I was doing some meditation at the beach on Sunday morning – listening to the wonderful Sarah Blondin on Insight Timer (she’s the best!) – and a scene from my childhood meandered into my mind.
In this scene, I was not long into my time at secondary school (so around aged 11) and I was feeling anxious about missing out.
Yep, I had FOMO, long before the acronym was ever imagined (I think – don’t quote me on that!) and long before social media caused an epidemic of FOMO.
The reason? I was due to take part in a race for the City of Liverpool’s cross country team in Sheffield. This was quite an honour. I was only 11 and I was representing my city at cross country running. Go me!
But running the race, a distance away from home, meant taking a day off school and missing a very important lesson: my drama class.
This felt like a dangerous thing to do because back then, I was only just figuring out who my friends were and I was worried that the two girls I’d been hanging out with in previous drama classes would cement their friendship in the class I was set to miss and that I would be left out, in the cold, on my own, friendless.
I remember feeling so unsure about running the race. I remember feeling torn between the drama class and the cross country event. I remember going along to Sheffield and running through the muddy forest, while at the same time worrying about what was going on back at school and how friendless I would be when I returned.
It was excruciating. I had no peace. I wasn’t present. And I didn’t enjoy the race. I ran it with the weight of the world on my tiny shoulders.
This memory came to me because, this past Sunday morning, I was once again torn between two activities: an outdoor yoga class followed by a sociable coffee versus some alone time at the beach hut, swimming in the sea, journaling and enjoying the peace and space.
I opted for the latter, because I felt like I needed it. I knew I had a sociable afternoon ahead – my husband and I had been invited to go sailing – and I’d had a sociable Saturday evening. My inner introvert, who cohabits with my inner extrovert, was asking for some time out.
But even as I sat down in the glorious sunshine to meditate, I felt a bit unsure – unsure of what I wanted and needed, unsure if I’d made the right choice. I also felt a little anxious about missing out on the yoga and social gathering.
Yes, I had a touch of FOMO. Aged 49.
To settle myself, I tuned in to a meditation called ‘Remembering Your Worth’ and I did just that – I remembered my worth.
I remembered that I didn’t need to run around like crazy trying to prove that I was valuable and that I didn’t need to gather an army of friends around me to certify that I was a likeable person.
Instead, I could just rest, in my inherent worth.
And as I rested, I connected with my little girl – with my 11-year-old self and with an even younger self, my inner baby – and I saw how scared and unsure of herself she was.
I saw how much she lacked a secure base – that is a safe haven, provided by consistent, present and loving caregivers; a place to return to when she felt scared.
I saw how wobbly she felt on the inside and how much she needed to be reassured that she was safe and that she was OK, which is why, as she grew up, she was so anxious about forming friendships and why she had so much FOMO – and can still have to this day.
I saw why she studied so hard and performed so brilliantly academically and on the sports field – because she was forever seeking a sense of safety, a sense of worth and a sense of esteem, but from outer rather than inner sources.
And I saw why she picked up the crutch of binge eating, and later binge-drinking, and later sexual liaisons – to feel better about herself, to feel OK, to feel acceptable, to feel loved (even though her actions left her feeling the opposite – full of shame, unworthy and unlovable).
Once I had a clear picture of my insecure, anxious inner child and my scared inner baby, bawling her eyes out in her cot while nobody came to soothe her, I imagined myself walking towards her and picking her up and holding her on my lap, against my chest, stroking her hair, calming and reassuring her.
And what was so clear to me is that the baby I was holding on my lap wasn’t my baby. It wasn’t a baby I’d given birth to. Or I baby I wanted to give birth to.
Rather it was me as a baby.
It was my inner baby.
My inner baby needs me.
My inner baby needs to be soothed and told that she is loved and that she is safe.
My inner toddler needs this too, as does my inner 11-year-old and my inner teenager.
They need my comfort and my support. They deserve my comfort and support.
And the more I am able to give comfort, reassurance, love and soothing to my inner children, the more I will feel on steady rather than shaky ground, and the less I will suffer from the fear of missing out and the illusion that happiness is over there, rather than inside here (places hand on chest).
These reflections bring me onto the topic of World Childless Week, which is happening this week.
I was unsure about what to write for World Childless Week until I stumbled upon these thoughts about the inner baby and inner child and they felt relevant.
Each of us has our own journey to not having children, if that’s our story.
For me, my journey has a lot to do with my inner child.
I now understand that I always needed to connect with her first and to love and care for her, before contemplating bringing a child into this world to love and care for.
She has always needed me, and she’s been crying out for me, but I ignored her for many years – until now.
She needed me to soothe her and she needed me to play with her.
This, I now see, was the most important thing for me.
And it had to come first.
I didn’t have enough nurturing, love or care to give to another child because I needed to give it to myself. Or perhaps I was resistant and reluctant to give it to another child because I knew I needed to give it to myself first.
But it took me a long time to realise this, all my fertile years, in fact. And I’m now 49.
Of course, my story has its additional complexities, as all our stories do, and you can read more of it on this blog if you’d like to (try Am I childless or childfree? to begin with), or in my book, How to Fall in Love.
I wonder what your story is, in relation to outer and inner children.
You may already have children and you may still need to connect with and care for your inner child. In fact, your inner child might be screaming out for your attention and you just don’t feel you’re able to give her/him any of your time.
Or like me, you may need to accept that your inner child needed your love and attention so much that you weren’t able to nurture an outer child, or perhaps you developed the capacity to do so eventually, but by then it was too late.
Or maybe you still have a desire to have children and you still have time. In which case, my suggestion is the same …
Start by nurturing your inner child.
How do we know if our inner child needs our attention?
Here are some clues: if we find ourselves binge-eating or binge-drinking or social media scrolling or blaming, judging and criticising others or sleeping around or working ourselves into the ground, then it’s likely our inner child is crying out to be noticed, to be heard, to be seen, to be allowed to play, to be reassured and comforted.
If we are doing any of the aforementioned self-harming behaviours, the best thing we can do is pause, reflect and connect with our inner child and give him or her all the soothing, reassurance and love that he or she deserves.
Do you agree?
I’d welcome your thoughts.
This week is World Childless Week and there’s a whole series of wonderful, free events so do take a look via this link.
If you’re looking for support to develop your connection to yourself, I have two fabulous small group online courses, How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and How to Fall in Love – Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the next course dates, which I’ll announce soon. The courses are also available as self-paced programmes. You can sign up on my mailing list to get updates about future courses here: www.katherinebaldwin.com
If you’d prefer to explore these topics face-to-face, I am hosting a wonderful retreat holiday in Turkey with yoga in May 2021. Click here for details. Why not give yourself something to look forward to?
Finally, whether you are childless or not, or looking for love or simply looking for a better relationship with yourself, you might benefit from my book, How to Fall in Love.