Do you know your inner child? The inner child is that part of us which came to this world with wide-eyed wonder. In its natural state it is free and open, playful and curious. In a nurturing, caring and relaxed atmosphere, inner child retains many of those qualities. But when there is anger, criticism, stress and anxiety, the inner child withdraws and becomes more serious, insecure and anxious.
As children, often we received messages from others that the way we were was not okay. We were often indirectly taught that we should project an image that was somehow “better” or more polished than we really were. We may have been told not to say certain things, or to act in certain ways. As a dinner guest we should not say “I don’t really like this dish”, nor should we recoil from unwanted kisses from relatives we might not have known too well. And then when we went to school, we were taught that we must strive to be “like everyone else” or even better.
In this long process of conditioning the free and playful inner child became suppressed and confined. If we were successful in our efforts to conform, there was confirmation and reward from the outside world in the form of good marks, approval and acceptance. This seemed to justify the sacrifice of the inner child.
But only for a time. For if we have shut down that inner child, sooner or later we may begin to notice some telltale signs that this is not okay. Perhaps there is stress in work or family relationships. Physical signs might include headaches, tension, over or under eating, depression or other stress or anxiety disorders. If the sense is growing that our lives are not the way we would like them to be, or if we’re not having fun or enjoying loving relationships, then it’s time to begin the process of freeing the inner child.
The first step is to listen to your inner voice when it tells you that some situation or relationship does not feel good. This probably means that you do not feel free to be yourself or to express how you really feel. Nurturing the inner child means not making it do things it does not want to do. It means not criticizing or judging your true nature. It means allowing time for play, relaxation and joy.
Freeing the inner child means not taking life so seriously, not caring what anyone else thinks of you being silly if you want. It means trying new things without worrying if you’ll be good at it or not. It also means protecting that inner child from the judgements and expectations of others. We must each become advocates for those inner children.
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