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To be fair, she’s just a kid. No one should expect her to know or put her in charge of anything that an adult should be doing.
When I talk about my inner child, I’m talking about a piece of me that was frozen in childhood. She’s more like a perspective and mentality. She’s the part who had unmet needs growing up and came into adulthood not knowing what she needed or how to get it.
My ability to navigate adult problems were based on her limited understanding of herself, emotions and interactions with the adults she loved.
So, when it comes to taking the wheel, not only has my inner child never actually learned to drive, she can’t even reach the pedals and still see out the window. I’ve essentially just been doing donuts and playing bumper cars with everyone else on the road. All the while, my adult self sat in the passenger seat checking her hair and touching up lipstick, wondering why we weren’t “there” yet.
No wonder I’m late to my desired destination. *facepalm*
The reality is that something similar happens to many people. As children, we interpret our caregivers’ responses to us to mean something about our value as a person. With repetition, their responses build a powerful belief system in each of us, with one result being that we don’t feel good about ourselves or worthy of love.
>> Everyone tells me to go play with my toys when I ask them to play a game or read to me becomes no one wants me around.
>> When I’m sad and cry, I get told that “big girls” don’t do that becomes having emotions means there’s something wrong with me.
>> I have all As this semester and mom didn’t say anything becomes I don’t work hard enough.
>> Dad doesn’t hug me becomes I’m not worthy of love.
If we’re not aware of these beliefs and where they came from, then we try to move through adulthood with damaged parts. As we get into romantic relationships, we look to our partners to fix those parts, pull out the dents, and buff out the scratches.
I wanted my destination to be a strong and connected romantic relationship and I thought I was on my way. Instead, with my inner child behind the wheel, I kept doing donuts and crashing into the unsuspecting drivers in my path.
If plans got cancelled or there was an innocent misunderstanding, it became a sign that the other person didn’t care. Rather than ever say I felt hurt and what I needed, I expected them to know and told them off when they didn’t.
I expected the other person to fix things that they didn’t break.
What we don’t realize is that we have the responsibility and ability to learn how to fix things ourselves. It’s our own job to make everything shiny and new.
It’s clear, now that I’ve learned how to do the work, that these reactions were that of my inner child. That girl had no idea what she was doing, but she didn’t have what she needed to do it in the first place. Then she took all of that into adulthood and did the best she could with the tools she had.
Thank goodness my adult self, dizzy from all the donuts, finally stopped checking herself out in the mirror long enough to see the damage. She took the wheel before the car made it to an icy road without a guardrail.
Although I have a lead foot and sometimes take my eyes off the road, I at least learned that other peoples’ actions don’t typically have much to do with me. So, I don’t use others’ actions to determine my value as a person anymore.
For example, when a partner doesn’t respond quickly to something I said, I know it’s because he didn’t hear me or he’s thinking. It’s not because he thought what I said wasn’t worth responding to. I know I deserve a response, so I no longer waste time worrying that I’m not worthy.
Discovering my inner child and learning about her has resulted in significant growth and changes in perspective.
Figuring out what she needed and how to address it isn’t where the road ended with her. It doesn’t have to end there for anyone. It’s a child’s job to play and once the adult takes over, that’s exactly what we should encourage our inner child to do.
In their play, we can find inspiration and guidance in finding the balance between responsibility and fun. Mine inspires me to look at life through new eyes and with curiosity. She reminds me to have fun and be creative.
As we continue our joyride, she points out the clouds that look like animals, is mesmerized by the glow of lightning bugs in the evening, and demands to stop at the fair to ride the Ferris Wheel just because it’s there.
She’s the best passenger I could have on this ride, even though I have no hope of seeing a single dime of gas money.