From birth to toddlers, we are carefree, unbothered about what people think and we tell them our opinions without hesitation. We may throw a tantrum or two but it’s rarely dangerous or violent, unless we decide spontaneously to chomp on an irritating piece of flesh with gums or a few baby teeth. We are wonderfully independent of thought, deed and intention. We expect good things and we usually get them. We smile a lot at strangers and people beam with joy – no one thinks we are freaks. That comes from a few sad souls when we are older, so we stop. cutting off the world from our attempts to say ‘I like you’. We live in a very happy world and our days are full of love, laughter and liveliness.
With the end of those smiles at strangers, something else happens. Over the years, we grow layers of Other People’s Opinions and cargo, stifling that toddler phase of blissful, joyful existence. Slowly, those filters start to cover the spontaneous joy, until we have hardened shells, based on a succession of other people’s fears, warnings and anxieties, some from well meaning but often misguided loved ones. They form a crust over the marshmallow core of babyhood within us all and yet we still crave the nurturing, the fun and the ability to be ourselves and loved for no specific reason, other than perhaps because someone thinks we are the centre of the Universe. That’s nice.
To get back to that level of emotional freedom of doing whatever we feel and not caring too much about reaction, we have to skip a few decades to leap into the silver years of maturity. By then, most have realised the futility of pretence and dismissed the shell for being too heavy to carry for a lifetime. After the wisdom of age sets in, masks are major maintenance and few retain them.
To find happiness in yourself before you are grey and reaching for your zimmer frame, one easy way is to find that little person within again. Seek sources of fun where you laugh until it hurts and only retain those friends who laugh with you, not at you. Try saying ‘no’ more often – it can be liberating – and spending more time doing things which you find inspirational or liberating. Be curious, ask more questions and get re-used to the power of touch as you hug more, chat more and kiss more. Try to first ensure that you know these people and that they are not queuing with you to catch a bus.
Most aware people will also avoid the more antisocial aspects of babyhood, if they wish to keep new friends. Hilarious, digestive noises emanating from a cute, little cherub are not as endearing when they bellow out of a forty year old with a big moustache and clear an entire pub, especially when she is female; but the greater your new warmth, the more people will radiate towards you and the more they radiate towards you, the more you will feel like that lovable, carefree child within again. Just don’t dribble.