How to actually heal your inner child

A woman looks into a mirror only to find a younger version of herself staring back. Graphic by Lily Schneider.

REECE BUTLER | OPINION COLUMNIST | rmbutler@butler.edu

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of TikToks about ‘healing your inner child’ — a phrase describing the broad process of addressing and fixing the way in which your childhood can negatively impact who you are today. Some of these videos are actually pretty great — they offer in-depth explanations of confusing and relatively new terminology, generalized advice about finding a therapist to deal with any unresolved childhood trauma or explanations of their own healing journeys. But, as it typically is with Tiktok, some of these videos seem to be promoting things that are genuinely unhealthy.

William Cassner, a senior accounting and finance major, said he has heard of the idea of healing your inner child in a way that is fairly open to interpretation. 

“I’ve heard people talking about helping their inner child,” Cassner said. “Their idea was going back and doing things they didn’t get to experience as a child.”

While that seems fairly harmless, the healing process can definitely lead even the most well-meaning individuals into damaging pursuits. The main trend that I have come across is, in practice, a thinly-veiled excuse for unsustainable consumerism. Namely, people are claiming that the best way to heal your inner child is by buying lots and lots of children’s toys. Now I’m all for using your money however you please, but I disagree strongly with the notion that you should go to the metaphorical voice in your head for budgeting advice.

The reality is that this method promotes regression as a way to heal — it encourages you to try to relive the past in order to rewrite it. Unfortunately, you can’t do that. No amount of prolonging your childhood can undo the hardships of your youth. And as therapeutic as it can feel to buy something your younger self would have wanted, it’s pretty difficult to exercise moderation in an activity that you believe will genuinely undo your own trauma.

So, what should you actually do to heal your inner child? I’m so glad you asked.

Healing your inner child should focus on your continuous growth as a person and the ways you can provide yourself the stability, confidence and success you yearned for in your youth. It means becoming someone a younger version of yourself would be proud of.

To junior pharmacy major Abby Jones, healing your inner child is all about looking to the present.

“I think the point of it is to find out what you maybe didn’t have as a child and understand how that affects you as an adult,” Jones said.

First things first — if you grew up in any situation that may have left you with unresolved trauma, you should see a licensed therapist who is trained in trauma responses. It’s vital to get an unbiased, educated viewpoint on what it looks like for you personally to heal. Now for a quick disclaimer: therapy is awesome and normal and frankly, everyone should invest in a therapist. However, it is especially important to seek out a therapist when you are dealing with topics that require specific training.

Now, you may be more focused on the desire to feel that your younger self would be happy with how you turned out. Perhaps you want to make up for past feelings of isolation, insignificance or inadequacy. If so, there are some really simple, healthy ways to make that happen. 

The easiest thing to do to heal your inner child is look around you and take stock of all of the progress you’ve made — the things that only a younger you can truly understand the weight of. 

For me, I grew up wanting to go to Butler, hoping I would major in a similar area to what I ultimately chose. Younger me would be thrilled that I outgrew my fear of being too girly and littered my college dorm room with tons of pink, or that I chose to dye my hair regardless of how poorly it could have gone. 

This journey of healing may look very different for you. And that’s completely okay — this entire process revolves around what you care about, what you’ve been through and what you’re seeking. It is supposed to look different for everyone.

Abi Sipes, a sophomore computer science and psychology and criminology major, heals her inner child by pursuing her passions.

“My younger self would be proud of me for relentlessly following my dreams no matter the struggles I’ve had to face to reach them,” Sipes said.

Now, to be fair, maybe your younger self had insanely ambitious plans for your future. It likely may take some extra time for you to achieve the grandeur that you anticipated in your youth. 

Jones explained that a lot of her goals seemed much easier when she was younger.

“I think my younger self always thought I would accomplish everything I have with ease, but it actually hasn’t been easy at all,” Jones said. “So there are definitely things I’m proud of myself for, but my younger self didn’t think they would be hard for me at all and might even be disappointed with how much I struggled with them.”

This is a difficult thing to deal with. After all, no one wants to let down their younger self. But the key is to continue to progress, to become the kind of person that you now recognize as ideal instead of trying to mold yourself into your childhood expectations.

So, if you’re struggling to find things that make your inner child proud, there’s a simple solution — start doing those things right now. Look at your future and see what you can do to honor the aspirations of a younger version of yourself, whether that be finding a job where you feel valued, wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident or joining clubs that challenge you to grow without searching for a practical application.

Additionally, if you’re unsure whether or not you are making your younger self proud, try to romanticize the mundane areas of your life that show your growth. Personally, my past self dreamt of the day where I would trudge down to the dining hall in sweats with ten different deadlines in mind. In fact, I would bet that most of us used to imagine how our college lives would turn out, which makes this the perfect time to work on this idea of healing through progression.

I mean, ultimately, I’d say you ended up at a pretty great college. You’ve surrounded yourself with a strong community that is just waiting for you to take advantage of it. Your hard work has meant something, and it will continue to mean something. That’s more than enough to make “little you” proud.

It is inevitable that all of us — no matter how happy our childhoods were — have some scars left over from our respective pasts, but that is not an excuse to take for granted where we’re at now. Instead, let’s use our resources to work towards who we want to be in the future as opposed to dedicating our time to fixing the past.

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