Why am I talking about my inner child? I feel like a big kid and trying to figure out why.  Why haven’t I grown up?  I feel emotionally mature.  Does that help me on the outside? This is what I’m trying to navigate.  How can I monetize what I have learned over the course of my 40 years.  I look like a big kid.  I may act like one too.  I do love kids.  I think we’ve all been told to grow-up.  Having fun as adults generally involves consumption.  We seem to have accepted and ‘culturalized’ consumption being what we need to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves.  What happened to self expression?  It is almost frowned upon.  We don’t feel like we are allowed to share our thoughts and feelings.  We especially don’t want to listen to negative banter.  Venting is one thing.  But we need to make changes if we are stuck.  Otherwise we need to pay a stranger to vent and bitch to.  No one else deserves to deal with our shit on an ongoing basis.  We need to clean it up ourselves.  And not all of us have the tools to do that.  So outside of getting wasted or using consumption as our escapism, what are we doing to express ourselves?  

These are my top 10 tips to discovering my inner child:

1. Identify what makes you happy

This may not be the easiest thing to identify at first.  I like to picture myself as a child and remember what really made me happy.  Ice cream is a no brainer.  Only later in life once I find my way back to the ocean did I find floating in the ocean water in the sunshine, made me very happy.  I think some adults like the idea of being alone during a run or exercise which is fine but not really an inner child activity. Playing team sports is!  Remember what our elementary teachers made us do as children.  Why did they put us into school plays? Some of us enjoy being free to perform, sing, dance or play pretend.  It’s literally called, ‘play’! I think adults can relate to the idea of role-playing.  Of course you may identify this as sexual play which I am totally approve of.  I think of costumes and colourful outfits.  When I lived in California I traded in my city black attire for floral and tie-dye, I shit you not.  I turned myself inside out in pursuit of happiness, give it a shot!  Whichever childhood memories you remember gravitating towards, just do that.

2. Be More Vulnerable 

This is a challenging one to explain as well.  It is about being more honest with yourself.  And perhaps you aren’t ready to open up to those close to you, in fear.  So find acquaintances who may take your conversations more casual than someone close to you.  Of course this is what we pay therapists for.  I think even priests played this role in “confession” booths.  Bartenders and hairstylists have been listening to people’s life problems for decades!  But as per our inner child work, think of it as play time.  Think of yourself as a child.  Even if you need to go for a beer with a buddy to open up, just do it! I’ve seen this advice taken too far where people’s alter-egos come out to the extent of public embarrassment.  Mos of us like to play “pretend” where what happens when the sun goes down, doesn’t count towards our “real life” characteristics.  As if between 9-5 during the week we’re meant to act and speak one way and anything outside those hours we can let our freak flag fly.  Not my recommendation, just sucks that this has become more normal than not.  I think being vulnerable can mean being silly, joking around and having real conversations about how we feel.  If you notice, kids are extremely honest by fault.  They shouldn’t know how to lie yet (unless they are taught) so the truth just comes spilling out like verbal diarrhea! It’s kind of endearing.  Something we’ve been taught to bottle up and keep opinions and information to ourselves.  So find that safe space you can be yourself where you can be seen and heard without consequences.

3. Play Time 

Okay I admit some of these tips may be repeating themselves in different ways but each hold a friendly reminder or approach to being a kid again!  I’m a single 40 year old guy so I can’t speak to how parents find play time for themselves.  I’d imagine things like golf or playing music or hiking.  Again more “me time” activities but we are talking about inner child play.  I wonder if having kids allows us to be more child like? I know we end up talking to babies like idiots but it seems to work.  I mean if I had kids who had a kiddy pool, I’d probably jump right in with them. Appropriate? Probably not but that’s kind of my point!  Like being a clown or just clowning around.  I mention improv because it’s an incredible safe space to be someone else.  To be another version of ourselves.  To just act or role play without judgement.  Expressing ourselves!  I’ve been more into photography than drawing but finding a visual way to express ourselves is very cool too.  I never learned to play an instrument so I just took photos of my friends who were musicians, it gave me access to anyone who was willing to perform.  In the end, make time for yourself to play whichever way you decide. 

