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The inner child represents your gut feelings, from the most painful and challenging to the happiest, most creative, and most joyful.
That time you asked your co-worker if there was room for you in the book club and she contorted her face and said she'd, "get back to you"? That gut punch you felt was coming from a wounded part of your inner child. The feeling of glee you get jumping on a trampoline? That's a free, happy part of your inner child.
By getting in touch with both the wounded and joyful inner child, you integrate parts of yourself you had cast into the shadows but that actually hold a lot of power. Here are five ways you can reclaim them and get your power back:
Allow and accept the full range of your feelings.
When we only allow in the "good" feelings, we are giving ourselves the message that the whole range of the human experience is not OK. And we are effectively telling our inner child that they are only valid if they want to jump out of bed in the morning singing.
Our feelings don't simply disappear when we shun them. They remain dormant, giving us a dull sense that something is wrong. If you can center your inner loving adult by bringing in self-compassion and having empathy for all your feelings, it integrates them and makes your inner child feel seen. And the more integrated you are, the more you are living from your whole powerful self.
Turn your inner critic into your ally.
It may seem hard to believe, but the part of you that reminds you about that test you failed in eighth grade or how Sally from accounting is smarter than you, is actually trying to help.
Your inner critic might be mimicking a caretaker you had growing up with the intention of preparing you for the criticism that caught you off-guard back then. Or it might be that part of your inner child is terrified of making mistakes, so they're hard on you in an effort to make you "perfect."
You can start to find out what the motivation is by talking to that part of yourself. Once it feels safe, it will give you vital information about its goals and fears that otherwise would stay hidden in the self-criticism. Information is power, and that is your power waiting to be accessed.
Make the loving inner adult the loudest voice in your head.
As you can tell from the previous suggestions, the loving inner adult plays a vital role in healing your inner child's fears and pain and therefore is a big piece of your sense of empowerment.
The louder the inner adult is, the more powerful you feel. Power in this case may not look like the patriarchal definition that you are used to. It can look like telling your boss why you deserve a raise, refusing to help your brother move again, and finally ditching your ex.
One way to access your inner loving adult is to get familiar with an attitude of curiosity toward yourself. You know that feeling when you meet someone new and you want to know everything about them? Try putting your hand on your heart and directing that same energy toward your inner child when they're feeling hurt. Imagine that whatever pain you're feeling (that's your inner child) is outside of you, and get curious about it. What does it need?
The more you do that, the louder that inner parent voice will be, and the more empowered you will feel.
Use self-compassion to combat self-sabotage.
At some point, we all tell ourselves we're going to do one thing and then do the opposite. Maybe instead of running you binge-watched The Bachelorette, or instead of working on that creative project you doom-scrolled on your phone. Notice how part of you wants to achieve the goal and another part of you would rather peace out and not do it? Your inner child likely has many reasons why they aren't on board, and they need self-compassion to get them talking.
In The Self-Compassion Workbook, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., gives a powerful mantra to say during these times: "This is a moment of suffering—may I be kind to myself?" Then, put your hand on your heart to activate oxytocin, the "love hormone." Neff says, "...increased levels of oxytocin strongly increase feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity and connectedness and facilitates the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves." Direct that toward your inner child that is at cross-purposes with your goal. Engage in conversation with them to find out what's been keeping you stuck.
Connect to the childlike joy that is always part of you.
There's a reason the quote, "Dance like no one's watching" strikes a chord with so many people. That freedom you feel when you're lost in a joyful activity is your happy inner child running free. And that feeling is powerful! When was the last time you jumped on a trampoline, or skipped down the street, or sang at the top of your lungs? Granted, people would look at you funny if you skipped down a city street, but you deserve to have that energy in your life, and you shouldn't have to abandon it just because you happened to grow up!
When we feel integrated with our joyful inner child, we allow ourselves to be ourselves. And truly, there's nothing more powerful than that.