Can you remember the last time you beat yourself up? I can’t. For years, I was a victim of my circumstances. It wasn’t until I realized how much energy this particular perception wasted and how many opportunities it took away from me that I decided to stop being a victim and start taking back my power.
You can do the same. You deserve better. You are a survivor, and you have overcome all odds. You deserve this victory.
For many the key to this whole thing is to find a way to let go of the pain of the past. You really do have to do that unless you want it to anchor you there, weighing you down like a big hunk of rusty metal. It’s a completely relevant metaphor.
Everyone has pain from the past. It might be a failure in school, a cruel comment from a parent, or a failed relationship. Letting go of the past is challenging, but necessary. Those that cling to the past are forever at its mercy.
A peaceful and meaningful life is easier if you’re able to leave the past in the past
Use these strategies to leave your past behind you and get on with the business of living:
- Remember: your past only exists within you. There are times when we allow our past experiences to haunt us and there are also moments where we look back at our life with regret. But the key is that it’s just a memory, and it has no power over you in this moment. It’s your present reality that matters, not what was or could’ve been. Everything happens in the present, so the solution to your challenges is in the present. Everything you can control is happening right now. The past only a factor because you allow it to be.
- Avoid ruminating over the past. What do you think you accomplish by replaying negative events in your head? Do you think something positive will happen the 500th time that didn’t happen the previous 499? The mind is a powerful tool. It can help you get through the toughest times in your life, or it can be your worst enemy. One of the things you must master is how to control your thoughts and manage your mind when they are at their weakest moments.
Rumination is an activity with negative consequences. It ruins your mood and leads to more rumination. Reliving negative events can lead to shame, depression, and anxiety.
- Accept the past. The past is something we can’t change. Even if it’s there are difficult or painful memories, it’s still part of who you are today. The past shapes the future and your present-day decisions, so try to accept what happened in the past as just that: the past.You don’t have a lot of choices here. Shit happens. Sometimes life stinks. Focus your attention on the present.
- Forgive everyone that wronged you. You’re going to have to forgive everyone. People will insist on being human and flawed, and they make mistakes. That doesn’t mean that their mistake should dictate your life for years afterwards or that it’s okay to hold onto bitterness. You can’t control what others do, whether or not they realize how much their actions hurt you at the time but you CAN control whether or not these events affect you in a negative way long-term and cause emotional pain after all this time has passed by letting go of grudges and resentments towards those who acted carelessly in the past. Forgiving them doesn’t mean you have to let them back into your life. It just means that you’re ready to focus on something else in your life. When you forgive, you give yourself the emotional freedom to not feel bad about the incident anymore.
You might need to forgive yourself, too. We all make mistakes, so give yourself a break. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
- Treat yourself well. Ensure that you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and spending time with people you enjoy. What activities or interests would you like to explore? In order to be our best selves, we should take care of ourselves. We need to rest so that we can recharge and nourish our bodies in a sustainable way. We also need to make time for self-care because it’s an important part of being human. Make yourself a priority. You’re worth it.
- Realize that you did the best you could. For that matter, everyone in your past did the best they could. The best way to cope with a mistake is not to dwell on it, but rather understand that you did the best you could. It’s okay if you made mistakes; they happen and are unavoidable. Everyone makes them. The key is just understanding that mistakes are inevitable, so your goal should be to focus on learning from them.Our best isn’t always great at each moment in time but everyone is actually doing the best they can or are capable of in this moment. Believe that and you’re free.
- Make exciting plans for the future. Give yourself something to look forward to. What do you want to do and accomplish in the next 5 or 10 years? What do you want to accomplish next month? There is no better feeling than looking forward to something. It’s the best way to motivate yourself and it can even give you a sense of purpose if you don’t know what your goals are in life. Let’s face it – not every day is going to be perfect or go according to plan. Sometimes people will disappoint us, we’ll have days where we just want to stay in bed all day, and sometimes things won’t work out like they were supposed to. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything good waiting for us on the horizon or that our lives aren’t worth living because of these setbacks.
- Do something fun. Sometimes, no matter what we do, those old feelings come creeping back in but there are things we can do to help us feel better again. One way to overcome negative memories is to create some new ones – remembering happy moments with family or friends might make the bad times seem less important. So think about all of the great times you’ve had and write them down as a reminder so they’re always close by when you need them most. Another way to overcome negative memories is to create some new ones. Do something fun with people you enjoy. Focus on making new memories to help you let go of the old.
- Control what you can. Much of the reason for reliving the past comes from wanting to control the uncontrollable. It’s often tempting to focus on the things in life that you can’t control. We are all human and we have a natural tendency to worry about what may or may not happen in the future. But it’s important to remember that there are many things we can control, and one of those is our attitude. Control what you’re able to control and let go of the rest.
- Realize the control you’re giving to your past. It is hard to be in a good frame of mind when you are constantly reminded of your past mistakes. It’s like your brain tries to sabotage all the work you’ve done by constantly bringing up these memories that make it difficult for you to stay positive. When we relive past pain, we develop defense mechanisms to protect us from future pain. The pain from the past creates fear. That fear of the past creates fear of the future. The key to a peaceful future is releasing yourself from the past. How much is your past affecting your present and future? Will you allow this to continue?
Everyone’s past is checkered with failure and uncomfortable memories. Learn from your past and then move on. Forgive everyone and yourself. There’s plenty of life left to be lived. You can choose to allow the past to define and limit you, or you can choose to leave it behind.
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My recommended reading on this subject is Take Your Life Back: How to Stop Letting the Past and Other People Control You By Stephen Aterburn and David Stoop. Your past and current circumstances don’t have to define you, and they don’t have to determine the direction of your life.
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