How to Show Up to Your Life

We traveled together, this young boy and I.

We were in the back of a hired car, on the way to the airport. I was scheduled to give a national radio interview the next day, and I was mostly looking forward to the adventure. Flying isn’t my favorite thing to do, but the weather was good and I had plenty of margin in my schedule for unforeseen delays and unpreventable problems.

But my little traveling companion was a mess.

inner child

Photo Credit: Koca777 (Bigstock)

He was worried about what might happen, what might not happen, and everything in between. I tried to ignore him for a while, but that seemed to make him more scared. So, I tried to convince him there was nothing to worry about, that nothing would go wrong. Nope. Too smart to be fooled by platitudes. My efforts were making his anxiety worse.

He was close to panic.

Then, I told him, no matter what happened, I’d take care of him. I told him he could relax, because even if things went wonky, I’d handle it. I told him it’s okay to be anxious, because when you’re a kid you lack control over almost everything and you pretty much can’t protect yourself from anything. But, I told him, you can relax if you want, because I’m in charge now, and I’ll make sure things turn out as well as they possibly can. I simply invited him along for the ride. And do you know what happened?

Slowly, he calmed down.

I embraced him and we walked through the airport together and got on the plane together and found the rental car together and checked into the hotel together and, believe it or not, we went on the radio together. The studio was a little intimidating for him, but I told him I couldn’t do the interview without him, because in a lot of ways, he’s wiser than me. Wiser in a way only kids can be. Once again, I invited him along for the ride. And he did great. We did great.

It turns out, we work really well together.

I wish I would have reassured him like that years ago, because that scared little boy has gone on a lot of adventures with me, always afraid, always wishing he could just go home and hide under the covers. But I guess I couldn’t really do that sooner, because the truth is, for most of my life, I didn’t even know that boy existed.

You see, that little boy is the little kid in me.

He grew up scared. I think he’s kind of wired that way, and his life was pretty uncertain in his early years—not a great combination. But sometime around college, I guess, when I moved out of my childhood home and moved on with my life, I thought I left that kid behind. I thought he was buried in the sands of time.

But it turns out, there is a little kid that lives on in each of us.

The little one within you is your truest self, your most authentic you, your purest you. But that little kid inside is also your most wounded you, the you that first felt shame, the you that first felt fear. We don’t grow out of that kid; we just forget about that kid.

Meanwhile, the little one within you lives on, just waiting to be embraced once again. Waiting to be comforted. Waiting to be encouraged. Waiting to be wise, in the ways only a child can be wise. Waiting to be playful. And waiting to be joyful.

I know it might sound a little crazy, but we have to talk to that kid. We need to invite him or her along for this ride we call life. And we need to reassure him or her that we’ll take care of the serious stuff, but we need them to embrace the fun stuff for us.

A few weeks later, I went on another adventure, this time to California for a series of speaking events. And something pretty amazing happened: the little boy in me didn’t need as much reassurance as before—he seemed to trust me a little more. He seemed more ready than ever to play and laugh and soak it all in. In fact, he was so at ease, it felt like he and I were really showing up together, maybe for the first time in my life.

And I think that’s how you truly show up to your life.

You invite all of you to show up—the grownup and mature parts of you, along with the young and scared and tender and playful parts of you. Until, eventually, both of you are up on this stage called life together, doing it, risking it, living it up and soaking it in, because you only get to do it once so why not do it all the way?

We traveled together, this young boy and I.

Finally, we showed up to our life, together.

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Loveable is about how to remember and embrace the worthy little one within you. It is available in paperback, digital, and audio and can be purchased wherever books are sold, so you can also purchase it at your favorite bookseller.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

23 thoughts on “How to Show Up to Your Life

  1. Ahhhhhh! Once again Kelly you knock it out of the park!! So so good and deep and inviting. Thank you! It is so much more fun to let that inner child out to play and run and wonder and be scared and be together. Beautifully said.

  2. Thanks for such a clear explanation of the little one within each of us. I also want you to know I am loving the podcast, but have not been able to join in. The last few have really made things clear for me. Two things from Loveable have really resonated with me and helped me to grow-there’s loveliness in ordinariness and it’s up to me to feel good about myself. I realized putting the pressure on others to make me feel good about me was a burden that they could never fulfil. So I am now talking to my little girl and telling her that she is important, her opinions are needed and what she has to say is worthwhile.

    • Ginny, it makes me so happy to hear that some of the ideas from the book and podcast are translating into real change for you. That kind of self-care of the little one in you is a great example of it. Blessings to both of you!

  3. Love, love, love this! Me, too, Kelly! I’m learning to take care of little Carrie. The first time I stopped and looked at her, she was dirty, her hair was a tangled mess, and her clothes were old, dirty and falling apart. Now adays, she sings a lot, and I often hear her singing, “I love my mommy.” Or “My mommy loves me.” She trusts me more and more each day to take care of her. I really enjoy being with her.

  4. I hear you! Thank you for this. Yes, you know how much I get this. I feel Marvin and Dorey when she is trying to play a guessing game with him and begins with “Orange and black” and Marvin cuts her off again and again, “It’s me.” That’s what I felt like reading this. Yes, that’s me too. How slow we are to learn the fullness of what it means to be ourselves and to embrace the kids we encounter within. “It’s me.” Thanks Kelly. You are a gift.

  5. Thank you for sharing. Your words resonated within me and gave me hope. The human challenge is the same yet unique. Each of us coping his own individual story yet part of a larger group. Perhaps our healing is in the connection which is where we were wounded originally. It takes courage to stay connected to my heart and express my vulnerability yet this is the base for open heart and compassion. Slowly slowly 🙂
    With all good wishes, Iris

  6. Как то вы мне показались не уверенным. У психолога помимо опыта в длиною жизнь и к этому призвание ещё и талант. Талант чтоб его сразу услышали. Вы творец, который сразу запускает механизм который работает из качественного сырья. Ваш подопечный должен чувствовать качество.

  7. Иначе безумие от которого хочет излечиться. А не так как смертельная болезнь а как простуда. Просто надо закаляться что снова не заболеть

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