Posted on October 1, 2012
Guest Post: Don’t Let Growing Up Destroy Your Inner ChildIf growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree… I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, Not me!
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh for the musical production of J.M. Barrie’s book Peter Pan
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Why is it that some children can’t wait to grow up while most adults would love to be children again? Yet derogatory images of childhood have crept into our language.
“Oh, don’t be childish!”
“You are such a baby!”
“He’s just never grown up.”
As we get older, we too often begin to associate childishness with the more negative attributes of some children: selfishness, poutiness, impatience, and tantrums. Society does its best to drum these traits out of us, but somewhere along the way, we can also lose other wonderful childhood traits such as a sense of wonder, fearlessness, playfulness, innocence, and trust.
Now I’m not knocking maturity. It allows us to take responsibility for our own actions and happiness. It gives us the inner fortitude to handle the challenges life throws at us. It greatly facilitates our getting along as adults in society.
But has growing up for you seemed more about soul-sucking responsibility and drudgery than joy? If so, perhaps you need to rediscover your inner child!
Here are just a few fun ways you can start. If you try each of these for just four days, you’ll begin to get back in touch with that beautiful child inside you:
- Rekindle your sense of wonder: Make a point of paying attention to the world around you. Look closely at a flower. Study the intricate patterns of a leaf or tree bark. Marvel at the immense power of a storm or the ocean. I started a nature journal so I could capture some of these experiences.
- Reflect on what makes you happy and sad: Tuck a couple of index cards in your pocket, and jot down what makes you happy or sad. As you identify situations or scenarios or activities that lift you up, consciously make more time for them. I realized how happy I felt when someone thanked me for a handwritten note. So now I write more of them! Inversely, think of ways to minimize what makes you sad or stressed. When I started paying attention to this, I discovered a direct correlation between my stress level and the amount of sleep I got the night before. Getting more sleep has been a game changer for me.
- Make time for play: This is one I struggle with myself, but researchers are discovering play is powerful therapy for stress. Think about what play means for you and make time for it. I bought myself a Buddha Board for my desk so I can doodle at will.
- Be yourself: Of course, this should always be tempered with kindness and thoughtfulness, but don’t keep people guessing about your motives or your opinions. Be a “what you see is what you get” kind of person and, even more importantly, respect and cherish that in others. It takes courage to be yourself.
- Try something new: Children aren’t afraid to set out on a new venture, but as we get older, fear of failure can become almost paralyzing. Have you mean meaning to write a book? Are you itching to turn your hobby into a business? Do you want to learn a new language? Take one baby step towards your goal today. I’m taking a course on Digital Publishing so I can write that book I’ve been talking about for years.
- Explore: Get out of your rut. Read a book or watch a move in a different genre from your usual fare. Try a new food. Go somewhere within 50 miles you’ve been meaning to visit. Our local arboretum is on my list to visit soon.
I know these simple techniques won’t fix all the stress or sadness or worry in your life, but they can help you rediscover a part of you you may have been missing.
How have you gotten in touch with your inner child? I’d love to hear in the comments below.
Photo credit: Maria Dryfhout via BigStockPhoto
Elizabeth H. Cottrell is a freelance writer, author, social media pro, and digital publisher in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She teaches small business clients how to increase visibility and build strong customer relationships. She helps authors get the book out of their head and published. She blogs for small business owners at RiverwoodWriter.com, and she blogs about the power of connection and note writing at Heartspoken.com. You can also find Elizabeth on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.