Your inner child is a version of yourself that isn’t weighed down by the demands and anxieties of adult life.
I can’t speak for all introverts, but for me, growing up as a “quiet one” was a rough experience. From the assumption that “it’s always the quiet types” who have secret awful schemes brewing behind their introverted exteriors to coming home drained from a full day of social interaction at school, thinking about my childhood doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies.
This isn’t to say that I never had good experiences as a child, but it is to say that life has treated me better as I’ve grown older. Or, at the very least, I’ve learned to distance myself from situations where my introverted nature doesn’t seem welcomed or understood. I’ve also found a small group of close friends who “get” me — they love and accept me as an introvert, which has made a huge difference.
As I’ve worked on recovering from anxiety, depression, and trauma, I’ve had to get creative in my approach to healing. One of the most soothing and wholesome trends I’ve picked up in my therapeutic journey has been healing the inner child. While it can sound “woo woo” and a little strange, it’s a coping technique that I swear by.
But tapping into the most sensitive, wide-eyed aspects of yourself doesn’t just have to be for introverts. Still, I’ve found that some ways of reaching your figurative inner child are a better fit for introverts than others.
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What Is an Inner Child?
Inner child is a term that can mean many things. While Psychology Today refers to it as the “child dwelling within us,” pop culture mostly uses it to refer to an imagined aspect or version of yourself that isn’t weighed down by the demands or anxieties of adult life. The interpretation of this concept is as broad as the people who enjoy exploring it.
Some take the idea of an inner child literally and participate in age regression activities; others take a more philosophical approach. Either way, the idea of an inner child has gained popularity recently. According to Bustle, the “healing your inner child” trend started on TikTok about a year ago and it’s still going strong.
What people do with this trend varies. Part of the social media community views it as a spiritual practice while others toss around the phrase “healing my inner child” to justify spending grown-up money on child-like items. As someone who enjoys collecting miniatures, I won’t knock anyone for indulging in some inner child retail therapy.
Still, that’s not the only way to connect with your inner child, or at least nurture the most sensitive side of yourself. There are plenty of inexpensive (or even free) ways to connect with facets of yourself that aren’t as affected by the harsh realities of growing up.
For more extroverted individuals, healing the inner child may involve going to loud social settings, like amusement parks or Build-a-Bear workshops. But these situations aren’t always introvert-friendly. This is why I’ve compiled a list of seven introvert-friendly activities to start your own inner child work. (Of course, to get really deep, you can consult with a mental health professional. But that’s a whole other article…)
7 Introvert-Friendly Ways to Heal Your Inner Child
1. Color — both in and out of the lines.
In our everyday lives as adults, many of us have to “cross our t’s and dot our i’s.” When you’re trying to let go of adult perfectionism, a coloring book can be the perfect place to start. If you still want to feel like a proper grown-up while coloring, you can opt for one of those “adult coloring books” that have all the intricate lines and small spaces. Plus, research has found that coloring is calming and a great way to relieve stress.
If you’re like me, you might find that the little coloring nooks and crannies are too stressful. No matter how old I get, I’ll never be too old for a Hello Kitty coloring book — although I probably won’t display my finished masterpieces on my fridge at this stage in life. If framing your masterpiece or tacking it on the refrigerator is your jam, though, I won’t stop you!
2. Create a sand tray — the more personalized, the better.
A sand tray is a tool that is used in modes of therapy, like play therapy and art therapy. It can also be a relaxing space to be messy when your adult life requires a level of restraint.
You can either buy a “zen garden” or sand tray online, or fill a small dish with sand. From there, the possibilities are endless. Add little figurines, stones, crystals, or other knick-knacks to personalize the sand tray. If you don’t like the texture or messy nature of sand, you can always roll out a sheet of fabric or even a piece of construction paper and arrange your “sand tray” design on that. You can even use an online sand tray — or get a book about it online, like Sandtray Therapy.
3. Have an inner child movie night, where you watch your old favorites.
There’s something comforting to me about rewatching my favorite childhood films. Whether I’m putting on a classic Disney animated movie or watching the currently beloved cartoon, Bluey, it can feel nice to watch something low-stakes and colorful instead of more mature flicks with complicated plots.
As my inner child gets caught up in the wonder, I get the benefit of knowing that it’ll all end “happily ever after” as an adult. It’s the best of both worlds.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
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4. Bury your nose in your favorite childhood books.
For many of us introverts, reading was a haven as a kid. As an adult, I find it easy to get caught up in other activities and forget reading for the joy of it.
But one of the ways I reignite my love of reading is by rereading the series that kept me occupied throughout my childhood. Spending a couple of hours in the literary worlds that captivated my mind as a kid makes my inner child happy, and maybe it will do the same for you, too.
5. Practice gratitude by writing a letter to your inner child.
As studies show, regularly practicing gratitude can lower stress while raising physical and mental health. For this reason, it can be particularly helpful to sit down and write a “thank-you” letter to your inner quiet child. (Plus, introverts generally like writing letters.)
While some of us may have received messages as kids that we were “too quiet” or “too sensitive,” we have the opportunity to appreciate those qualities in ourselves as adults. Writing a thank-you letter to your inner child may sound silly, but you’d be surprised at how cathartic it might be if you try.
6. Use visualization techniques and ask your inner child what they wished they’d had.
If you’re into meditation, try to visualize a metaphorical childhood version of yourself and ask them what they wished they’d had. In other words, what they needed that they did not receive.
For extra inspiration, you may want to have a physical image of yourself as a child nearby or simply conjure up the image in your mind. To make the visualization technique even more powerful, you can find a way to meet that need as an adult.
For example, if your inner child “says” they wish they could spend more time in their favorite places, like the library or woods, you might find it healing as an adult to go to those spaces more often. There’s no right or wrong way to follow this suggestion. Showing up for yourself and staying curious with your inner child is key.
7. Honor your quiet inner child and the introverted adult you have become.
Most importantly, introverts can make up for lost time by honoring their quiet way of being as an adult. As I mentioned earlier, we can often be misunderstood by the extroverts in our lives. Though they may mean well, adults frequently push introverted kids to be more social or comfortable with loud environments. Whether you believe in “inner child work” or you just want to nurture yourself — and boost your emotional health — the most healing thing you can do is accept yourself unconditionally.
Even if you don’t believe an inner child exists in a literal sense, we can all benefit from unwinding from the stresses of the adult world every once in a while. By doing the inner child work, we might experience a deeper level of self-love and healing than we ever have before. At the very least, we can have fun taking a trip down memory lane to a simpler time.
You might like:
- How Introverts Can Reconnect With Their Inner Child and Find Their Life Purpose
- These 21 Things Stress Out Highly Sensitive People the Most
- 9 Ways Introverts Can Improve Their Emotional Health
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