4. Create

I wonder if this blog is becoming to repetitive? Creating to me includes various modalities including graphic design, layout, photo editing, writing this blog post, recording my podcast…and the list goes on.  My creating comes and goes in waves.  So while consistency and commitment have been some of my biggest challenges, creating has always put me in satisfied space.  As an artist I have rarely stuck to one platform to share my work but creating does not have to be recognized.  That is another topic of discussion.  So creating to express your thoughts, feelings and emotions is the quintessential reason to create in the first place. 

5. Repeat 

We are creatures of habit. Starting anything is the hardest part.  But like fitness or any bad hibbit we’ve adopted, a good one can be the very same way.  Why we avoid the things that make us happy with excuses like “I just don’t have time” is actually a choice.  I remember when I first became self employed in my late 20’s and tried dating at the same time.  I tried explaining to a woman I was dating why I didn’t have time to commit to a relationship.  Her response was purely, “well that’s your choice”.  And she was right.  We prioritize things we tell ourselves we need, regardless of how they make us feel.  Ironically, I still prioritize my work over relationships, and I question why I’ve been single a majority of my life.  I think I’ve gotten off topic from from inner child discovery, but finding a balance between work and actual play time is healthy!  Working until our eyes bleed or until we head to bed, is crazy.  We’re literally avoiding and missing out on life.  I’ve missed out on a lot of happiness because I’ve been focusing on “making it” in life.  So being consistent in our child like play is essential to keeping our youthfulness, wellness and vitality.  Repeat your playtime!

6. Monitor your temper

How do you react to things?  Ya well we all get tired.  People, places and things will test our patients.  Ironically none of those things are intentionally happening to us.  Are we honking on the horn and losing our shit? How we react is everything.  I have learned this the hard way.  When we lose our temper, we’re act like children.  Unhinged.  Unbalanced.  Likely lacking sleep, nutrition, love, fitness…balance.  We are out of balance.  And our reactions can change everything, for better or worse. 

I personally have been in situations where my bad reactions became the issue.  When I felt attacked, harassed or otherwise, my bark was bigger than the cause.  My father had a temper.  Not to blame him but I learned it from somewhere.  And so my personal development journey has been essential to finding internal peace and forgiveness to avoid reacting poorly in ways that can affect my life.

7. Self love 

How can we move forward in life if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first? Do you see how much energy kids have running around, screaming, laughing and crying? They need a shit tonne of sleep, love and care to bounce back each day the way they do.  As grown ups we need even more!  I can hear you saying now “I just don’t have time”.  Okay well good luck with that.  Again like that girl above mentioned, it’s a choice.  How we live our lives is a choice.  A struggle and battle each day yes, but a choice nonetheless.  The little choices we make each day result in the outcome of our wellbeing.  Who doesn’t want to run around, laughing and screaming, playing and crying? We suppress most of these activities and emotions on a regular basis.  Discovering our inner child is like being reborn.  Who doesn’t want another chance at life?  The fun part is, we can reinvent ourselves each day if we really want to.  It’s embarrassing to admit to napping, I get it.  We’re supposed to be highly productive without admitting to what feeds us the energy we need to operate each day. 

8. Quiet Time

My gosh, this is not just about sleep, but we keep seeking things that distract us from what really recharges us.  I know I’m doing better when my screen-time is lower each week.  I’m distracting myself less and hopefully fulfilling myself with things that actually feed my soul and body.  Think about kids who need a time-out.  They start acting like little assholes and need a reminder to go sit in their room and think about their behaviour LOL I think adults need this too.  Some self reflection time while we blame the world for our shortcomings.  Perfect time to reflect on our choices of how we’d like to react or which direction we want to head in next.  A lot of people don’t meditate or know how to quiet their minds.  It takes practice but the power of breathwork has taught me how to do this.  I had a friend who taught eight year olds yoga in class.  While we picture this activity for adults, it’s a perfect form to focus on mindful movement.  I do yoga because it feels good.  For those who have yet to use yoga, the best way I can explain it is moving the body in ways it was meant to. The body holds emotional memory believe it or not and yoga helps release that in ways other exercise modalities do not.  Not sure how I got so far off inner child development here but if we’re not keeping busy we’re doing something to avoid being quiet before bed.  Think about how our best thoughts or ideas come during mundane activities like taking a shower or driving.  Similar concept but intentional.  Golf requires meditative practices.  When I swing that club it is a test for me to stop thinking and let my mechanics take over.  Boom!  Best shot ever.  So find your intentional quiet time and see what results you gain from it, if just some goddamn peace and quiet!

