I was 12 years old. In addition to what you wrote, I’d explain to my inner child it was not her responsibility to take care of family, to provide for instead of adults.

    Thank you for the post!

  • Helen

    I am so sorry you had to experience violence and abandonment from your mum. This article is beautiful and really resonated with me. My mum left when I was nine. I’m 35 now and I’m still healing from this. I’m learning to become my own nurturing parent to the inner child who is hurt and wounded from being abandoned. And although the process is still ongoing, I can feel so much has shifted within me. This article sums up all the things I am trying to do and puts it altogether so beautifully it will serve as a lovely reminder when I’m struggling. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  • Priyanka Joshi

    Thank you so much Lucy for sharing such powerful insights with us. I am grateful to you and the Universe to redirect me to this. I shall keep them in mind always and put them to use. God bless you.

  • Gary Greenfield

    In a word…COURAGEOUS! I am sure all of us appreciate you sharing the pain of your inner child. No doubt most of us have some vestige of pain from our childhood. Regardless, if our experiences are not as horrific as yours, we all can benefit by practicing your “7 Things.” Thank you.

  • Thank you, Gary. There are people who has a lot more horrific childhood experience. Much worse physical abuse, or even sexual abuse, bullying and etc. But regardless of how severe or mild that “wounding” experience was, it does go deep down and affect our entire life. The first step is to become aware, then we can start healing ourselves, and lead a more fulfilled life, being wholly and truly who we are.

  • Thank you, Priyanka.

  • Wow, Helen, it seems we have some similar experience 🙂 Take very good care of yourself. You deserve love and care, right here, right now!

  • Hi Nina, did you transition into the attorney career or moving away from it? Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • I think it’s being told, directly or indirectly, that we are flawed being who we are, that the wound cuts deep. When you’re bullied, you think there’s something wrong, something not enough with you. This goes to the unconscious mind and if we’re not aware of it, it can consume us.

  • Hi, Lucy! I am a lawyer, yes, but I’m working in an NGO as a legal counsellor for victims of domestic violence and other violence against women.

  • Big thumb up, Nina!

  • Tnx, Lucy. 🙂

  • Bullyinglte

    Consume us is right. I am not afraid to say it did so with me and it took quite a bit of work to change that thinking style. I had to do a complete change of how I was living and thinking. It took a while, but now I have found out what it means to be truly happy with myself. Again, thank you.

  • Brier Hill

    never compare your ‘wounds’ to anyone elses – a wound is a wound

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I agree with Brier-a wound IS a wound.

  • Terry

    These are wonderful, thank you. Several months ago I took all the smiling photos of me as a young child and created a collage that I put in my book of prayers and meditation. I look at the pictures then visualize myself greeting that child, taking her in my arms, loving her and letting myself be loved by her. We nurture each other in a way we didn’t feel nurtured, for whatever reason. I spend a short time finding joy in her, and having fun with her, then continue on with my other prayers and meditation.

  • Thank you so much for sharing, Lucy! This is such a beautifully written piece!

  • Sharon

    Thank you Lucy for being so open and honest about your personal pain. I know how hard it is to open up and admit it to yourself never mind other people. I, still, cannot admit the truth of what a devastating childhood I had and it does affect my relationship with my children, my husband and my siblings but most of all it affects the relationship I have with myself. I think that my biggest fear is that if I do start to talk about it or even write it down then the flood gates will open and I will be consumed with anger, grief and extreme pain. It takes great courage to do what you did especially as you are in the public eye so to speak, may you find peace and happiness. Love and Blessings, Sharon xx

  • LaTrice Dowe

    My biological father walked out on my sister and me when we were infants. I saw him for the first time at eight, since the family court issued an arrest warrant for back child support. He spent time with us and stayed in contact, but it was short lived. I wanted to spend the night at house, waiting for several hours to pick me up. He NEVER showed. I was heart broken, since he let me down. I kept asking myself if I did anything wrong to deserve that. Now, I know it wasn’t my fault for him of being an absentee father. Both him and his family are the biggest cowards.

