It’s Dec. 1, 2017, and the year’s Spotify Wrapped has just been released.
I’m 16 years old and I care way too much about what you might have to say regarding the top artists I’ve listened to this year. To be perfectly honest, I care way too much about what you might have to say regarding every little detail about me.
And, as I stare at the list of artists I’ve listened to the most this past year that Spotify has compiled for me, I’m reminded how embarrassed I am that I listen to so much One Direction.
I stifle my emotions in fear of being childish. I’m not a fan of public speaking because I hate being the center of attention, whether I’m up on stage or in front of a class for all my peers to judge me. I stay on top of fashion trends and hang out with the right people and hide my personality if it grows to be “too much.”
My actions are dictated by what others think of me.
Now flash forward.
It’s Dec. 1, 2021, and this year’s Spotify Wrapped has just been released.
I’m 20 years old, and I don’t really care what you think about which songs I’ve played on repeat this past year. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really care what you think about me at all.
And, as I stare at the list of artists I’ve listened to the most this past year that Spotify has compiled for me, I’m kind of amused with how much I’ve listened to One Direction this year.
With almost two years of COVID-19 leaving us all in semi-isolation, I’ve had ample time to get to know myself way better than I might have wanted. Being sent home from college in March 2020 to finish out the semester in my childhood bedroom got me thinking about my experiences in high school (gross) and middle school (even grosser).
This year has been filled with self-reflection. What would 20-year-old me have to say to my 13-year-old self? Would I change anything if I could redo high school? Why did I care so much about how others viewed me?
I reminisced about my elementary school days, about how carefree and authentic I was.
As I grew up, I found myself wanting to change every little quirk about my personality to try and fit in with the crowd. I muffled my inner child, the voice inside my head that’s been with me since day one, and rejected parts of myself that I didn’t like.
But I’m not in middle or high school anymore. I’m a little older and — I’d like to think — a little wiser, too. I don’t want to continue hurting my past self and inner child by suppressing my true personality. As the world returns to some form of normalcy with increased socializing and more time spent in community with one another, I want to change how I interact with the world.
And so I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to work on healing my inner child.
This healing process is a chance to listen to what my past self always wanted and give myself another opportunity to change the narrative. It doesn’t have to be intense meditations listening to some voice in the back of my mind or recreating scenes from my childhood. Healing can be subtle, too.
For me, healing my inner child is wearing ridiculous, mismatched socks.
Healing my inner child is stopping to take pictures of pretty flowers on my walk to class.
Healing my inner child is unabashedly singing along to One Direction songs and fan-girling over Taylor Swift when she re-releases her albums. It’s pretending that I'm the only person in the world as I dance in the street and it’s lip-syncing all the words to Queen songs on my walk to class without worrying if people are judging me.
It’s letting my personality show in all the ways I was too scared back when I was younger.
And I invite you to join me on this important, albeit somewhat silly, journey.
In the mental health community, the process of inner child work is often coupled with trauma therapy and healing from deep, emotional wounds. But I’d argue that everybody can benefit from this form of self care. It’s not just for survivors of childhood trauma or some kind of cheesy therapy tactic; healing your inner child is a way to mindfully connect with your past self and create a safe space for authenticity.
Think about times in your past that you wish you could change. Did you feel left out or pressured to act differently in order to fit in? How would you want to redo a certain part of your childhood?
I implore you to search for ways to communicate with and take care of your inner kid. Maybe healing your inner child also looks like putting on your favorite music from 2014 and imagining you’re auditioning for American Idol in your bedroom. Maybe it’s just taking a break from studying to go watch the sunset. This process is unique to every individual; take the chance to explore different ways of healing.
So order the chocolate chip pancakes at brunch and dance around your living room to the Mamma Mia soundtrack.
Your past self will thank you.
Emma Sells is a photographer for The Beacon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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