9. Live laugh love 

This has to be one of the most cliché expressions.  I’ve met one of the most bitter people in life who wrote this in their profile, possibly as a friendly reminder but gosh, how do we channel it into our realities? Laughter is medicine.  I think about Robin William’s and how much pain and struggle he must have been going through on the inside but escaping it by making people laugh on the outside.  I identify with this a lot.  I love to make people laugh.  I love to laugh too but while battling with depression it is easier for me to activate externally with people.  I can still remember some of the biggest laughs in my life, gasping for air and falling on my knees.  Bliss.  

Living is different.  Living is making and creating moments that are outside our routine and comfort zone.  Shared experiences are perfect.  I was invited on a hike by a friend who invited a friend who invited a friend.  There were at least ten of us who I really enjoyed company with, let alone the epic look-out at the top of the mountain.  This felt like living to me.  Jumping into the cold ocean water at 7AM on a weekday with friends before enjoying a coffee felt like living to me.  Buying a one-way ticket to an unknown life or adventure felt like living to me.  Getting out of our comfort zone, is life.

Love is also a tough one for most of us too.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.  It gets me into more trouble than not, but it’s who I am.  I love to give in a relationship.  Giving is one of my love languages.  I was told there are five: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and receiving gifts.  When we think of love, we think of our relationship with another person.  But what about how we love ourselves? I am currently on a personal retreat for a month before I turn 40.  I rented an airbnb outside the city to reset my brain and emotional body.  I’m also on a mini detox.  I sleep, I write, I cook, I chill, I breathe and meditate and anything else I care to do on my own time.  I never thought I’d be into this but here I am after being consumed by people, places and things that were affecting my spirit.  This my self care.  Learning how to be alone with myself is something I’ve gotten quite good at over the years, sometimes in an unhealthy way.  But I’ve needed to hit the reset button on my current journey.  It has allowed me to reflect on my relationships with others too.  I was told recently that we attract those who reflect the relationship we have with ourselves.  So often we are quick to blame others for the way they treat us or make us feel.  Ironically we are the ones staying in those relationships and allowing others to affect us.  It’s all energy.  And it all starts with how we love ourselves.

10. Share

I think by sharing I’m talking about giving.  It may not be physical things but sharing what we know, what we have learned or what we have created.  Think about the compassion children have when someone gets hurt or is upset.  Just like a pet dog when someone is crying, they come up and lick you!  Sharing is caring.  It is a part of creating good karma, something we can all use more of.  We all get caught up in our egos and self involvement.  I get blown away when I have the occasional friend or colleague offer to help or refer me for nothing in exchange.  I personally get caught up in my personal shit like it is a full-time job.  Don’t get me wrong, when I make a tiny bit of effort to do some volunteer work or engage or mentor with kids, it feels amazing.  Seeing humanity and getting outside ourselves is a powerful thing.  I’ve been in South Africa for almost a year now where scarcity and unemployment is a thing, so many people are very protective of what they have.  Sharing isn’t really a thing.  But this is why I have been living and working inside the global co-living movement supporting shared living and working spaces.  In Spain we ate at least two meals a day together as a community, incredible.  We cooked large portions and didn’t eat until everyone was in attendance.  Family values.  I always admired European families who did this.  In U.S. and Canada we don’t really do this outside our own families.  We’ve been sold that everyone needs their own things.  Ironically, born out of the 2008 recession, Uber and Airbnb were born.  The share economy.  The benefits of sharing things has helped the global economy grow.  Now while I’ve driven in a lot of less than appealing Ubers here in Cape Town, this model has created jobs for so many who otherwise would not have had work.  We are tribal creatures.  We thrive in Tribe.  And even while writing this, I remind myself to be mindful of how much I isolate myself and need to learn how to share my time and energy, more. Like the big kid I am.