Holding on to the past can be a burden. It can not only feel heavy and suck the fun out of life, but it can also stop you from becoming the person you want to be.
It can also affect your relationships- even if what you’re refusing to move on from, has nothing to do with the other person.
I’ve been on both ends of such a relationship. You’re either the person who is “stuck” and constantly talks about and complains about their past circumstances or experiences, or you’re on the receiving end and have heard the same story being told, over and over again.
Being on the receiving end isn’t easy. At first, you sympathize, you comfort, you listen, you give out advice. After years of hearing the same story though, you grow tired.
On the other hand, being the person who is refusing to move on, is tricky.
Because you sometimes don’t realize that you’re stuck. You don’t realize that you, holding on to your past, is what is stopping you from growing. It’s not until you realize how much of a burden it is, that you begin to see just how much your “past” has taken over both your “present” and your “future.”
LEAVING THE PAST BEHIND + LEARNING TO MOVE ON
THINGS WE HOLD ON TO, TOO TIGHT
When it comes to “living in the past” there exists a pattern that constantly repeats itself. Usually, it involves things like:
-playing the victim
-pointing fingers at others
-blaming our past experiences for our current circumstances
-holding on to anger, and refusing to let go
Needless to say, some of the things we hold on to and patterns they create are destructive and often have quite a negative impact on our lives. While some use their unpleasant past experiences as a fuel to drive them and keep them moving forward, others use it as an excuse to stand still.
Why? Because it’s easier. It’s a way of us making ourselves feel a little better- a perfect excuse for not living authentically and being who we really wish to be.
LEARNING TO FORGIVE + LETTING GO
Forgiveness is one of the most important aspects of learning to move on and leaving the past behind. It’s not just about forgiving others for the hurt and pain they might have caused you. It is also about you forgiving yourself. When we replay those stories in our heads, over and over again, we fall into that mental habit of staying stuck in the past. It’s a vicious cycle that will not stop unless that mental habit loop is broken. The only person who can break that loop is you.
Just as forgiving is not only about forgiving others, letting go isn’t just about letting go of the past. It’s also about letting go of unhealthy relationships, expectations, bad habits, and limiting beliefs. It’s about letting go of the false stories we keep re-telling ourselves, over and over again.
TURN INTO THE PRESENT MOMENT
If you spend your time focusing on the present, taking it all in, you won’t have time for replaying the same stories you’ve been replaying all your life. Spend most of your time re-living your past, and you will miss out on the things that are happening this very moment. You will miss out on the now.
There is something magical about being present- when your mind is free of judgment in every single moment, every single thought. When you don’t worry about the future or stress about the past. Introduce some mindfulness exercises into your day to help you practice being present. The more you practice it, the easier it becomes.
You cannot erase your past simply because there are things you want to let go of; things you want to move on from. Those past experiences, the struggles, the failures, the hurt- those things make up who you/we/me are today. I think about it this way: just because I chose to forgive myself for years of emotional self-abuse and physical self-harm, just because I no longer choose to play the “victim card” and decided to let go of the hurt and pain I’ve felt, doesn’t mean that those things never took place. Tough experiences, failures, and disappointments are a part of life. Some of us are just lucky not to experience too many of them, while others find it difficult to re-define their lives and move on from them- often, it’s because the pain is just too strong.
Know that your feelings- such as regret, hurt, disappointment, are valid. Your pain is valid. Just because they are valid though, you don’t have to let them define who you are. Yes, the past experiences helped shape the person you are today- but that person is stronger for having gone through them.
Sometimes, the things that happened to us are too difficult to work through on our own. Remember, that there is no shame in seeking help- be it professional therapy or just talking to someone close who you really trust. If that’s not your thing, then try journaling- validate your feelings using words like “I am” and “I feel.” Write it all down, feel it all. Let it all out, so that you can make some room for more good, more present and peace. Know that your feelings are valid, but that doesn’t mean that you have to let your past experiences stop you from going where you want to go, from being who you want to be.
COMMIT TO LETTING GO
Moving on is almost never easy. Forgiving isn’t easy and neither is letting go. It takes time, and it takes commitment. It takes effort.
You don’t just wake up one-day thinking: “yea, what happened to me was pretty messed up, but I’ll just go ahead and let it go now.“
Letting go sometimes equals you, going about your life, every single day, fighting. It’s you, realizing that whatever happens to you from now on, is up to you. Letting go takes effort, discipline, and responsibility. Sure, saying: “I can’t do A and B, because I never had C and D growing up” is simple. It’s an easy way out- it’s pretty much putting the responsibility on someone (or something) else. By committing to letting go, you choose to unburden yourself. Growing and getting better is a daily effort. It won’t happen overnight, and it takes work. The sooner you realize this and commit to letting go, the better.
I used to think of myself as someone who is broken. I’ve always used my past as an excuse for not allowing myself to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, or to become the person I wanted to be. I allowed it to hold me back, for far too long. There came a time where I’ve come to realize that just because I was once told that I’m not good enough, or not smart enough, or that I would never amount to anything- it does not give me an excuse to give up on myself or my dreams.
We all have dreams, plans, and goals. Having “bad” things happen to you in the past shouldn’t be a pretext for giving up on those dreams, for giving up on yourself.
Throwing around blame is easy.
Finding excuses is easy.
Leaving the past behind isn’t always easy.
Waking up every day and asking yourself: “Who am I? Will I allow my past experiences to define who I am today?” takes courage. You can’t always control the things that happen to you, just like you can’t control other people and their actions. What you do have control over, is how you respond to the crappy things that happened to you in the past. You can find peace and happiness- you just have to learn to let go. Realize that you do have a choice and that that, is your superpower.