7 Signs of a Wounded Inner Child

When our inner child is wounded, our whole selves feel the effects.

A wounded inner child can create emotional difficulties for you throughout your life. These challenges can affect your relationship with other people, with addiction or obsession, or with your sense of self.

In this article, we’ll break down 7 signs your inner child might have some unaddressed wounds.

What is the inner child?

The inner child is a part of your subconscious that’s characterised by childlike (not childish) traits like playfulness, spontaneity and creativity. It's the part of you that holds emotions, memories and beliefs from your past.

It’s your inner child who remembers strong comforting smells from your youth, or who sparks up in excitement and pride when you get the job.

But it also remembers the sting of rejection, the hurt of being bullied or the devastation of betrayal.

Your inner child is shaped by both joyful and traumatic childhood experiences, whether singular or repeated.

Positive triggers can awaken the joy of your inner child, but stressful events can open its old wounds.

7 Signs of a wounded inner child

Content WarningMentions of: addiction, mental illness, childhood abuse, abusive relationships

1. People pleasing

Expectations and pressures placed on us as children can have lasting effects on our responses as adults. If you try very hard to please other people and struggle to say no or set boundaries, this could reflect a wounded inner child.

2. Need to achieve

Overwork can be the result of many different things. But if you feel empty or unworthy when you aren’t achieving, and fear or struggle to cope with failure, it may be a sign that something is up with your inner child.

3. Unhealthy coping mechanisms

Drug abuse, alcoholism, dissociation through gaming and social media - even diving fully into work - can all be forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms and/or addictive or obsessive behaviours.
Using these things to avoid difficult feelings can be a sign that healthier responses weren’t modelled to you as a child.

4. Relationship issues

A pattern of unhealthy relationships or chasing unavailable people can be a sign of that your inner child is wounded in its ability to connect appropriately with others.

5. Low self-esteem and guilt

Inappropriate guilt is a common sign of a wounded inner child. If we’re blamed a lot as a child, it can lead to low self-esteem and holding guilt that we don’t deserve, like feeling guilty for resting.

6. Conflict aversion

Sometimes childhoods in which we have little control can lead us to feel our opinions and voices aren’t welcome. So we avoid conflict and we don’t set or enforce boundaries.
Then, we allow people to encroach on our space because we don’t want to say no. And when they cross our invisible line, rather than tell them, we may simply cut them off from our lives instead.

7. Health issues

Depression, anxiety, addiction, C-PTSD and eating disorders can be related to a wounded inner child. Even physical illnesses like chronic migraines, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia have been linked to childhood trauma.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it’s not a diagnosis. But if you identify with any of the above, you’re not alone. Inner child wounds are very common and don’t make you any less of a wonderful, nuanced and loveable person.

Professional help from a licensed therapist, counsellor or psychologist is the best approach to getting back in touch with your inner child.

Returning to play and creating art can also help, as can journaling and speaking kindly to your inner child.

That part of you that experiences joy is the same part that feels hurt, and it deserves love and attention as much as the rest of you.