When you think of embracing your inner child, you might think of goofing around, being silly and ultimately acting unlike that of an adult. Instead, think about embracing your inner child in a deeper sense – embracing your authentic self with true feelings and desires, some feelings that you might have been taught to suppress in the past.
A child can often show you how their authentic self looks. Should they feel hungry, sad, angry, happy, or excited, a child will often remain honest and true to their feelings. You have probably heard the phrase ‘If you want an honest answer, ask a child’.
Research professor and author, Berné Brown, suggests that as you progress through life, you encounter situations where your authentic behavior provokes negative judgement from others and inevitably you feel shame. This shame can stop your most authentic expression. For example, a young boy might decide to wear a princess outfit during playtime, but he is then teased by his peers or told “that’s for girls.” He learns that that expression induces shame or ridicule. Depending on how severe the reaction, the boy may then change his behavior to avoid the feeling of shame. It is this feeling of shame that ultimately prevents you from being your true self.
Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Explored further, Brown correlates feelings of shame with some of the most difficult of psychological experiences: anxiety, depression, addictions, eating disorders, bullying, violence and suicide.
Brown’s advice to walk through the vulnerability felt in those situations to get to courage. She terms this shame ‘resilience,’ the ability to practice authenticity when you feel shame, and to move through the experience without compromising your values and come through with more courage, compassion and connection.
During her talk entitled ‘The Power of Vulnerability,’ Brown discusses the characteristics of those that have high shame resilience and presents 10 commandments to live by to embrace your authentic self.
- Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think
- Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism
- Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness
- Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
- Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty
- Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison
- Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
- Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
- Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
- Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and always in control.
By taking these 10 pointers and letting go of the shame and fear that gets in your way, you can unleash your true, playful, expressive selves – your inner child. Here are some key points to reflect on while you’re spending more time at home with your loved ones:
- Do or don’t do things because you want to
- Be grateful for the parts of your life that make you happy
- Play, rest, laugh, sing and dance
- Embrace uncertainty by appreciating what you have in the moment
- Live authentically as your inner child would.
Berné Brown is a research professor who spent the last two decades of her career studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She is the author of five number one New York Times bestsellers; The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead. Her audio book, The Power of Vulnerability, is also covered as a Ted Talk.