Inner Parenting through Anxiety, Fear of Abandonment, Perfectionism & Self-Doubt

Photography:Kantha Bae

By Lelia Schott

When self-doubt, anxiety or fear of rejection creep in, I feel timid and frantic.  

To compensate, I notice an autonomic urge to mask my anxiety with a façade of intimidation or control.  

My perfectionist, people-pleasing or passive and procrastinating crew start arguing loudly. They’re familiar friends.  

My younger self needed to cope with the stress of feeling alone. These stressed-out friends armoured me up to compensate for the false belief that I was not being good enough to be loved or safe enough to love. Sometimes I loved others or myself too desperately at the expense of my safety and authenticity. Confirming the belief that love was not safe or/and I am unworthy of it.  

My perfectionist, people-pleasing or passive and procrastinating crew start arguing loudly. They’re familiar friends.  

When I feel stuck, it helps me to remember that these feelings and responses are my longest and youngest visitors. They feel familiar and safe because they’ve been loyal to all the ages I’ve ever been. Many parts of me believe that they protect me.  

They certainly helped me push down on feelings, needs, beliefs, values and behaviours that separated me from my caregivers and culture. Suppression and passive aggression enabled me to survive many overwhelming emotions, experiences and expectations, alone. 

These loyal and undeveloped protectors are deeply attuned to my inner child and awoken by the children before me.  

I acknowledge that these regressed protectors believe they’re protecting the younger versions of me from pain and separation.  

Given that they took their cues from an undeveloped brain and nervous system in an unpredictable environment, it makes sense that they’re reactive and send me into a stress response.  

Shaming or being hard on my inner child won’t work. She feels bigger and more reactive to perceived threats when I do that

I recently noticed that they’re noble and creative in their undertakings. They’ve enabled me to survive as a child AND cannot help me thrive as an adult.  

I am on a different path and my younger self’s stress responses are rarely helpful to me now as an adult aspiring to return to my authentic self and parent with safe, empowered responses.  

Shaming or being hard on my inner child won’t work. She feels bigger and more reactive to perceived threats when I do that. So I thank her for looking out for me. I honour her for good intentions.  

And then I remind all of me that I AM NO LONGER THAT POWERLESS little child needing to fight, flee, fawn and freeze in a desperate attempt to be safe, loved, and true.  

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