What Would Your Six-Year-Old Self Do?
Do you remember what you were like as a six-year-old? Did you play dress up? Put on dance shows? Have your own lady boss lemonade stand? Play flag football with the boys?
I remember in first grade we had an activity where we used long reams of paper to draw life-size self-portraits of ourselves in the future, to show what we were going to be. I drew a beret on my head and a paintbrush in my hand because I wanted everyone to know I was going to be an artist.
At six, self-expression was not something I shied away from. I drew, painted, danced, wrote a whole series of stories about the exciting life of Sylvester the Bird (yes, I said series, complete with Print Shop Deluxe borders #fancy), said what was on my mind, and didn’t worry about the consequences.
Then I grew up. I stopped painting, stopped writing, stopped dancing, started second-guessing myself constantly, started worrying about other people’s opinions way too much. It wasn’t even a conscious decision—my creative, confident self just slowly faded away.
Obviously, self-control can be a good thing, and I’m glad I don’t go around having meltdowns or screaming at people that I hate them (sorry Mom), but I do miss that little six-year-old that didn’t question her right or ability to express herself. And I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced this.
Recently, in a book I was reading (Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge) the author mentioned that “when we’re about seven we separate from and then bury or repress whatever parts of us don’t seem to be acceptable in the world around us.” That means that at six, before this transition into self-consciousness, we are purely ourselves. We haven’t yet begun picking our physical or emotional selves apart, discarding or shoving down the parts that make us feel different or ashamed. At six, we are authentic, we don’t know any different.
I know that being an adult has its advantages, but in this arena I think our younger selves have a leg up on us grown ups. They wouldn’t care how our arms look in that tank top, or obsess over saying the wrong thing at a party, or worry whether anyone liked the new song we made up. Instead of wasting their energy on doubt, they’d be using that energy to race the kid next door or play in an imaginary world outside or build a pillow fort. That kind of freedom is what we need to get back to.
So here is what I propose: the next time you knitpick your appearance in the mirror, hold back on the dance floor, or shoo away that creative idea, I want you to ask yourself: What would my six-year-old-self do? Chances are, she’d rock it, all of it, and not worry what anyone thought. Go make her proud.