The little girl I saw by the water ran into the sun. Her reflection traced the water near her feet; her hair and skin alive with possibility. You wouldn’t believe how long she lived in the shadows, a frail thing seemingly plucked from beneath the stairs.
She looked like me. Brighter, more awake, less fearful. She has the world cupped in her hands. Now what do I do with her now that she knows my name, and I know she exist along with me.
I’ve read that honoring our shadow selves means giving light to the parts of us we were told to shame. My history includes being “too loud”, too charismatic for the family functions and open with family history. Too curious and all it took was a well-placed insult or critique at the wrong time from the “right” person to send me into hiding. For those of us who know the life of shadows, It feels like a slap in the face and a punch in the gut simultaneously, making us feel like someone knows nothing about us yet somehow sees through us.
The safest thing I learned to do was hide. Conceal. Pretend that I’m fine succumbing to whatever path is being created for me, instead of the one I am meant to walk on my own. We begin to shrink into ourselves, snuffing out the inklings of individuality as to not disturb those who made a point to shine light on our supposed inadequacies.
It’s said those rumblings beneath our skin is our inner child seeking to be fed. I grew used to punching her back down. For her own good, because it would be safer for both of us to grow comfortable in our learned helplessness. I had to hit the rocks beneath the bottom to understand how silencing my shadows harms every cell of my being. And only after learning how to climb have I digested how to honor something I’ve locked away.
Below are some tips I’ve gathered along my self-love journey.
How to feed your inner child
Feeding our inner child goes beyond occasionally indulging in the treats of our childhood. It delves deeper into giving our child the things from which they’ve been cut off. Perhaps your inner child likes the stage: singing, dancing, overall performing. When it’s safe to do so or even virtually, take to the space that gives you life in a whole new way. There are no limits; no one can define this space for you now. Drive the attention to your new lease of creativity, lean in and watch your shadow be nourished.
How to clothe your inner child
Be bold. Mix patterns. Layer. Make a statement. Because kids wear what speaks to them, what makes them feel good, and so should you. Add a new piece to your wardrobe that really begins to center the style you are walking in now. Adorn yourself in jewelry. Be intentional with what you put on and how. That princess dress or chef’s apron from decades past may now look different, but that feeling of power and self-acceptance remains. Most importantly, clothe yourself – your inner child – in affirmation. In support. In love.
How to support your inner child
Most kids love making messes. Getting into the dirt, knocking over block towers, seeing how far the milk will drop from the high chair. Get into the dirt with yourself and your inner child to uncover the roots of codependency, projection, fear that have sprouted into the spoiled garden you may currently have. There is no judgment here. We all have some roots that don’t belong to us that are taking up space and choking off seeds we’ve planted. Let’s prepare to rip them up.
This involves getting messy. We may dig and find some things you didn’t want to see. Your back aches from pulling, your arms are scratched up from unwieldy thorns reminding you why you stop trying every time you start. I encourage you to push through. Keep digging until each bulb, seed and root planted to keep you quiet is uprooted and tossed into the compost. The dirt will wash off and the scratches will heal. The work you’ve done here to honor yourself and your shadow will last lifetimes.
Honoring our shadows means letting the light shine to reveal what’s been blocked from the sun. Allowing our truest, most awkward, show-stopping, uncomfortable-for-others self fly in the face of what’s expected.