Thinking back to my childhood I remember all the times someone said the words, “grow up”, to me. I have been told worse things, but something about those two words stung more than most. Unlike most people, I never went through a phase where I wanted to hurry up and be an adult. From watching the adults in my life I knew that adulthood was not something to be rushed into. I was determined to hold onto my youth for as long as possible at least my inner child. Many people would believe me to be naïve because of that. Some parents believe they need to prepare their children for a harsh reality by toughening them up and forcing them to abandon their childish notions. With all due respect to those parents, I believe that to be the true naivety.
Take my word for it when I say the most successful people are the ones who never grow up. Your definition of success may be different than mine, but when I say someone is successful I mean they are happy, and fulfilling a wider purpose which makes them feel needed. We are all born with wild, fanciful dreams. Our thoughts and our hopes for the future are unfiltered and completely free of doubt. Children don’t believe in impossibility.
As we grow older we are force-fed reality on a cold metal tray, our wings are clipped, and our wonder-struck eyes are blurred by clouds of doubt. Creativity cannot thrive in the mind of an adult because adults are constantly pulling themselves back. Adults can only long to remember what children know instinctively, that this world is not meant to be taken seriously.
Children are naturally unafraid of judgement. Whether it be their bodies, their hearts, their ideas, or their dreams, children are unashamed to bear it all. With youth comes an innate sense of humility. As you are sat down to work on a project, or ponder new solutions to a problem, you are most likely sifting those thoughts through a screen called social acceptance. Well, I say acceptance be damned. Your craziest, most embarrassing, and childish ideas are always the more exciting. Our goal as humans is not to reproduce what is safe and already proven to work. Nobody wants to hear what you know will go over well. Progress is only made when chances are taken. Go back to those childhood days when you would shout out an idea without any worry of the repercussions. Abandon that fear of judgement.
“I am not young enough to know everything.”
-James M. Barrie
Adulthood is really just a lifelong struggle to remember what we already knew as children. Few would disagree that life is hard. I would like to pose the question, does life have to be difficult? In Western society adolescence marks a time of strife and life altering decision making. We are taught to work towards having more. We are taught to compete with our friends and neighbors. The second you become an adult you are like a track runner taking the baton as your parents pass it forward to you. You break into a sprint running forward in a human race. The catch is that we all believe it is possible to win this race, although there is no end in sight. It may distress you to hear that in this race there is no winner because the track is never-ending. Children enjoy simple pleasures. Children are not in a rush to get anywhere.
It is important as an adult to remember your younger years and use them to your advantage. Many late great artists and creative thinkers understood the importance of thinking like a child. The work of these individuals is still relevant today because it appeals to the child within us. Roald Dahl created some of today’s most iconic stories and characters. His child protagonists were so relatable to children because Dahl himself understood the thoughts of a child. He knew what they feared, what they loved, and what they longed for. J. M. Barrie created the living embodiment of youth itself, Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Walt Disney created family films which inspire and entertain millions of people still today, old and young.
“I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty. Call the child “innocence”. The worst of us is not without innocence, although buried deeply it might be. In my work I try to reach and speak to that innocence, showing it the fun and joy of living; showing it that laughter is healthy; showing it that the human species, although happily ridiculous at times, is still reaching for the stars.”
Children, although lacking certain social niceties, are about as perfect as people can get. Children are innocent of any crime. They know no hate and do not understand prejudice. Hate is something that is learned, which means it can be unlearned. Take a lesson from the children in your life, and try to remember what is most important in life. Forget about the things that divide and pit us against each other.
“Your inner child gets it all, believes it all, hopes for it all and is the only guardian worthy of your heart. That child knows that life, which runs on love and feasts on creativity, is on your side, and that the universe conspires with you, not against you, to help you spread that wild, crazy, messy love through your own story. Please don’t grow up.”
I say to any person who tells you to grow up, that they need to grow down. Life will be so much easier for you if you embrace that inner child. Keep that child alive in your heart and remember to feed it daily. Be spontaneous and unafraid. Spit your thoughts out naked, unpackaged, and under dressed. Forget the biases and stereotypes you picked up as an adult. Go back to loving everyone without a single reason other than the fact that they existed. Life is too short and precious to look at it all from a business angle. Remember your childhood fondness for games, and play this life not to win, but just for the fun of it.
What are some ways you practice maintaining your inner child?