The Importance of Feeding Your Inner Child

 Created by Alexander Milov at Burning Man Festival

I was on a
group call in when something popped.  I can't remember what exactly was said, but the image that arose for me was of a starving child. Not just any child, an inner child.  I didn't want to hang up immediately and run down and write the thoughts that rolled through my mind, so I am trying now to relax and let the thoughts come as they may. 

First came the idea
 to explore what actually is referred to when you say "inner child?" We hear that term often in passing, but no one really delves into the particulars. I found two definitions that are similar and yet each offered something unique, so I am sharing them both. 
  •  A person's supposed original or true self, especially when regarded as damaged or concealed by negative childhood experiences.
  • The childlike usually hidden part of a person's personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.
The first talks about our original or true self. The second talks about our hidden self that is playful and spontaneous. Both mention the damage and hurt we experience in our childhood. 

Just hearing someone say inner child brings me to a strange place. Let's face it, our parents, our teachers and society in general were always telling us to grow up. Being an adult was held out in front of us as the ultimate goal.  If we became an adult in our thoughts and actions, then we will have made it.  The unspoken implication is if we act "correctly," then we would be accepted and people would like us. Neither is true unfortunately.

Despite reaching "adulthood" and realizing it isn't all it was hyped up to be, we still tend to keep our inner child hidden from the world.  We act in adult ways, we enjoy adult activities and perpetuate the same myths to those we meet.  When was the last time you did something totally childlike, I mean something an adult wouldn't be expected or encourage to do, and did it with full abandon? It's been way too long hasn't it?

Want some ideas? Paint with your hands, stomp in rain puddles, make a mud pie, dance with no inhibitions, hop up and down, skip, sing at the top of your lungs without worrying about being on key, enjoy a swing or a slide or both, ride a park merry-go-round, make a potato chip sandwich, eat something messy with your hands, walk in a funny way, make a snow angel, wear crazy clothes, run just for the joy of movement. You get the idea.

Each and every
time you let go of that demon on your shoulder trying to keep you in line, each time you let go of societal expectations, there is an opportunity for your inner child to come out and play. And that, my friend, will feed your soul, which I personally think is what "inner child" actually refers to.  Allowing yourself the freedom to play will lighten your load and help you shake off stress.  It will bring you back to who you have always been before you began to change to fit it in. Your true self will start shining out in all it's glory. 

One of the joys of
having three children was the permission I was instantly given to play.  I loved picking dandelion seed heads and pretending they were magic wands. I loved reading silly stories about dinosaurs that knitted. I loved that I could swing and teeter totter with them and everyone would smile and say what a great mum I was.  Made a wrong turn in the car while driving? I told my kids we were on an adventure. And when we camped for a week at a lake every summer, I brought all kinds of crafts and interesting things to try and was given full societal permission to participate.   

Life may not allow you to let your inner child free rein every hour of every day.  Most likely it will have to wait it's turn to come out. But as long as you are feeding your soul regularly, it will stay strong and vibrant and healthy.  It's easy to forget and let those moments slip away. Somehow you have to find a way to make play a regular habit so that these vital moments happen often. Even the business world has begun to realize this.  One example would be the explosion of adult coloring books that hit the market a few years ago. 

If you are home
reading this, then take a moment. What can you do right now that you think you're too old for - jump rope, skipping, coloring, dancing around the house. Guess what? You're not!  In fact the reverse is true. You are just the right age to be playful and you always will be.  Your heart and your soul are forever young and vibrant. So don't ignore them or hide them away.