ELLE (UK) - - In­ner You -

dom­i­nates our adult be­hav­iour, de­pend­ing on how our needs were met in child­hood. If we had se­cure child­hoods, we’re un­likely to be dogged by a tricky In­ner Child. If not, she may still ‘drive the bus’. And I want to know how I can make this work to my ad­van­tage, per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally.

I start by putting my tax pho­bia to psy­chol­o­gist Glenys Yaffe, au­thor of Self-es­teem And Your In­ner Child. ‘Your fears might well fit with the In­ner Child model’, she agrees. ‘What we call our In­ner Crit­i­cal Par­ent stems from our child­hood en­vi­ron­ment – usu­ally our par­ents but also teach­ers. This might have been via bla­tant crit­i­cism, or it might have been our sub­tle aware­ness of ex­pec­ta­tions. Or the good girl may have learned that she got ap­proval through do­ing well at school. In your case, the ex­ter­nal au­thor­ity fig­ure has now been re­placed by your own crit­i­cal in­ter­nal au­thor­ity, so you ex­pe­ri­ence your Vul­ner­a­ble In­ner Child in the form of anx­i­ety when you do your tax.’

Look­ing at it like this, I can see other ways that my school shaped me, de­spite mostly happy times there. It was a bub­ble of priv­i­lege, so much so that it wasn’t un­usual to be col­lected by a driver. Know­ing no bet­ter, I thought I was odd for break­ing this mould. I re­mem­ber cov­et­ing my class­mates’ dia­manté-stud­ded un­der­wear when we changed for gym, and pulling off my hand-me-down, grim grey vests from my brother be­fore they could be seen. One even had a mor­ti­fy­ing ink stain. I’m sure this sense of not mea­sur­ing up made me pre­oc­cu­pied with pris­tine fem­i­nin­ity for years af­ter­wards. As a novice jour­nal­ist, I wrote about fash­ion and beauty de­spite my heart not be­ing in it. I thought the key to al­lur­ing men was to be im­mac­u­late (down to per­fect un­der­wear). It wasn’t, of course, but it didn’t even stop me when my first boyfriend said, ‘I don’t want the per­fect girl­friend, I want you.’

Still I know that, com­par­a­tively, I got off lightly. One of my dear­est friends lost her fa­ther when she was 10. Not sur­pris­ingly, her ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships with men have been shaped by a fear of the man van­ish­ing. Some­times, she chooses some­one she isn’t into, so there’s less at stake. It doesn’t take Freud to see how a be­reaved In­ner Child rules her heart. An­other friend ac­knowl­edges that ‘feel­ing like a dis­ap­point­ment’ to her par­ents has ham­pered her ca­reer, mak­ing her de­lib­er­ately un­der­achieve to meet their low ex­pec­ta­tions. An­other sus­pects that her dis­tant mother has made her ul­tra-needy – test­ing friend­ships by send­ing SOS texts at 2am, or cry­ing on third dates to see how the man re­sponds. Not very well, as a rule. But the In­ner Child can help as well as hin­der.

‘Our Cre­ative In­ner Child is im­por­tant,’ says Yaffe. ‘If we can re­tain a child’s im­mer­sion in cre­ativ­ity and fo­cus on the task it­self rather than the end prod­uct, we get greater en­joy­ment. Our Play­ful In­ner Child is our sense of fun. It’s im­por­tant in work, friend­ships, in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships and sex­u­al­ity. Our Spir­i­tual In­ner Child is our ex­pe­ri­ence of awe: ap­pre­ci­at­ing beau­ti­ful mu­sic or na­ture. Be­ing present en­hances our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of liv­ing.’

My the­ory is that the years be­tween seven and 10 hold the key to adult hap­pi­ness. At that age we are fully formed, but pu­berty has yet to quash our en­thu­si­asms with self-con­scious­ness. For me, aged nine, my pride and joy was a huge, metic­u­lously fur­nished dolls’ house. Ev­ery day I ar­ranged it with an ob­ses­sive, all-con­sum­ing de­light, obliv­i­ous to time, pins and nee­dles and the home­work I should have been do­ing. But in my teens, I aban­doned the dolls’ house and re­placed it with things I felt I ‘should’ en­joy – par­ties, drink­ing, smok­ing, wa­ter-ski­ing – any­thing to prove I wasn’t that cau­tious lit­tle girl im­mersed in her minia­ture world.

A decade later, I moved into my first flat. It was a rev­e­la­tion. As I did it up, all alone, I felt the same giddy joy that I had ar­rang­ing my dolls’ house all those years ago. I also re­alised that I hadn’t felt this happy in years. It was only then, at 27, that I let my In­ner Child back in. I fi­nally ac­cepted that I pre­fer a week­end to my­self, see­ing friends oneon-one or just hang­ing pic­tures, to a party. At 31, I wrote a book, hav­ing pre­vi­ously shunned fic­tion as ‘less glam­orous’ than mag­a­zines, and fi­nally felt ful­filled at work. No sur­prise, con­sid­er­ing I was al­ways writ­ing sto­ries as a child, but it’s not nec­es­sar­ily about re-en­act­ing our child­hood hob­bies. It’s just that, if you can find adult equiv­a­lents of your child­hood pas­sions, they’ll prob­a­bly make you hap­pier than In­sta­gram, Tin­der, yoga or what­ever it is you feel you ‘should’ en­joy to­day.

All of which re­minds me of the day, aged 11, I was sum­moned to the head­mistress’s of­fice for ‘a lit­tle talk’. ‘Francesca,’ she said. ‘I’d like to dis­cuss your habit of leav­ing things to the last minute. I know it serves you well now, but in fu­ture, you’ll need to be more me­thod­i­cal.’ She had a point. Do­ing all my home­work at 5am was rash (if quite Sh­eryl Sand­berg). It worked for me then, and has con­tin­ued to work ever since. So I’m afraid, Miss Byrne-Cooper, I still haven’t taken your ad­vice. I’ve just fin­ished writ­ing this at 6.50am, and I’m wear­ing a grubby T-shirt of my hus­band’s. So much for pris­tine fem­i­nin­ity. Maybe some things never change.

His­tory Of The World In 100 Mod­ern Ob­jects by Francesca Hor­nak is out now (Por­tico, £12.99)

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