Every child deserves to feel safe, protected, and secure. However, not every child does. Most parents see safety as physical protection from harm, or providing the essentials for their children. Safety also means support on an emotional, psychological, and spiritual level. When we don’t feel safe as children this feeling of endangerment becomes constant and long-lasting, and a huge gaping wound appears in our psyche. Our adult selves often repress this painful wound, but its impacts are profound and far-reaching. In this article, I want to introduce you to 8 common signs that indicate that you have a wounded inner child.
However, in order for this article to be a useful source for you, I need you to get into a reflective space in your mind where you can openly reflect on your own childhood and how you felt as a child. It’s very important to ask yourself such questions as:
- Did I feel safe?
- Did I feel a sense of belonging in my family?
- Was I permitted to be myself?
- Do I still have any resentment coming from my childhood?
- What is my current relationship with my inner child like?
What Is the Inner Child?
The inner child is a “part” of our personality that stores all our memories, feelings, needs, reactions, attitudes towards ourselves and others, and behaviors that we have preserved from our childhood.
In other words, your inner child is the child that lives within you, to be exact – within your psyche. It is important that we stay connected with this sensitive part of ourselves. When we are connected to our inner child, we feel excited, enthusiastic, and inspired by life.
If in childhood some of our important psychological needs were not met, then our inner child “gets stuck” and can not continue to grow and develop. Inner child healing can help us to face our fears and insecurities that were created in our childhood and heal these inner wounds.
What Is the Wounded Inner Child?
The wounded inner child is the part of us that bears the imprint of our psychological traumas.
Trauma is our psychological wound. This is our reaction to some event or many similar events that our psyche could not cope with. And as a result, it was divided into the injured part (i.e., our wounded inner child) and the part of the protector.
Such a traumatic event could be as:
- something extreme. For example, an attack, a fire, a war, someone’s murder, a natural disaster, etc. All these extreme events lead to shock trauma.
- a lot of unpleasant, more “casual” events, but recurring regularly. For example, psychological violence, violation of agreements on the part of the parent, lack of attention, rejection, unacceptance of some qualities or behavior patterns, etc. These “casual” events lead to relationship trauma.
Our traumatized inner child encourages us to face similar painful events (that caused trauma) again and again to attract our attention so we can finally heal our wounds. And the other part of us, our inner protector, wants to avoid meeting with such an event to protect us from pain.
This inner protector, which protects us from repeating the trauma of the relationship, can manifest itself in us through the fear of intimacy when we are afraid to let another person close to us, or even afraid to enter into a relationship. The fear of close relationships is formed in us as a result of the trauma of relationships.
The inner child healing takes place through the healing of its “wounded part”. That is, through working with the trauma of the relationship. And as a result of the healing, our ability to have close, trusting, loving relationships with others increases.
Here’s How to Tell Your Inner Child Is Wounded
1. Poor Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is usually a result of not knowing yourself, knowing your worth, living authentically, and owning both your strengths and struggles.
This trait leads to many other side effects, such as not believing in yourself or your abilities, criticizing yourself, thinking of yourself as “less than,” etc. This can also result in developing body image issues and eating disorders. To have healthy self-esteem, you need to discover, accept, and love who you really are through re-parenting your inner child.
2. Your Boundaries Are Either Too Weak Or Too Rigid
Do you feel like you don’t really know how to create healthy boundaries with others? Is it hard for you to say “NO” to people? Do you tend to put your needs secondary? This could be a result of you being uncomfortable with saying “NO” to your parents because of the fear to disappoint them or even the fear of punishment. As a child, you were suppressing your needs and desires trying to be a good girl or a good boy for your parents. Now, being an adult, you’re still carrying this program in your unconsciousness. You may even show this in situations where you are intimate with someone even if you don’t feel totally comfortable with it.
The situation could be totally opposite if you have super rigid, inflexible boundaries that nobody can cross. One of them could be your personal space. When you feel overwhelmed, instead of openly telling people they’ve been disrespecting your need for personal space, you simply cut them off. This kind of behavior is your coping mechanism to protect yourself from being hurt.
