You know that part of you that you hate?
I’m talking about that part—that f-ing part—that does that humiliating thing that you never, ever want to do again. Much less let anyone else see. That part of you that you suppress, stomp down, shout out, try to exercise or eat away. That part of you that makes you cringe.
I see you out there, saying, “Whoa Bridge, I don’t ‘hate’ any part of me, that’s pretty strong language there girl! I do my work, I understand I have my great points and not-so-great aspects, but hate? Naw.”
That’s what I would’ve said too. And then I had an up close and extremely personal meeting with my shadow side.
The shadow part of me needs. She needs to be loved, validated, adored. Others cannot give her enough of what she needs. She’s clingy, graspy, jealous, and scared to death. To be honest, she’s a little cray-cray. I was not a fan. Who the hell was this crazy bitch who showed up and how did she take over my mind? I kept saying, “This is not me! I am not like this!” I railed against my shadow self. I fought her, berated her, tried to “work” her away, and tried to have others love me enough to make her go away. But the shadow me is a super scrappy fighter and she would not be ignored any longer. She turned up the volume of her fear and pain until I felt so awful that I was forced to… surrender.
I finally stopped fighting and looked within myself. And then I saw her. She was a scared and shaking little girl. Me.
Oh god. I was so mean to her! When I looked within and saw that scared little girl who needed, I was filled with compassion and tenderness. She needed from me. No one could give her what she wanted until I went first. All the loathing evaporated. How could I hate her? I love her. What’s not to love? She’s adorable, vulnerable, and I totally get her. I asked her what she wanted from me. She wanted a hug. I gave her one. She wanted me to hold her hand. I did. She wanted me to pay attention to her, love her, adore her. I told her I do and I will. She wanted me to play with her, to have fun, be joyful. I promised I would. I sat outside with her in her favorite place for three hours. Sat and breathed and cried and stayed with her. She was happy. And for the first time in quite a while, so was I.
After that day, I feel a deep peace, groundedness and connectedness within myself that I’ve never felt. And while I’ve felt shaky at times since then, I haven’t lost this sense of being deeply tethered within myself. Making this deep connection healed something that felt broken within me. I feel whole. And now when I feel that feeling of need, if I remember to go in and comfort that little part of me, I meet the need. I don’t do it perfectly, and that’s ok too. It’s a messy process.
I must admit, there
was is also the snarky part of me that was is saying, “Really? Inner child? We’re going to bring back 90’s self-help now?!? I’m going to have to tell people that the key to deeply loving themselves is connecting with their inner child? Seriously?” In a word, yes.
There is so much talk about self love. In my book The Groove Kitchen, I talk about self love and care as an attitude, not an activity. That’s a layer of it—showing yourself love by making yourself a priority, taking care of your body/mind/spirit, doing your own work, etc… is all crucial. But what I’ve learned (am learning) is that there’s an inner layer. Deep self love is about shining the light on your shadow side, those parts of you that you hate and resist, and meeting that small little you there and loving him or her. Seeing your own vulnerability and embracing it. Being willing to be messy and loving your messiest parts. Saying to yourself, yes, this is (part of) me. And yes, I am (sometimes) like this.
How to get started connecting with your inner child*:
Step 1: Connect with Your Body
Sit comfortably in a place where you feel safe and will be undisturbed for 5-15 minutes. Feel your feet on the floor, wiggle them if you like. Feel your booty in the chair, your back against it. Take at least 3 deep breaths into your belly, in and out. Breathe until you feel your body start to calm, your breath moving in and out through your stomach and chest, mouth and nose.
Step 2: Make Friends with Your Inner Child
Feel into the center of your body—your heart/solar plexus area—and see if you can picture, imagine, feel or see your inner child. How old is he or she? What does she or he look like? What are they doing? What are they wearing? Where are they? As little or as much detail comes and in whatever form is great. Don’t put pressure on yourself.
Step 3: Comfort Your Inner Child
If you are in the throws of a shadow attack, your inner child will be upset. Ask them what they would like from you. If it feels ok for you, give it to them. There’s no real structure to this part, just be with your inner child and provide comfort and compassion. You can talk or not talk with them, it’s all up to you. Note: If the messages from your child sound critical or blaming, that is not your inner child! That is your mind—your inner critic—creeping in. Thank your mind for its point-of-view and gently return being there with your inner child. Stay for as little or as long as feels good.
Letting myself be messy, embracing my inner child—basically doing everything I’ve ever scoffed at or resisted—is setting me free. Love what you resist. Bless your mess. I’ll be right there with you, cheering you on.
* It’s ok if you’re not ready. Just remember this process the next time your shadow rears its foofy little head.
(Shadows are much less scary when I think of their heads being foofy. Plus, foofy is a fun word and my inner child likes it.)