As a perfectionist and a tough self-critic, the concept of an inner child has helped get me through many rough patches. I have spent a lot of times in my life struggling with emotional issues. Self-hatred, depression, and anxiety were no strangers to me. Then my mentor introduced me to the concept of the inner child. She told us to put a picture of ourselves as children in our journal or by the mirror as a reminder to approach ourselves with love. This had such a powerful effect on me.
Children embody innocence and purity, which is why it's so easy to love, support, and protect them. We deserve that same level of love, support, and protection throughout our lives and it's our duty to show that to ourselves so that others can reflect it back to us. We set the stage for how we're treated, so it's important to be a good example.
It's easy to go to bat for a child, to help them, and to nurture them. This gets hard to do as we get older, but it shouldn't. If we all viewed ourselves and others has the child they/we once were, we would act completely different toward ourselves and others. There would be more love, patience, kindness, support, forgiveness, empathy, etc.
The concept of the inner child also helped me approach my struggles with objectivity. Often times, we can easily dole out advice to anyone but ourselves. Our self-criticism, judgement, fears, and doubts stop us from being objective. We get lost in our own heads and a great tool for this is to imagine yourself as someone else or as a child coming to you with the same struggles. Write down what you would say to them and then read it to yourself.
The beauty of using the image of a child is that it simplifies things. Children need love, support, and attention. As we grow older, we still need the same things, but we've adjusted to not receiving them as often. Anytime I was struggling I imagined a child and instantly my thinking would shift to a more loving space. The level of judgment, criticism, anger, and disappointment I felt toward myself wouldn't survive when met with a child. Thinking of myself as a cute, innocent child helped me find a way to love myself, especially the parts I deemed unloveable.
I'm a huge advocate for journaling, especially for anyone having a hard time. Writing to my inner child (i.e. "Dear Little Angie...") has been one of the most powerful tools I've used to heal and let go. I used to have a lot of body image issues and was really hard on myself for the foods I ate and how much or little I worked out. After learning about the inner child concept I wrote a letter imagining what I would say to a child struggling with the same negative thoughts. Instantly my heart filled with so much love, empathy, and sadness for this pure, beautiful child who couldn't see the light and beauty in her own reflection.
I poured love onto multiple pages describing that beauty isn't measured by pounds, inches, or calorie intake but is a reflection of someone's confidence, self-love, and their pure essence. I then read this letter back to myself and felt the truth in these words and, after many tears and some self-pity, I was changed forever. I saw and treated myself differently and witnessed the world do the same. It's amazing to watch how approaching life in a different way changes the way you are seen, received, and treated by others.
Go dig out some old pics, say hi to little you, and never forget that we were all once completely pure, innocent, beautiful children. It's a little silly, but give it a go. Make peace with yourself, soak up some love, and experience some profound positive change.