Your childhood probably is tucked safely away in the past. But many of us underestimate the degree to which childhood events continue to affect our adult lives. It’s hard to imagine that events that occurred decades ago can stay with us, but underestimating their effects — even into adulthood — can be detrimental to our well-being.
Our most critical and influential developmental stages occur in childhood. We’re like sponges, absorbing the good and the bad all around us. It’s during this time that we develop our view of the world and of ourselves. These viewpoints may be developed early on but they often leave a permanent imprint.
However, our childhood doesn’t have to dictate our every move. We can move on from a challenging past and create a healthier, happier present and future by becoming more aware of how our early years continue to influence our adult thoughts, behaviors and beliefs.
It’s not easy to dig up the things we’ve kept buried for so long, but it is vital for personal growth and transformation. The following are ways to help you let go and move on.
- Be honest. It’s hard to face the things that hurt us, especially when we’ve kept them buried for a long time, but it’s important to set ego aside and take an honest look at our childhood. This can be a scary experience because we’re unsure of what we may uncover. However, looking painful memories dead in the eye and deciding we’re going to work through them is the first step in loosening their tight grip on our lives.
- Pinpoint influential milestones. Some of these milestones are easier to pinpoint than others, but if they had a big impact on your childhood, then they are likely affecting you in adulthood as well. Unfortunately, some of us can look back on our childhood and pinpoint difficult experiences pretty quickly. The death of a caregiver, separation of parents, or even childhood abuse all stick out as obvious, painful situations. But for some of us, the origins of the pain and resentment we hold onto aren’t quite as obvious.For example, my mom gave birth to my brother and sister when I was 10 years old. As joyous an occasion as that was, it provided me with a great amount of responsibility at a young age, which now, almost 20 years later, I’m realizing I hold some resentment toward. While I’m extremely grateful for this milestone, it has taken a great amount of self-awareness to grasp just how much it has influenced my values, personality, and relationships.
It may be a single event (as in my case) that had an effect, or it could be twenty. If it is more than one, write them all down to help you become aware of them.
- Be accepting and compassionate. Childhood challenges were not our fault. We don’t have a say in the childhood we had and even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to exert much control over it. Accepting what was, especially when it’s painful, is hard. But the more compassionate we can be with ourselves, the easier it will be to accept. Remind yourself that what you went through was in no way a reflection of the child that you were. Instead of being angry or judgmental that childhood has left you with pain and scars, be patient and kind toward yourself as you try to heal them.
- Meditate. Dealing with the past can feel overwhelming. Meditating can help to make it all seem more manageable by slowing down your thoughts. There are guided meditation videos online that are very effective and serve as a great tool for dealing with childhood pain.
- Seek help. Working through these issues with a professional can make the experience a much easier and less lonely one.
- Forgive. It seems so obvious, and it’s much easier said than done. But forgiveness truly is the way to obtain personal freedom and happiness. Instead of forgiving for the sake of others, forgive for yourself. Your inner child deserves it.