3. You Are Ashamed of Expressing Emotions
Shame is a very toxic emotion, especially for children. If you grew up in an environment where sharing and expressing your emotions was considered an expression of weakness, you could still be dealing with shame when it comes to expressing your emotions and feelings.
Shame creates feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, or regret. The feeling of being ashamed can be experienced as such a negative, intense emotion of self-loathing that it can make a person act like a bully, giving it away by evoking that emotion in others.
When children are emotionally or physically abandoned, abused, or neglected they often take on the shame that belongs to the adult who left or hurt them by assuming that it’s because they themselves are the “bad” one. Some children behave in ways that make them culpable for the shame that belongs to their parents.
4. You Have the Fear Of Abandonment
If you have the fear of abandonment and if you are afraid that people you love can leave you, it becomes impossible to maintain healthy relationships.
The fear of abandonment is one of the most common and most damaging fears of all. This can be a reason for so many unhealthy codependent relationships that exist in modern society.
5. You are a People-pleaser
Do you find yourself clinging to people, grasping for any attention and approval? Do you tend to do anything just to keep people happy and not to lose anyone? Do you feel like it’s super hard for you to let anyone or anything go? If the answer is “yes”, you could be a people-pleaser.
The reason why you could be stuck in the people-pleaser role is that you are afraid of disappointing and frustrating other people. And you are afraid because you unconsciously associate your worth with external validation.
A “people-pleaser” role that you tend to play most likely was manifested in your childhood when you were forced to silence your needs, feelings, emotions, and thoughts, to the point where you weaken your sense of self.
6. You Avoid People
Do you have extreme fear or anxiety when having to deal with or be around people? This can be a sign of a wounded inner child. The degree of avoiding people may vary. It may just be anxiety with a lot of people in a social situation or any amount of people. It may manifest itself in going out of your way to have food and other items delivered to you to keep from interactions. You feel most comfortable and safe when you are staying home.
7. You are Addiction Prone
Do you get easily addicted/attached to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, gambling, or any other extreme obsessive tendencies? Do you feel like it’s important for you to receive that rush of “feel good” hormones? Your childhood wounds could be the reason why you’re so easily attached to these obsessive tendencies.
Did you know that addiction is often a symptom of underlying trauma that hasn’t been processed? Instead of confronting our issues and letting ourselves feel pain, we often tend to block our emotions to avoid feeling pain.
But the truth is, you are not really addicted to the substance itself; you are addicted to the feeling it gives you, to the relief and escapism it provides you.
To recover from your addiction, you need to face your shadow by asking yourself these 3 important questions:
- What am I avoiding?
- What am I suppressing?
- What am I in denial about?
8. You Have Trust Issues
Your distrust is a defense mechanism for avoiding emotional pain, anxiety, fears, and disappointments. Trust issues often stem from a wounded inner child that learned the hard way that people can’t be trusted.
The problem becomes even more complicated when you also have self-doubt. If you were neglected, invalidated, gaslighted, or emotionally abused as a child, it is not easy to build healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.
You have to remember that even the smallest words could cause a wound. For example, if your parents constantly told you “your grades should be better” or “don’t be so sensitive”, you absorb the message that something’s wrong with you and that you will never be good enough. On messages like these, it’s very hard to build self-esteem and self-confidence.
Learning to work with your inner child is about reconnecting with the sincere, childlike part inside.
Inner child healing leads us to a state of purity and innocence. We all have the potential to experience true simplicity by reconnecting with and healing a period of our lives when we saw the world with openness and wonder.
In order to eliminate the feelings of guilt, shame, fear, hatred, disgust, and anger that we carry with us throughout our lives, we must heal the child inside. To do this, we need to earn the trust of our inner child through unconditional love and self-nurturing.
To learn more about the methods of inner child healing, read my article “Inner Child Healing: 4 Surprisingly Effective Practices“.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, your inner child does not disappear once you become an adult. On the contrary, it stays within you, reminding you of all the wounds you haven’t healed yet. There is a variety of symptoms that can point to a wounded inner child. You may have just accepted or tried to ignore many of these behaviors in yourself. However, in order to heal, you need to confront the pain that caused the wounds.