Amy was a joyful, free-spirited little girl. She loved running in the park and speaking to everyone around. Her little mind was always filled with questions. She would want to know why the Sun rises only in the morning, how the Moon is so big and white with spots, why she cannot fly…she always wanted to know why. She loved attempting to climb trees; she would fall, but smile, get up and try again. She loved to paint! She would pick colours, splash them around and feel happy with whatever she painted! She would always laugh and giggle at the smallest of things.
Today, Amy works in a multinational company as an Assistant Manager. She has a lot on her plate, and is always overworked. She manages a team and is a ruthless boss! She wants to make it big in life. She has a boyfriend; she doesn’t want to get married because she doesn’t want to slow her career down. She doesn’t have any hobbies, doesn’t like socialising unless it’s a professional networking event. She believes she is living a focused life. Then, one day, Amy reads an article on mental health, and realises she is able to relate with symptoms of anxiety.
What happened to Amy during her childhood years?
Amy was told it is dangerous to speak to strangers. She shouldn’t ask so many questions, because she is letting everyone know that she is stupid. She is clumsy; she shouldn’t do things that she cannot manage to do. Her paintings make no sense. She should learn to paint the “right way” or not paint at all! Only crazy people giggle for no reason. She is growing up. She needs to be serious and mature.
The result: Amy transformed into a person who chose to be “mature”, do the “right” things, be “successful”, be a “perfectionist”, and not do anything that doesn’t translate into “career success”. She let go of the light-hearted side of her nature because she began to believe what others said to her about her. She would always be stressed, but she thought that was the right way to be, so that she is socially accepted.
Many of us can identify with Amy, and relate to her unending quest for perfection and success. While she may overtly seem to be doing well, internally she has many fears and thoughts of self-doubt that she masks by portraying a picture of a focused, career-oriented person. Her self-esteem took a beating because of constant criticism received through childhood. Her need to prove her worth became so important that she let go of everything that once made her happy.
It’s ironic that as children, we all feel fascinated by the lives led by adults, and once we grow up, we wish we could undo all the complications and go back to being kids again. Both are irrational expectations, but what we can do is nurture the little child within us, no matter how old we grow.
How can you keep the child within you alive?
- Stop beating yourself for every small mistake you make. On the contrary, learn to laugh at your mistakes.
- Practise being in the moment. Thinking about the future may lead to anxiety, and thinking about the past could lead to depression, guilt or hurt. Being in the moment helps to explore and live life to the fullest.
- Make time for doing something creative, at least once a fortnight. Your skill doesn’t matter here. You can consider painting a picture, just like baby Amy, or composing a song, or just about anything that makes you happy. The goal here is not completion or perfection; it is consistency of execution.
- Laugh hard at silly jokes. With some practice, you can learn to look at the humour in situations. The intention here is to take things with a pinch of salt, rather than get bogged down and stressed at the drop of a hat.
- Pursue a hobby, preferably one that you gave up during school and college time due to the pressure of studies.
Three mental health benefits of keeping the child in you alive
- Living in the moment keeps emotional disturbances at bay, whether it is anxiety, guilt or frustration.
- Laughing and engaging in creative activities that you enjoy releases endorphins—the happy hormones—that help combat stress and make you feel good about yourself.
- When you have a major setback, treat it as just another fall that requires you to get up. Try again; it’s not a big deal. This way, you will always be motivated to keep going forward. This has a positive impact on your self-esteem.
This Children’s Day, let’s promise ourselves to make friends with the child within, and never let it go!
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