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How to find your inner child (and her joy)

How did we all drift so far from the unbridled joy and enthusiasm we felt as children? And how do we find our way back: for ourselves and the world in which we live?

When did it all get so heavy?

I remember when I was a kid. I had so much enthusiasm for life. I remember loving school, loving my friends, and loving everything about the games I created and the things I did. I used to read books voraciously, draw, play make-believe, write and direct plays, pretend I was a radio station DJ: the list went on and on. 

I remember the aspirations and assumptions I had for my grownup self. I had no doubt that I would amount to something great, that I would get married, have two kids, be blissfully happy, and have it all, really. I could see it all with perfect clarity and self-assuredness. 

But it didn’t quite work out as I had planned. For most people, myself included, things got complicated. As time goes on, we adopt the fears and self-doubts that we learn from our parents and caregivers. We also step foot into the world and stumble. We learn that failure and ridicule hurt. So we develop methods to protect ourselves. We stay safe. We stay small. We do our best, but ultimately we hope that as long as we play by the rules, and keep our true selves hidden, that we’ll make it through life unscathed. At least this is what I did. And it worked ok for a while. But there was always that gentle knocking on the door to my heart, urging me to remember my truth, and not be afraid. I knew it was there because in my heart I also knew that I wasn’t fulfilled. 

But there is a funny thing about the gap between where you are and where you want to go. You know you don’t want to be where you are. You know there is something more. You have an inkling about what that is and where it lies. You know that what you want exists on the other side of your fear. But the truth is that you’re still left to rectify the limiting self-beliefs and thoughts and emotions that have kept you small for so long. And this can be hard to do when you’ve spent the first part of your life surrounded by people and situations that validate your former self. It can take a lot to break into a new reality, or simply a higher vibration. Often it feels like a chicken or egg scenario. You need the new people and new circumstances to help you shift out of old patterns. But what you really need is a new set of thoughts, emotions and behaviours to create a new reality. It’s always the latter. 

So how do you do it when the cards seem stacked against you? The honest truth is that some days I still feel like I don’t know. I see the weight of the events happening in the world around me and feel the collective despair in my heart. I feel my own incompetence and overwhelm in wanting to fix the broken systems and attitudes that have resulted in all the injustice. Other days I go through the motions with my two young kids, who are in my care almost constantly due to this pandemic, and can’t help but feel suffocated, with no time or energy left to fulfill my needs. And it’s not their fault. It just seems that there is so much work to do. But it also seems like life just comes at you, at full speed, and you are left trying to navigate to where you want to go while carrying the weight of the world as well. 

So what do we do, really? How do we fix the world around us when our own internal limits feel like they are reaching their peak? 

What I’ve learned in my life is that returning to our old models of thought, belief and ways of being are not an option. And I understand. You feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. You know you can’t go back, but moving forward feels so hard. You don’t feel ready. There doesn’t seem to be enough time. You don’t feel like you’re worthy. Maybe you lack the support you feel you need. 

So maybe rather than try to have it all figured out today, you can just take one tiny step forward instead. And be ok with that. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” Maybe what you need to be doing right now is just breathing space back into the present moment. Because it can feel like a big jump to where you want to go. And not just in terms of your aspirations. But in terms of changing your thoughts in order to get you there. 

The mere fact that you are aware of your discomfort and self-limiting beliefs and thought patterns, means that you are changing. And it might feel slower than what you want. But be gentle with yourself. The awareness itself indicates progress. 

Finally, try to relish a little deeper the small wins. What we do all too often is cast aside the gains we make and focus heavily on the failures or the end-goal that seems a million miles away. Please don’t forget to remember how far you’ve come. Give yourself permission to linger with the good feelings of accomplishment: even if that accomplishment is simply the awareness itself. 

The truth is that you are right where you are meant to be. You are here to embody your own truth and share that truth with the world. But your journey to get there is different than anyone else’s, including that of your younger self’s vision. And despite this, you are worthy of striving for this truth, at whatever pace you travel right now. All you have to do is just stay on the road.

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