Who Were You as a Child?

– Clues to Your Authentic Self

Do you know who you “really” are? Have you struggled with your sense of self, experienced an identity crisis, or maybe still feel like you’re figuring it out?

It is common in the archetypal hero’s or heroine’s journey of our life that we lose, question or hide our real self. But for empaths (highly sensitive people), it is practically a given. One of our main traits as empaths is that it is easy for us to merge with other people and absorb their emotions, problems, values, habits, beliefs and more. And because it is so natural for us to live in everyone else’s shoes, we don’t even know we’re doing it. This causes us to believe that everything we are feeling and experiencing is our own.

This dynamic often sets us up for hellacious identity crises. Extracting ourselves from the stew of codependence, figuring out where we end and the next person begins, and learning to live from our own center are major challenges in the life of an empath. In my work with sensitive souls, and codified in my book The Evolutionary Empath (on shelves Nov 5), I offer a number of exercises and processes for reclaiming your sense of self and learning who you are. One of those tools is examining who you were as a child.

Exploring who you were as a child before the world began to unduly influence your behaviors and decisions can be a fantastic way to help you remember your true self and to regain your center. There are usually untainted, pure behaviors up through approximately ages 6, 7 or 8 that can help you recall your core essence before you began censoring yourself.

This exercise lends itself well to journaling or reflective meditation. And honestly, you don’t have to be an empath to get value out of this query. This is an excellent practice for anyone looking to reclaim and live from their authentic self.

To get a bit more granular, contemplate the following questions:

  • How did you play? What or who did you play with?
  • What activities were you attracted to? Music? Sports? Art? Building things?
  • How did you respond to people around you?
  • What are your favorite memories?
  • What did you spend time imagining, dreaming or fantasizing about?
  • What were your “prized” possessions?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • Where were your favorite places to visit?

For me, this was a goldmine activity. Here are some themes that were expressed as a child that are core pieces of me now: Native American spirituality; horses; love of rocks, stones, trees, fur, and natural elements; fantasizing about and playing with “magical” objects; creative expression through art, dance and music; being in nature; being physically active; climbing trees and exploring; and being sensitive to others’ emotions. I was naturally exuberant, adventurous and active. I loved being outdoors and playing with nature’s toys. I gravitated toward creative expression of all kinds. And I naturally picked up on and felt everyone else’s feelings.

But, many of those qualities went underground as I grew up and started absorbing the messages from church, family, school, and society about who I should be, what is and isn’t appropriate, and putting other people’s expectations of me above my own heart’s calling. Can you resonate with any of this?

One of my favorite recollections, which so totally parallels my current self, is that I was a little medicine woman before I even knew what that was. I had my special collection of magical items that I kept in a crocheted draw-string bag (remember those from the ’70s?). Of course, they were just rocks, sticks, costume jewelry, dried flowers, bits of this and pieces of that. But to me, they had special meaning and powers. My favorite fantasy was about a ring I had. The “stone” was yellow, probably glass or acrylic, and it was translucent. You could see an interesting pattern on the bottom of the stone where the adhesive dried when it was glued to the mounting. This design, I fantasized, was a map of my home planet. It was an island in the middle of an ocean and this special ring of power kept me connected to my true home.

What were your “make-believe” stories?

As you consider this exercise of reflecting on your childhood, I would be remiss if I didn’t roll an important disclaimer: Depending on the experiences of your early years, this activity may or may not work for you. Some people have repressed much of their childhood or have very few memories to call upon. Some people are walk-ins, meaning their “soul swapped out” at some point in their early life and they have no recollection of life before the exchange. If recalling your childhood is difficult, you might hook up with a parent or older sibling to reconnect with these aspects and behaviors of your young self.

Happy exploring!


Rev. Stephanie Red Feather, Ph.D.
Rev. Stephanie Red Feather, Ph.D.
Rev. Stephanie Red Feather, Ph.D. is the author of The Evolutionary Empath: A Practical Guide for Heart-Centered Consciousness. As an ordained shamanic minister, her passion is to help fellow empaths embrace their soul’s calling to evolve humanity to the next stage of consciousness. Stephanie is the founder of Blue Star Temple where she has led experiential workshops, initiatory processes, and private facilitation since 2007. Through specific focus on embodiment, masculine-feminine balance, boundaries, energy hygiene practices, shadow work, radical self-care, and inner authority, Stephanie holds space for spiritual seekers to remember their divine nature and heal their human wounds. Stephanie is dedicated to providing a wide variety of tools, resources, and products to help empaths thrive in the world. Click here to check out her articles, video home study programs, workbooks, meditations, and podcasts, and be sure to download your free Evolutionary Empath Activation Manual. Stephanie is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

