In my case parenting, or lack thereof, was a big contributing factor in my lack of self worth and ability to love myself. I’ve long since made peace with the fact that my parents did what they thought was best and parented to the best of their ability (as inadequate as that ability may have been), but after years of believing and internalizing that I was the problem, this awareness and acceptance was not nearly enough to fill The Parents Sized Hole in my Heart.
I tried filling that hole with food, while I waited for them to come around, but at some point I had to let go of the expectation that they would change and find a way to help myself, which brings us to self love hack #3. This hack requires a good imagination or ability to visualize and a moderate tolerance for being considered a crunchy hippy (because talking about inner children seems to evoke this accusation).
I don’t have any human children of my own, but I’ve been awkwardly perched on a chair for the last hour, to comfort my four-legged perma-toddler, because it’s storming and he is scared. I may not know what it’s like to be a parent to a baby, but I know how to love someone or something with my whole heart and I know now what I needed in a parent when I was younger. As an adult I have the capacity and ability to provide that for myself.
I think in a lot of cases my emotional responses are still rooted in my childhood fears, especially when my reaction seems disproportionate to the situation. So when I catch myself reacting from a distorted core belief, I try to connect my present day adult with the inner child at the center of that belief and act as I would have wanted a parent to behave. I prefer to actually visualize my inner child, because it is much easier to be gentle and loving towards a child than it is towards and adult reacting like a child. I imagine my inner child climbing into my lap, holding her tight and encouraging, comforting, validating, soothing, reassuring her, or whatever else she needs in that moment.
It took me a while before I was able to trust myself to reparent in this way. This might even sound a little coo-coo, but it took some time for my inner child to be willing to be parented by me. So in the meantime, I imagined other people (whom I considered to be more capable at parenting, more loving, and more trustworthy/reliable) holding and supporting my inner child, until I was able to see myself in that role.
If this sounds a little too split personality to you, it might help you to name your inner child something other than your own name. Until you start to love yourself, it might be easier to pretend that the child you are lovingly re-parenting is a separate person who is not you. And if this still seems too far out there for you, stay tuned for some of the other, more mainstream self love hacks coming up this month, including self care, affirmations, mirrors and focusing on the present moment.
Pre-publishing confession: I’m a little nervous to put this out there, because I don’t want you to think I’m off my rocker (even though I’m aware of the fact that I can not control, nor am I responsible for how other people feel about me, nor is it any of my business). But I believe that getting to know my inner child and learning how to comfort her has made a huge difference in my ability to see myself as lovable and learn to love myself, so I felt like I had to include it in the list.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Do you believe you have an inner child calling the shots sometimes? Are there other ways to re-parent yourself, without imaging your inner child?