    I found out ten years ago that my sister and I have an older half brother. Honestly, I was in shock, and I didn’t know this man ever existed. He called the house, wanting to speak to us (he found my sister’s phone number in the phone book). I was mortified of him, and decided that I wasn’t interested in getting to know him. Last year, he called my sister at her job, asking her co-workers about her whereabouts. Recently, his aunt wanted to speak to my sister. According the the aunt, her nephew told her where my sister worked. I feel that he’s getting his family involved to do his dirty work. I know they’re curious about how my sister and I turned out, and unfortunately, it’s none of their business.

    My mom gave my biological father’s side of the family EVERY opportunity to maintain a relationship with us. It was their decision to stay out of our lives. They can come up with every excuse, but it doesn’t justify their actions. I can’t forgive them, since they refuse to hold themselves accountable. They need to understand that they can’t force me to have a relationship with them, based on their guilty conscious. It’s not like I asked them to walk out of my life.

    Thank you, Lucy for sharing your story, which took a lot of courage.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Hi LaTrice, I know each of us cope with our PAIN in different ways & many a times..there is hardly a right or wrong way. If I may share a perspective from what you said…could it be that your ‘half-older brother’ was just as much as in the dark about a lot of the situations that plagued you & your sister. Maybe, once he got older & realized more of the jest of the events from the past that took place with you guys & your father..he wanted to reach out to you guys & hopefully have some sort of a relationship. To be clear, I can only imagine how much of a sensitive topic this must be to you & I apologize in advance if I’m speaking out of place…

  • LaTrice Dowe

    No, you’re not speaking out of place. You’re right. I feel that my older half brother was out of line of talking to my sister over the telephone, and then sending his relatives to do his dirty work. What he and his aunt did was extremely unprofessional, and they could have wrote a letter to us. It’s obvious he’s desperate, which to me raises a RED FLAG!! My sister and I are no longer eight-years-old. We’re adults. I get to decide who can be a part of my life, and who can no longer be a part of my life. Sadly, my biological father’s side of the family are no longer welcomed. If he can’t accept my sister’s decision, and respect it, she will have to file a restraining order against him.

  • Princess Grace

    Thank you Lucy Chen for speaking so truthfully from the heart. First off, let me say that I rarely chime in on serious discussions on the Internet, hence my comic avie, my disqus account is used for a few fun, lighthearted blogs I follow and comment on. Second, your article really struck a chord with me, as I rarely read about mothers being so cruel and unfeeling, as yours (and mine) was. I always thought I was born imperfect and as such needed much fixing from the start (as told by my mother). I have held on to this “fix myself” attitude for far too long into adulthood, way into my 30s. I’ve been through classic, cognitive, energetic, and alternative therapy, respectively, thinking that a flawed person such as myself should go all-out and “really apply myself” to fixing myself. I could not comprehend why all this therapy had brought me to a depression because it seemed (to me) I just could not get perfect enough. I sunk into a deep depression that I’m not sure even my “team” of therapists understood. Then, when I really turned inwards, in lieu of religiously traipsing to my various therapists for answers, any answers, it sort of hit me ‘out of the blue’ – it is ok, just because my mother drilled it into me that I was born a stupid mistake that can never be fixed, it did not make it so. And all the therapy in the world will not make any difference, if I do not learn to first get to know and then accept myself, as is. Your article brought tears to my eyes, as I spent so much time seeking quick fixes, in such pain, while never even attempting to question my mother’s view of me, as she used to say “a redundant child who should be grateful I allowed to live.” I used to be so focused on the *WHY?*, Why even have a child you cannot stand and abuse? Why was she like that? Why ME? Why didn’t I have a caring loving mother? It took me a long time to realize, my focus is better utilized on learning how to be kind and gentle with, and towards, myself, the *why* notwithstanding.

  • Yes. Same here 🙂

  • Hi Sharon, I remember from one of the Robcast (podcast by Rob Bell) episodes, Rob talked about the three stages of “things”. First there’s light, where you’re innocent and never experienced the dark. Then there’s pain and darkness. And last, you face it, walk through it, and come out the other side, and there, it is light again. It’s a whole new level of lightness. And this is not a one-off experience, but it keeps repeating, as we go through the 3 stages again and again and again… in life.

