Why Your Inner Child Holds the Key to Your Happiness

emotional life inner child healing self-awareness self-worth Sep 20, 2021
happy child holding hands with mom and dad


Think about all of the feelings that you experience day-to-day. Whether it's anger, frustration, sadness, despair, or another pain of some kind, this usually isn't the first time that you've experienced that feeling. It's why one of the most common questions that I ask my clients when they come to me upset or bewildered by a situation in their life is “Is this feeling familiar?” Oftentimes, their answer is “yes, this feeling is familiar.” This is why the other most common question I ask my clients is how long has this feeling been around?” And oftentimes they'll tell me that they've felt this feeling since they were 7 years old or that the first time they felt this particular feeling was at the age of 5. I share this example to illustrate the notion that very few things that you experience today started today. Most things that you experience and feel today have roots in your childhood.


And that's where your inner child comes in.


Here is an example. One of the belief systems that I've struggled with most in my life is the feeling of not being good enough. This was evident to me in some ways but it wasn't fully obvious to me until I came home one day feeling incredibly aggravated by a co-worker who was, in my mind, not performing well enough.

Now you might be thinking to yourself… “So what does your coworker’s performance have to do with you?” Well, at the time I was in a managerial position and was managing the team that this particular coworker was on. If my coworker didn't perform well, it meant that I didn't perform well.

Knowing what I very well know, I turned to myself and asked myself, “Is this feeling familiar?” and guess what? Not surprisingly, the answer was yes. This feeling was very familiar. I could probably say it was more than familiar. It felt as familiar as my own skin. And here’s why: I grew up as an immigrant child of immigrant parents to whom survival was very much dependent on academic and financial success. In their minds, without succeeding academically, I would not obtain the financial stability I needed to survive and live in this world. (Although each immigrant story and narrative differs from the next, one thing they tend to have in common is some form of lack or persecution… that is to say, my parents had a very solid belief system, as many do, that “superior smarts lead to financially secure lives”.





I was raised to be the most competent person in the room. In fact, it wasn’t enough to just be competent. I had to be the most competent person in my class or risk feeling like I wasn’t good enough. When I brought back a 90% or 95% on a test in elementary or junior high school, for example, my father would ask— in a semi-joking though simultaneously very serious way— why not 105?” And so, to my inner child, not performing well equated to not getting the attention and love from my parents that I wanted.


(A note: If you know me, my work, and my message, you know it is not one of blame but one of understanding and compassion. My stance—after having done a lot of healing work myself— is that each of our caregivers did the best they could with what they knew and were able to do at the time. In sharing stories about my own or other people’s families, I am doing so to illustrate the trajectory of belief systems and emotional response patterns in our lives, and not as a means of blame).


Was the situation of my coworker not performing her best activating for me in the present day? Sure, it was. Doing a good job is one of my values and I would never want that to be different. And since it is one of my values, if you’re on my team there is an expectation and appreciation for your contribution to the larger whole. But the problem was that my emotional reaction at the time didn't really match the weight of the situation. It felt big. It felt like a personal assault. And so it became clear to me that I wasn't the only one being emotionally activated here. My inner child was the one bearing a large part of this present-day burden.





When your inner child and its past circumstances are being activated by some present-day circumstance, it’s not abnormal for your emotional reaction to feel a bit irrational or “too much” given the present-day situation. That's why you feel like you have very little control of your emotions. It's not just this situation that's causing your reaction, but many other situations like it that are reminiscent of this one and therefore also part of this emotional reaction that you’re having. Your nervous system doesn’t know the difference between past and present. It reacts as if what was happening then is happening now.


Your nervous system doesn’t know the difference between past and present. It reacts as if what was happening then is happening now.


The key to your happiness, then, isn’t understanding how to best deal with and behave in the present-day situation (That’s a great approach and there is an appropriate time and place to develop these sorts of skills in coaching and therapy, but often, and in this case, it only acts as a bandage for the deeper issue…). The key is rectifying the past so that you can naturally show up as your best self in the present.

Want more? We are diving into this topic in The Happiness Hub, my free and private online community. Come join us for this and other fascinating and life-changing topics and conversations!


The key to happiness is rectifying the past so that you can naturally show up as your best self in the present.


How do you rectify the past?


The way that you rectify the past is by developing a relationship with your inner child. You give your inner child what they didn’t get but so desperately needed at the time. This usually translates to getting the reassurance and understanding that they are worthy, loved, valued, and perfect exactly as they are, the understanding that the outcome of the situation wasn’t ever their fault, and the deep knowing that you love and cherish them, are sorry that no one—including you— was there for them in the way they needed.

It was our parent’s responsibility to be there for us in these meaningful ways when we were children; now it is our responsibility to be there for ourselves, remove ourselves from those hurtful experiences and memories, help ourselves to process what happened, love and reparent ourselves, and move forward with the knowledge that we are capable and loveable human beings. This is where all healing begins.





It was our parent’s responsibility to be there for us in these meaningful ways when we were children; now it is our responsibility to be there for ourselves.


What has triggered or activated you recently? Does your emotional response and the situation feel familiar to you in some way? If it does, you’ve likely stumbled upon an emotional wound born from situations of your past that this current situation is reminiscent of. This can feel like a bummer, and I encourage you to remember that it can also be a blessing. When we feel activated in some way, this serves as an invitation for us to bring to light what within us needs healing and to lovingly and compassionately create a space for that healing to occur. You are not expected to walk through this alone. That’s what therapy and coaching are for. If you’re ready to receive personalized support along your healing and happiness journey, reach out with any of your questions and curiosities, schedule a first session, and let’s get through what you need to get through together!


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