There are lots of articles out there in the self-help world about loving your inner child. John Bradshaw made that really big a while back. But, recently, I’ve wondered about what comes next? In other words, what about our inner teenager?
You know your inner teenager, he/she is the part of you that acts just like a 12-18 year old. See if you don’t recognize some of these traits in yourself
· Wants to be free to do whatever they want
· Is totally honest, spares no punches
· Hates restrictions of any kind
· Has a unique sense of humor
· Questions anything and everything
· Rebels against anything/anyone they don’t like
· Has a playful, goofy side
· Desperately wants to fit in
· Dreads growing up and doing things that are “boring” (like a job)
Sound familiar? Most of us, as adults, still act out these qualifies, some of us more than others. How can we enjoy the best of our inner teenager (honesty, humor, playfulness) and minimize those not-so-helpful qualities (mistrust, intolerance, insecurity)?
We do it by learning to love our inner teenager (hereafter, our “IT”)? We can begin to recognize her/his value and when it’s time to listen to him’her. For example:
· It’s often wise to question authority and rules
· Honesty is often the best policy
· Having a sense of playfulness helps keep us sane
· It’s good to rebel when other people try to guilt trip/manipulate you
· Some jobs and obligations are deadly boring and can be avoided
· Sometimes it’s good to “fit in”
To love your IT, talk to her/him just like a real teenager: if you ignore her, she’ll get pissed off and – eventually – have her revenge. Your IT deserves to be heard, listened to and respected, but he does not always need to get his way.
Loving your IT means sometimes saying “no”. How to do this? Just like you would a real teenager: explain the situation and listen to their response.
Don’t tell your IT to shut up (e.g.,“I don’t care what you think.”) Being disrespectful to any part of yourself doesn’t work. We want to make peace with ALL the parts of ourself. We’re going to be with our inner child/teenager/adult for a long time, we want to learn to work with them. “All for one and one for all” was the motto for the Three Musketeers. It works well for us as well.
How do you love a difficult, stubborn, rebellious teenager? Slowly, gently and honestly. Don’t bullshit them or promise them things that you know you can’t deliver. You want to earn the trust of your IT so that – for example – when you need to go to work and your IT would rather stay in bed and watch videos, you can negotiate. It could go something like:
Inner Teenager: I don’t want to go to work today. I’m sick of that place.
Adult You: I hear you, it was a drag yesterday.
IT: So, let’s not go. Let’s stay in bed and watch videos.
AY: You know, it sounds good, but we need the money.
IT: Oh, I hate money. Screw money!
AY: But money buys us things we like, like movies, food and vacations..
IT: I want money but don’t want to do anything boring to get it.
AY: That sounds good, but how about a compromise? Let’s go to work and, when work is over, we can do ————- (something fun that your IT would like).
IT: Well…okay. You promise? Don’t flake on me.
AY: I promise.
IT: Okay, let’s get dressed and (sigh) go to work.
AY: Thanks, I promise you we’ll do ———–after work.
Get the drift? Work with your IT and create compromises that enable you to fulfill your adult obligations AND do stuff that your IT enjoys.
If you’ve never tried this, get ready for some stimulating and surprising conversations.
Your inner teenager has a lot that he/she can teach you; if you’re willing to listen and work with her/him. Try it. And don’t be surprised when you start to have a lot more fun and less resistance in your life.