    Doesn’t it resonate with how you feel right now? By all means, feel the anger, the grief and the extreme pain. Feel it, deeply. Embrace it. Accept it. So it’ll no longer feel ignored but heard. Walk through the pain, and come out on the other side, lighter than ever!

  • What a wonderful way to meditate!

  • Oh Grace! How many times I have asked myself “WHY”! I carried that into my 30s, too. But I’ve found that self awareness is the first step in healing myself. And painting, especially self portraits, have been tremendously therapeutic.

    Thank you for being so brave and sharing your experience. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. I hope you live a happy and fulfilling and whole hearted life!

  • YES! I totally agree with you.

  • Thank you, Jessica!

  • Hi LaTrice, you decide who you let into your life. It seems to me, from what I read here, that a more respectful approach from your older half-brother would be better appreciated? Mind showing more courtesy, please? It seems he’s trying to force his way into your lives. But it maybe just how I read your story.

  • susan

    Your story bought tears to my eyes Lucy. I didn’t realise until now tht we shared such similar backgrounds. Well done you for turning your life around!
    With love
    Susan.

  • Hi Lucy,

    I needed your article. Thank you! My parents often compared me to other children,
    who were more beautiful and smart than I was, according to them. 25
    years later I still could not accept any compliment. I am learning to
    change this now and repeat to my inner child “You are good just as
    you are.”

    Spread your art and healing Lucy, the world needs it.

    Love,

    Esther

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “It’s obvious he’s desperate, so him and the family could have written a letter to us.” If you don’t mind elaborating; what do you mean by when you say…he is ‘desperate.’ As in rather than getting to know you guys; he has ulterior motives such as getting money & such?

  • LaTrice Dowe

    My sister and I made it perfectly clear that we weren’t interested in getting to know him and his family. These people haven’t been around for the past twenty five years, so to me, they’re strangers. I don’t know about his ulterior motives, and I don’t care!! You can’t force people to have a relationship with you, just because they’re curious.

  • LaTrice Dowe

    You’re right, Lucy. He’s forcing his way into our lives, which I find unacceptable. I wanted to get to know him, but after that stunt he pulled when his aunt showed up at my sister’s job, I’m not interested. I understand he’s curious, but he needs to respect my boundaries.

  • lv2terp

    Fantastic post! I have done quite a bit of inner child work, and it is truly a beautiful process and result! Wonderful insight and wisdom, thank you for sharing this wonderful message and perspective on healing!!! I love at then end when you wrote…”It started from acknowledging, accepting, and beginning the ongoing process of re-parenting my inner child.” … AWESOME! 🙂

  • Thank you, Esther.

  • Thank you, Susan. How are you doing now?

  • 🙂 Thank you!

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  • Sonia

    Thank you for your article Lucy. I think you said it perfectly on how to heal and nurture your inner child. Actually, your article made me tear up a bit! I also believe that I have an inner child that needs attention more than I think. My mom never left me, but she was depressed when she was pregnant with me and while raising me when I was a baby. Although I love her and she means the world to me, I do think her depression affected me in lots of way (I was a super shy kid and still shy! I worry a lot, hard on myself, etc).

    On a different note, I also resonate with you on your job situation. I’m also in the finance industry (I’m an accountant). It’s not much that my job doesn’t align with my value, but it’s more like I feel empty inside with this career. I worked so hard to get to where I am, yet, I have a feeling “is there all that is?”

    I recently started a blog in a way to find my passion. I mean you’ve already found yours and I would love to hear more about how did you do it? I guess I’m just scared not knowing where I’m headed and feel completely lost (and yes, I would also disappoint lots of people if I quit this job). What would be your advise to someone like me who just started this new path?

    Also, here’s my website if you want to check it out: http://www.startsimplifying.com

  • Hi Sonia, I think “start simplifying” is a great message. I try to simplify in my life, too.