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  1. Stephanie — Many thanks for posing those “dig deep” questions. As my friends know, I’m a lover of history, but I haven’t spent nearly enough time looking at younger Jeff. I do know that I spent way too much time trying to elicit love from significant figures in life, and not enough time relishing myself for myself.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, Stephanie. I immediately noticed the overlap in our experiences as children. I, too, was drawn to nature. My favorite place to be was outside with the trees, dirt, rocks, creek, Roly poly bugs underneath the rocks, the grass…I loved swimming, climbing trees, rollerskating, ice skating, running, riding my bicycle (no accident that I still run, bike, and swim, hike in the woods). Buildings including school, church, my parent’s home were not safe places. I loved walking into the library-the quiet, the smell of books, what a sacred place. I loved being at the homes of my best friends as I also felt a bit freer to be myself there. Lots of imaginative play with the Fisher Price people, building houses with blocks, playing house with dolls, creating adventures in the backyard with toy horses, sledding, playing with their dogs. Deep under the water in a swimming pool also felt like a bit of a haven. Piano music filled my soul especially Debussy’s Clair De Lune that my sister learned to play on my parent’s piano. I still have vivid/lively memories of these experiences I cherished as a child. They can be pulled up like a DVR file in my entire being…heart/mind/body/soul. Thank you for asking as it obviously unleashed a flood of memories…. permission to go there. I appreciate that you offer your clients this permission-to connect with that which actually felt good in our hearts/bodies. I, too, most likely fit the Highly Sensitive Person thing and I tend to not like labels. I’m just me-intuitive, sensitive, loving, active, a lover of life/nature/kind-gentle people. This all existed simultaneously with many different types of heinous experiences throughout my childhood beginning at 6 months old and persisting until I broke ties with my family of origin when I was in my early 40’s and had become a parent of two beautiful, old soul children.

    • Laura, I’m glad this article gave you confirmation and an opportunity to revisit those cherished “DVR files.” The human psyche is fascinating to me and it sounds like you overcame so major traumas. I honor your courage in cutting ties with your FOO. Walk your path sister!

  3. Growing up and looking back on my childhood, there are not many great memories, nor happy ones. First an orphange for awhile, then juvenile hall, and from there foster care, propelled me into an independence of maturaty that allowed me to deal with the abuses and sadness in order to help others as an adult. Recognizing those hurts in the eyes of others was a gift that allowed healing for myself and them. Yet, it did not keep me from becoming who I am today or the love I have as a wife, a mother and a grandmother. I feel blessed today because of my childhood. Thank you for this article Stephanie.

  4. Well, Stephanie, as many readers know, I was adopted at birth by two folks who couldn’t have kids, or so they thought ( three and a half years after that, my mother did give birth to their only genetic kid, my brother — a really good man). My inner person was 180 degrees different from my mother’s, so my childhood, while also filled with love, was difficult.

    Growing up in the 1950s, where conformity was somewhat prized, was tough. My mother based a lot of her activities and inner happiness on what others deemed right and proper; their approval meant the world to her!

    Let’s just say, I did not agree.

    But as a kid, you can’t know much. All I knew was I didn’t fit! I was an introvert, wanting nothing more than to go inside my room, read a book, and be left alone. I was not the popular princess my mother so desperately wanted. I was argumentative, even if I had no idea why. I just knew that what she wanted so much for me didn’t fit me at all.

    Fast-forward about 50 years, and I finally caught on to my perfectly fine, perfectly OK inner person! I took the Myers-Briggs program and the DiSC one, and thanks to those and a short-term therapy session, I realized that I was perfectly fine, just totally different as a kid. Not wrong. Just different.

    Today, I’m about the happiest person I know. Seriously. Happy doesn’t even express how I feel. Lucky? Yes. Great genetics, loving family whose members meant well, enough brain power, great health (so far). I am living the life I want — single by choice after 2 marriages, and loving every. minute. of. it.

    Thanks for showing us that who we were certainly informed who we are, but we don’t have to let those memories rule us if we don’t want them to.

    • I’m so thrilled to hear how happy you are, Susan. Evidence of really deep inner work. While our childhood certainly informs our behaviors and personality, it’s heartening to know that it doesn’t have to keep us locked in a box!

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