When we grow up with unmet childhood needs, we learn to put others’ needs ahead of our own. We ignore our own needs, or try to take care of them ourselves, which leads to a neglected inner child.
This loss of innocence in childhood affects us deeply as adults. We never felt the protection and care that allowed us to explore the world confidently. So, we feel anxious and fearful, and rarely let down our guard.
Now that we’re adults we can reparent ourselves and take care of those needs that went unmet in childhood. Here are five ways.
1. Embrace emotions
Forced to abandon ourselves and our feelings from a young age, we fear emotions and feel bad for having certain ones. Instead of comforting ourselves, we chastise ourselves for feeling that way.
Pay attention to your emotions and embrace them rather than pushing them aside or criticizing yourself for having them. Give yourself the support you would give a friend going through something difficult.
2. Forgive yourself
Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. You did the best you could with the information you had at the the time.
Our parents never gave us the guidance and support others received. If you knew better, you’d do better.
This is not the same as positive self-talk. You may have noticed that repeating positive mantras hasn’t worked for you. Or they worked for a while and then you went back to your old mindset of self-criticism.
That’s because if deep down you don’t really believe the mantras they won’t work. Studies have shown that mantras only benefit those who already have a positive self-image.
Self-kindness will help you raise your self-worth so you can believe those mantras and feel their impact.
4. Let the inner child play
Take yourself out for an ice cream cone. Go to the arcade if that’s something you enjoy.
Give yourself the opportunity to play and explore in ways you weren’t allowed to as a kid. We can’t get our childhood back, but we can reparent ourselves now to receive the care and attention we missed.
5. Thank the inner child
What looks like self-sabotage is actually a form of self-protection. To avoid things like disappointment and abandonment, your inner child employed all kinds of tactics to keep you safe.
These include procrastination, shiny object syndrome, pushing people away… Thank your child for being so vigilant in protecting you, but tell her you no longer need her services.