    Tiny Buddha good resources on how to find your meaning. If you google “tiny buddha meaning”, or “tiny buddha self discovery”, you may come across something very helpful.

    For me personally, I think there are a few things to finding our path or passion. 1) acknowledge that we’re on a journey, and as long as we are alive, there’s no end to that journey, so we’re always evolving and discovering and navigating; 2) Getting to know your core values and what comes most natural to you, your natural style. Try to block out the noise of what you “should be” and get inside yourself; 3) Keep a little journal, yes journaling does help a lot in self discovery and self awareness. It can be a visual or a text journal; 4) Learn new things. You’ve got to explore and experience more things before you hit the one that strike a chord.

    What do you think?

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  • Tir

    Thank you. This truly resonated with me. I have dealt with anger and depression due to a chaotic childhood too and reconnecting with my inner child has truly freed me from shame and guilt.

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  • Evelyn M. Ryan

    Love love love…so powerful in its simplicity and we must say this to our adult selves as well…every day!

  • Pam

    Very good Article. My ‘successful’ life coping mechanism has been to stay in the present at my current age. I thought this was an excellent way to deal. I suffocated (unknowingly) my innocent inner child. And now I am working through all of the pain at once. I ignored my inner child hoping to quiet her. Eventually my behavior came out (selfish /attention seeking/destructive). Thankfully I am aware now and working to nurture my inner child.

  • klk

    Instead of suppressing the voice of your inner child, say, “I hear you. We’ll work through it. It’s going to be okay.”

    This is an excellent and generous pice of writing – thank especially for the sentence above. I hear you on every point. I experienced exponential healing myself, several years ago, when I came to dialogue in writing with my small girl self, after reading a great book on abandonment and healing. Well. She had a lot to say,. As well, my adult self had to regain her trust, as my small girl inside she had been silenced for so long while I bungled about betraying our deep needs and wants, our joy in life. Everything shifted when the conversation kept going, evolving and opening – my psyche firmed up and I found new grounded-ness within.

    Fast forward eight or so years and I’m in quite a muck. This is the thing about complex childhood PTSD. You can be so busy fighting the world and your feelings and so drained of energy, you forget or feel paralysed to do the things which to which you must commit to stay well. But it’s a tricky loop, because if you are out of touch with your core / inner essence, and feeling worthless for example, then th disconnection makes it hard to take positive action on one’s own behalf.

    Thank you again so much for sharing your experience and wisdom in this article.

  • Bella

    Just beautiful. Thank you for writing this. : ). It’s exactly what I needed to hear.

  • Carola

    What you shared is so inspiring. Thank you so much! I’ll keep this text with me because I realize I need to heal my relationship with my inner child in many ways. Gratitude for this!

  • You matter. Never forget that.

  • Nancy Vail

    This is my story…when I was 28 I thought about leaving my partner because of his drinking…couldn’t deal with it but what I didn’t know was that I had an abandoned inner child then and no relationship with god. God was any authority figure who filled the role. She said then later wrote . .you must leave that marriage . .I have been through unimaginable depression and homeless many times since then. Many people my age have grandkids or hoping for them..I just hope for someone who will love me. Now I understand that the anxiety and frantic panic attacks are my inner child looking for someone . ,anyone to hold onto..I get this now. I have to pray alit. It isn’t about forgiving her..it’s about forgiving me for asking her

  • Rachael Hutchings

    Dear one, do not take your life because of what your father could not provide, do not assume that because he blmaes you its your fault, take a stand dear one and insist on getiing back the money he stole, he is rich in money terms, you are rich in integrity. Even if it means losing him, . Dear one, find your tribe slowly, you might have no partner but you are getting more and more amazing friends around.

  • www.coachingbykimesha.com

    I needed your wisdom today. Survivor of abuse (molestation, physican, verbal) my WC is hurting, my husband frequently tells me to leave and accuses me of cheating. My WC is persistant on fixing the relationship and waiting it out until he changes but the relationship is very unhealthy and damaging. Im going against my own standards and values but have made up my mind to leave for good. Thanks for the article.