I have a confession.
There has been someone following me for quite sometime. Someone living in my shadow for decades, who I chose to ignore and disregard, whose feelings I didn’t acknowledge or attempt to understand. I left her in the darkness as I desperately fought my way towards the light.
She is my inner child.
As a child (and still today) I had a lot of feelings, too many feelings, to deal with in such a tiny body with no outlets but tears and tantrums. As a small human, I learned early on what it felt like not to be able to express your truth, to feel misunderstood and labeled.
‘Difficult’, ‘unruly’, ‘problem child’, ‘brat’.
Those words stung. They drove into me like needles. They etched into me a tattoo of who I thought I was.
Unlovable, unknowable, unrelatable
So as I left childhood, and grew into a young adult, complete with a greater awareness for the world around me, I made a choice.
I decided to move forward numb, to shut down the feelings and emotions that coursed through me, to better fit in, to feel less alone. And the only way to do that?
Silence my inner child. Confirm her greatest fears- that she wasn’t heard, that no one was listening and that her voice didn’t matter.
What I didn’t realize was that by shutting her out, I severed myself in two and moved forward as a broken person. For years after I felt empty and that a piece of me was missing. I tried to fill the void in many ways but as time continued it remained unfillable.
So as I turned twenty-three not much had changed since I turned my back on that little girl over a decade ago. I was still on that search for what was missing inside me. Never once thinking to myself, never once realizing, that the whole time, the very thing I was missing, the very thing I needed to reconnect with, in order to be whole- was her.
So I went looking.
After all these years where could she have gone? How far could she have gone? The questions ran rampant through my mind laced with guilt, regret and shame. How could I have let her go? Why did I send her away.
I searched in every possible place one could look when they are ‘finding themselves.’ I changed jobs, switched careers, traveled the world; the whole time looking for her.
Then, after years of searching, I found myself collapsing in a depressive relapse. I had searched everywhere, there was nowhere else to look. She was gone. I had lost her and it was all my fault.
Then with the help of a few amazing people, it dawned on me. Maybe she never left at all. Maybe she had been here, in me, this whole time.
So instead of searching outward, I finally made a conscious choice to turn inward and to look inside myself. A mirror I had avoided for a long time. I dug through the piles and wreckage of my past, of my mistakes and my regrets, all the things I wished to forget.
But I continued searching and eventually I found her right where I had left her, curled up in a ball, head between her legs, breathing quiet sobs. I walked up to her and gently placed a hand on her back.
She looked up. “You left me,” she said.
“I know,” I said. “I did leave you, but I was wrong.”
And then I asked the most important question anyone can ask themselves: “Can you forgive me?”
She sniffled and wiped her hand across her nose, tears glistened down streaky cheeks and after a moments pause she said:
“Yes, of course I can forgive you.”
But it wasn’t her that was forgiving me at all, in fact it was much simpler than that.
It was me forgiving myself.
Self-forgiveness is a powerful tool and a necessary one to heal our mangled minds, to find peace in the present and to let go of our mistakes of the past.
Far fewer of us are whole than we wish to admit. So many of us have pasts filled with trauma, remorse, regret, things too painful and parts of us that we have buried deep down and far away.
But those parts of us are not lost and they are more willing and ready to forgive than you could ever imagine.
Self-love does not exist in another, it can not be taught, found in a place far away or discovered through an experience. It can only be manifested, ignited inside you and the catalyst to that spark is forgiveness.
It is looking in the mirror, staring deep into your reflection, looking yourself in the eye and saying:
“I forgive you.”
And as for me and my own inner child? Now rather than existing in a divided, hopeless desperation, instead we dance.
And together we are whole.