Let go of the past to move into future
“Change can be good but it’s always tough to let go of the past.” — Emily Giffin
Several years ago I worked with a teenage girl who had become entrenched in her past and her reputation. She wanted to change who she was and how others saw her, but she could not find the path to a different future. Somewhere along the line, she lost confidence in herself and her ability to make decisions. She had fallen into a trap of repeating the same mistakes and making decisions based on past actions. She could not find a way to forgive herself for decisions she had made during a difficult time in her past, and consequently continued to perpetuate the cycle.
For some people, starting over can be extremely difficult. However, in truth, the past is the past, and while you can take away valuable lessons, it does not limit your ability to move forward, unless you let it.
Making decisions outside of the past will give you total control over your today and tomorrow. While the past cannot be changed, you can move beyond it by making the decision to do so.
You are not limited by the past, only by your perspective of it. In order to move forward, focus on where you want to go and come up with the best path to get there.
As the conversations with this adolescent continued, we discussed the fact that she had to stop reliving the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” in her life and not fall back into the habits and decisions that had led to her mistakes. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it and make better decisions for the present and the future.
The problem most people have is letting go of what they cannot control or change and using the past as an excuse to not even try to be better.
If you think about it, the act of moving forward is not about forgetting what we have learned; it is about the power to forgive ourselves for past mistakes. Most individuals find it easier to forgive others than to forgive themselves.
We often hold ourselves to a higher standard and therefore are less likely to forgive ourselves for being human. Forgiveness can only come with acceptance of self and when we stop criticizing ourselves for past mistakes.
We must realize that we are fallible and human. We are all imperfect. What we can change is our thought process and the way we look at the past. We have all made mistakes and we have all made choices that in hindsight were not the best or most productive. These past decisions can be made productive if we use them as a launching pad for a positive present and a promising future. The choices made in the past are a part of who you are now, but they do not define you as a person.
“The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we learn to let go of yesterday.” — Steve Maraboli
Brenda-Lee Duarte, executive director at LifeLine Counseling Center, 1033 W. Broadway Ave., Maryville, 981-7400, is a licensed professional counselor and therapist. She and Megan Rapien, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, will contribute columns on mental health issues the first Sunday of each month in the Sunday Life section.