There are many differences between experiencing trauma as an adult and experiencing trauma as a child. One difference is that experiencing a stressful event as a child can cause an everlasting impact throughout adulthood. This everlasting impact is what affects the ‘inner child’ when those children become adults. The inner child is something that exists within everyone. It is the playful, fun, cheerful, hurt, as well as saddened child we once were. Any traumatic or stressful event that was experienced as a child is remembered by the body, and that is how it continues to affect us into adulthood.
“A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who does not play has lost forever the child who lived in him.” – Pablo Neruda
The obstacle to overcome when attempting to heal the inner child is being able to understand, connect with, and accept the child within. Inner child wounds can be because of abuse that was experienced as a child, neglect, distressful events, loss of a loved one at an early age, as well as many more. Tending to the inner child can allow for growth and prosperity for later life.
Taking steps towards healing the inner child can be done with seeking therapy, practicing mindfulness skills, as well as increasing one’s own level of self-awareness. Navigating inner child work with a therapist can allow you to work through that trauma, distressing memories and emotions. Working through these events can be distressing in and of itself, though having someone who is trained to support people with these types of issues can allow for many doors to open. The goal of inner child work within therapy is to explore these past events, with an emphasis on early memories to learn skills on how to regulate the self.
Self love is a concept that was first promoted by the Beat Generation of the 1950s, and again in the early 1960s during what was known as the “Hippie Era.” self love has gained popularity in recent years due to psychological research finding it an essential component for positive mental health and well-being. Even despite its rise in popularity, self love can be a challenging concept for many, often confused with being egotistical, self-indulgent, or too “touchy feely”. Despite the many misconceptions regarding self love that exist, the truth of the matter is that self love is a critical part of recovering from mental health challenges. Without self love, it will be extremely difficult to believe you are worth implementing the healthy strategies will allow you to feel better. Here are some simple techniques that can assist you on your journey toward unconditional self love.
We often spend much time and energy moving from one distraction to the next. Taking time out of our busy schedules for self-reflection is an important part of learning to love yourself unconditionally. After all, how can you truly love what you don’t know? Self-reflection can be very simple-taking 5 minutes of your day to sit quietly and assess how you are feeling, journaling, meditating, sitting in nature, or deep breathing. Anything that can stop the noise of your mind and connect you to the present moment can be a great way to get in touch with your true self and bring you closer to loving yourself.
Be mindful of the way you treat yourself. “Bring the mind, and the body will follow.” This is a common saying that holds true on the journey toward self love. Often this means going outside of our comfort zone and making positive decisions for ourselves despite not feeling that we deserve it. Increase your healthy intake-be it people, conversation, self-talk, food, exercise, or rest. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend or loved one; with kindness, compassion, and patience. Although this may feel unnatural, by treating yourself this way you are proving that you are worthy of love and respect, and doing so consistently will allow this belief to sink in.
You are human and are bound to make mistakes. If there is a name for what you did, someone else has done it. Giving yourself permission to be human is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Forgiveness is not an easy journey, however letting go of the past allows you room to become the person you are truly meant to be. Someone who forgives and loves themselves is also less likely to hurt others in the future. One strategy is writing down a letter of apology to those you’ve harmed, including yourself. You can make amends to others when enough time has passed, and to do so will not cause additional harm. Most of all, let go and remind yourself that you are much more than a few bad decisions.
People are not born hating themselves. Oftentimes, a lack of self love comes from life experiences/relationships that cause you to internalize the belief that you are not good enough or defective in some way. Take note of the relationships in your life and how they make you feel. Everyone is accountable for their own happiness; however, some individuals (due to their own flaws) can trigger feelings of unworthiness in us. Work on setting healthy boundaries with these people, and focus the majority of your attention and energy on pursuing relationships that allow you to feel safe, happy, and cared for.
Everyone is a work in progress. It is easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll love myself when…” and fill in the blank with whatever goal or next level we want to reach. There is always going to be room for improvement, so don’t waste time putting off loving yourself. After all, achieving your goals will be a lot easier with the help of self love. Stop comparing yourself to others, or telling yourself you “should” be a certain way. You are exactly who you are meant to be at this moment. Embrace the journey.