Honoring the inner child that wants to come out and play

March 3, 2023

Honoring the inner child that wants to come out and play

“We nurture our creativity when we release our inner child. Let it run and roam free. It will take you on a brighter journey.”—Serina Hartwell

They say none of us escapes life unscathed. As we grow older, we get busier, smarter, wiser, and more responsible, but we are also prone to becoming more jaded and cynical. We often mistake the fear of taking risks for caution and wisdom, and we are afraid to make mistakes for fear of being judged. Some of us abstain from having fun because we deem it frivolous, a lack of discipline, or “a waste of time”. When we were kids, it was different. We were bolder, more curious, and more honest, and we knew how to have fun.

We had big dreams as children, and we are unafraid to say those dreams out loud. The words “impossible” or “unrealistic” weren't part of our concerns when it came to our dreams. We wanted to be an astronaut, a pilot, a superhero, a doctor—the list goes on. But as we grow older, we restrain ourselves from dreaming big for the sake of “being realistic” and “practical”.

Kids are also more open and honest when making friends and building relationships. Age, gender, race, and background didn’t matter. If they want to play with us, we welcome them with open arms. When others do something that offends us, we say so without filter or hesitation. And when we were hurt, we weren’t afraid to express ourselves, maybe throwing a tantrum or two.

Of course, growing up and becoming more mature are essential. With years of experience, we grow wiser, learn more things, and are able to apply what we’ve learned. We become more prudent and less reckless. But every so often we hear people saying, “Never let go of your inner child.”

What does it mean to honor the inner child in us?

The inner child

Psychologists refer to the “inner child” as our true and original selves. Before all the hurt, damage, and painful experiences brought about by the adults around us and life in general. They believe getting in touch with our inner child helps us heal and grow into healthier, happier adults.

As Dr. Stephen Diamond, Ph.D., says, “True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one's own inner child.”

Becoming aware and honoring the inner child that wants to come out and play not only helps us become better people, but also helps us be better leaders.

Leadership lessons from your inner child

How do we become better leaders by being in touch with our inner child?

Self-discovery and awareness are crucial for leaders. We need to be in tune with ourselves and command ourselves in order to lead others better.

They say we benefit a lot from learning from children, so how does honoring the inner child within us make us better leaders?

Kids don’t discriminate. We aren’t born jaded or prejudiced against others. We learned that as we grew up. Being in tune with our inner child helps us embrace diversity and be more accepting of people with different backgrounds than us. The more we care for and the more accepting we are of our people, the more likely they’ll respond with loyalty and dedication.

Children respond to the world with curiosity and wonder. They are immersed in learning more about the world through interaction. That is why they are unafraid to ask questions and try new things.

As we grow older, there’s a fear of looking stupid that stops us from asking questions. However, leaders don’t need to have all the answers—just the right questions that get their team to discover answers in the right direction. This helps us learn more things we otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.

It also helps us connect better to a wider network of people. When we approach relationships with curiosity and the thirst to learn more about them, the world as they know it, and their experiences, we ask more genuine questions and show more genuine concern.

Authenticity is a highly valued trait. Kids don’t hold their feelings in, not by nature. We were taught how to not show our weaknesses growing up, it wasn’t a natural instinct we had when we were born. Children are unafraid to laugh when they are happy, cry when they are sad or hurt, or express anger. They also don’t play coy to gain the upper hand in a conversation or a relationship.

They show up as they are, and leaders can learn a thing or two about authenticity from them. Honesty, transparency, and being genuine are important in leading others. That is how we gain people’s trust, and that is also how we show faith and trust in our people.

Children aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Have you ever seen a toddler stop trying to learn to walk just because they fell over a couple of times? No. They aren’t consumed with thoughts of failing or comparing themselves to other toddlers their age who are already able to walk. They don’t stop to think, “Maybe walking isn’t just for me.”

With learning comes the reality that we will make mistakes. And we need to accept the fact that we won’t be experts right off the bat, and that failing at things doesn’t make us “failures”. Honoring your inner child means giving yourself the grace to be new and inexperienced to some things, no matter how old you may be. It is also about embracing those mistakes as part of the process of learning and growth.

This attitude sets the tone for our people—that there is room here to mess up and learn. It encourages not just resilience but also creativity.

We define resilience as the ability to bounce back and recover from difficult situations. When you first try to learn how to ride a bike or skate down the street, bruises and skinned knees are inevitable, but you get up anyway and try again. And again. And again, until you are able to do it right.

As we grow up, however, we become more afraid to take risks. Maybe because there are bigger things at stake when we "fall," but every great thing is achieved with a little gamble and a lot of skills and preparation.

Tap into your inner child for some of this resilience to stand up and try again, no matter how many setbacks you’ve faced, and try to fail better every time. And failing better requires some creativity to go along with your grit and tenacity.

When you were a kid, your imagination might have felt endless. Random bottles around the house are not just bottles; they are people, soldiers, and other characters you might need to play out that make-believe in your head. We had limited access to resources, so we improvised.

As we grow older and have more access to resources, imagine how powerful it will be to still have the same level of imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness we had as children. It allows us to dream bigger and actually make our goals happen.

We only need to tap into that child-like fearlessness. No dream is too big, stupid, impossible, or unrealistic if we imagine it and try hard enough to create it. Man made it to the moon. We have robots and AI that can “think” like humans now. We even made self-driving cars possible. It takes courage to dream big and be creative.

Kids aren’t bogged down by timelines and to-do lists. They don’t spend time worrying about what to do next while still working on the current tasks. They are able to be fully present in the moment and be appreciative of it.

The more responsibilities we have, the more we find ourselves worrying about what needs to be done. But we shouldn’t forget what it is like to fully be present and live in the moment because we are too consumed by our worries. The more mindful we become of our day-to-day lives, the more we will see the big and small things worth being grateful for, and the happier we will be.

Whoever said that play is just for kids? Adults need to have fun too. We need time to follow our passions and pursue things that we love, enjoy, and make us happy. Having fun is a great way to de-stress, learn new things, and expand our horizons. It also helps us stay refreshed and energized as we go back to our grind.

A lot of us suffer from burnout because we keep our stress levels at an all-time high, without taking a break from it. Having fun, dreaming big, taking risks, being true to ourselves, and trusting others doesn’t make us childish—I prefer the term “child-like”.  

We all need to get in touch with our inner child. Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe.”