I had a rough childhood, as a lot of us have had, and the adults in my life failed me many times. When I grew older, I was still carrying a lot of those childhood issues into adulthood. I didn't know how to get rid of them and it affected me badly for years. One day, I was just reflecting on my life and I imagined that younger me was in front of present me, as if she was like my own child. I immediately felt so many feelings. I just wanted to hug my younger self and tell her life will be okay because she didn't know at the time that it would be. I wanted to give her the talks that I wished I had received. I wanted to tell her the important life lessons I've learned between then and now. That's when I realized that I had been neglecting my inner child because I figured she wouldn't exist or be important anymore as I became an adult.
We hear all the time "get in touch with your inner child" and it seems a lot easier said than done. But I've realized it's so important that we do. If you treat your inner child as a separate being, like how I envisioned my inner child as if she was my own child, it helps. Or you can imagine that younger you time traveled into the present. Whatever it takes for you to have that vision, do it. That inner child needs what they weren't being given when you were young. It could be things like reassurance, positive reinforcement, freedom to be creative, patience, gentleness, words of affirmation, etc. Think about what you wanted to be done differently and what you were missing. Think about it as if you're in charge of taking care of this "separate being" now (even though it's really you). This is the key to self care, healing from the past, and discovering yourself. Everything about you starts from your roots and those roots are the key aspects of your childhood that molded you into who you are today.
When it comes to self care, you're tuning in deeper into what you really need. How would you want to treat younger you when you were overwhelmed, sad, angry, or whatever negative emotion you were feeling that you still feel now. Give that to yourself in the present. Maybe it's a bubble bath, a stroll through the park, doing watercolor paintings, reading your favorite books, hearing positive words, etc. Just keep thinking what would you have wanted and adultify it. If you're constantly viewing yourself as a separate, younger version of you, you're less likely to neglect yourself because you wouldn't want a child to be neglected, would you?
When it comes to healing, you're facing the things that happened to you and how you felt as a child. No one else can heal you from your past. it's really up to you so this is a good way to get started and make significant progress. Talk to that inner child and let them talk to you. It's okay to be emotional during this process because you need to bring that out anyway. Bottling things up and trying to hide things only prolongs you carrying past issues. Think of it as a therapy session or a heart to heart between you and your younger self. Bring it out into the open with yourself and go from there.
Lastly, when it comes to self discovery, you are tuning in with that creative and curious nature that most children have. Some of us weren't blessed with parents who let us be ourselves completely. We always had to behave according to societal and cultural norms. Or maybe your parents just didn't have the access or the means to really help you channel your creativity and feed your curiosity. But adult you does. So again, bring out that inner child as if they were a separate being and give them (yourself) that access. Show yourself you still do have that creativity and imagination. You still are curious about the world and you can feed your mind and learn new things. You have the freedom to act on what you want to. Take advantage now!
In conclusion, you need to be a nurturing parent to yourself. It gets harder to do so when you're an adult because you're constantly focused on college, work, bills, your family, and all the other obligations that come with growing up. But if you imagine that young you is physically here and watching you, it becomes more of a priority in your head to care for yourself and to love yourself in a way you haven't before. By imagining that you need take care of yourself how you would've wanted to be taken care of when you were a child, it makes it easier to actually do it. Don't show the child in you how cruel you can be to yourself. Show them the opposite and be consistent.