One of the biggest things that hold us back from achieving our fullest potential is the lingering narratives from our past. The moments of success and joyful memories keep us going, but the weight of mistakes, shame, guilt, and regrets can be crippling. Holding on to the past hinders you from realizing your authentic self. In this post, we are going to take a few moments to reflect on our past—with all its ups and downs—take lessons from the past and stop to say “thank you, yesterday.”
The pressure of the past
In the last post, I wrote about the importance of addressing our negative self-talk and shared a few ways to begin that practice. Most of our negative self-talk stems from past experiences and present fears. I would argue that there is not a person on this planet that doesn’t wish to become the best version of themselves. No one just wakes up and decides to self-destruct, self-sabotage, or stop trying.
When I think about the root causes of poor confidence or progress, it often leads back to past experiences. The past can make you want to protect yourself from harm—from yourself or other people. And, the fear of an unknown future can trigger some of our deepest regrets and questions about life.
It’s hard not to think that the best version of yourself is living in perfectionism—perfect actions, thoughts, and plans. Being inundated with a picture-perfect version of other people’s lives online can fuel this belief. We often see the result of an imperfect journey and think they must have perfectly walked it in order for them to be where they are. Then, we compare our journey and worry that our missteps have doomed us forever.
How can we possibly become our authentic selves with flawed chapters in our story? The truth is our best self is not an unblemished, flawless story. Rather, your best self happens when you choose to learn from those flawed moments from your past and make today better than yesterday. Your best self lives in all the moments you choose to be an overcomer.
When you don’t understand the past
As a questioner, I fully understand the desire to understand and ask why before feeling that you can move forward. Sometimes, the lack of closure feels like a wound that won’t heal. Here is one truth about healing: You don’t always need closure from your past to heal; you just need your commitment to unpack your emotions and garner the key learning or lesson. When you don’t understand your past, you can still make a decision to accept the things you cannot control while continuing to work on what you can.
If you start chasing the answer to why your past played out as it did, you will find a fine line between intentional healing and cyclical self-torture. Yes, it is very important to unpack your past in order to heal. This can look like finding patterns and teasing out the root causes of behaviors so you can remove emotional blocks that hinder you. However, the purpose of exploring your past is never to stay there; the goal is to gather the lessons from your past that will help you heal. When we go to the past, we get what we need to move on. We do not set up permanent residence there.
When going back is good
One of the steps to change negative self-talk is to examine where negative seeds were planted in your life and root them out. This can be difficult. If you’ve ever started doing deep self-work, you know that reflecting on the past can surface a lot of emotions. As you look back, you will see where people, your successes, and your challenges contributed to your inner dialogue in different situations. Some of that dialogue may be good and some may be destructive. However, it’s important to know where your mental and emotional garden needs tending.
What we say about ourselves directly correlates to what we create for ourselves. So, think and speak positive words (good seeds) that you can nurture and use to shift your mindset and beliefs about yourself. If you can change your beliefs, then we can change your actions and, if you change your actions, you can change your life.
Running away from your past doesn’t work in the long run. The body keeps the score because our experiences leave mental and emotional markers that can be subconsciously triggered again in similar situations. The best healing includes facing the past with honesty, truth, grace, and a willingness to acknowledge both the good and the bad. Whatever mixed bag your past brings you, consider it all feedback and data—a great inventory of what to leave in the past and what to keep doing.
What to take from your past
There is power in your past. It is your history, your story. It houses the beautiful memories and experiences that have guided you this far. We are not meant to deny our past; we just are not supposed to live there forever. Maybe that’s why time is not controlled by humans; we would pause and rewind it more than move forward. In reality, time is moving forward whether we move with it or not. The longer we stay in the past, the less time we leave to realize our fullest potential.
Carrying a little bit of baggage on our journey is not all a bad thing. A good amount of weight builds muscle and endurance, but too much can jeopardize your health and ability to reach your destination. So, what do you bring from your past to the present? To fully embrace your unique path as your authentic self, you bring the lessons, resilience, hope, and insight with you. The rest stays behind.
Reflect: Think about whatever you don’t like about your past. Take a moment to consider all the lessons you learned (or the lessons you can learn) and things you discovered about yourself. Now, focus on using that to improve tomorrow.
It’s time to thank your past
Start with a simple “thank you, yesterday.” Your past has been a consistent teacher. At times, it brought you unspeakable joy, and other times it almost tried to break you. But, you are here! You are stronger than you think you are.
Your past gave you experience and perspective. It taught you what to do and what not to do. You can’t change it, but you can change your tomorrow. Take its lessons and apply them. Whatever is keeping you stuck, it’s time to let it go. Your past is only one part of your life and it can only define what has happened thus far. The only way it will define your entire story is if you allow it to.
To my past, thank you for contributing to who I am today. You have taught me many lessons and given me a clear vision of what I do and do not want for my life. Because of yesterday, I now know more of what I want my tomorrow to look like. So, thank you for being a guide. And, when today becomes yesterday, I will be back to thank you again.
Now it’s your turn. Here’s a sentence frame to get you started: Thank you, yesterday. I am grateful that you taught me [insert response here]. Now, I am [insert affirmation here] and I will do [insert response here].
Reflection: What do you want to bring from your past to the present? What do you need to leave behind?