Learning to Let Go of the Past
Learning to let go of the past can be a struggle. We go to new places, meet new people, and still there are impacts of our past conditioning that stay buried deep within our psyche. We are still a product of the past and of our life experiences.
Sometimes, recreating yourself means unlearning years of unconscious patterns that are buried deep inside the recesses of your mind. You want to change, you want to move forward, but there are fears and pieces of yourself that are holding you back.
We are conditioned from a young age to fear so many things, and those fears stay with us into adulthood. We may fear authority, fear change, fear our own attitudes or behaviors that are different from others.
Learning to let go of the past means letting go of these fears. It means learning to step into our power, to become more of ourselves, and who we are truly meant to be. This can be difficult.
We may have grown up being told that something about us is bad. When this happens at a young age, we are more likely to believe that something is wrong with us. It can also happen when these negative messages are repeated again and again through relationships with narcissists and bullies.
Change your self-talk
To be able to change your beliefs and ideas about yourself, first you need to change your self-talk. It is important to let go of negative self-talk, and self-critical beliefs in order to be able to move forward in life. If you have a harsh inner critic, it is important to work on these critical thoughts, and to reframe them in a more positive way.
According to Positive Psychology,
Originally, our inner critic had a positive function: to ensure our survival. This includes not just spotting danger in our environment but also inner work in the form of psychological sense making.
In particular, it involves the construction of narratives about ourselves and others that are bearable. For example, children who feel unloved, are constantly criticized, or the victims of abuse will tend to blame themselves rather than their parents.
As the child depends completely on their parents for survival, the conscious acknowledgment of the parents’ unfairness, cruelty, or incompetency is simply too devastating. It is much safer for the child to turn the criticism inward rather than outward and to blame the self for the suffered misfortunes.
But what might be a sensible survival mechanism in childhood can turn into a truly debilitating handicap in adulthood (Chamine, 2012).
What worked as a coping mechanism in childhood, hurts us and stunts our personal growth in adulthood. By learning to challenge the messages of our inner critic, we are able to gradually let go of this harsh self-talk.
When I worked with a life coach, she had me question every negative thought and ask, "so what?" If you ask this enough times, you will get to your core negative belief.
For example, if I think that I am a bad mother, I ask, so what? If I ask that enough times, I come to the core message that I am afraid that no one loves me, or that I am unlovable.
If you think you are unlovable (as many of us unfortunately do) then you can work on exercises for self-love and self-acceptance. This can help you rewire your brain for more positive thinking if you practice this over a period of time.
You can do this through a process of journaling, meditation, or saying positive affirmations that are the opposite of your negative thought.
For example, if I think I am a bad mother and I am unlovable, I could say to myself, "I am a good mother." and "I am worthy of love."
When you repeat these phrases to yourself, it can help to create a more positive mental dialogue within yourself.
Stop letting others control you
Another important way to let go of the past is to stop letting other people's opinions about you control your thinking, your actions and your life.
This can be especially difficult if you have grown up being a people-pleaser. You may have learned that to be loved, you have to do what other people want you to do, or be what they want you to be.
Recently, I found myself caught into this trap. I have extended family that doesn't like the way I look and dress. My clothes aren't fancy enough for them. I like too much glitter. I wear too much black. So I tried to change.
Even though this is a simple thing, it made me unconsciously feel on guard all the time. It made me feel like I'm not good enough the way that I am. It made me feel like I had to change in order to be accepted. Still, no matter what I did, it wasn't good enough. I got the message that I wasn't good enough.
It can be your clothes, your job, your parenting style or your friends that your family may not approve of. I have been in all of these situations.
When you take too much guidance from outside yourself, you aren't being true to yourself and your own heart anymore. It makes you feel constantly on guard, and out of balance with yourself.
Learning to let go of these harsh criticisms from other people is just as important as working with your inner critic. This is because often the messages we get from others can become internalized, and we start to tell ourselves these same negative messages.
You are good enough
You are already good enough, just as you are. It doesn't matter what kind of negative messages you get from either your inner critic, or from others in your life.
You are a worthy and worthwhile human being, just as you are.
If you feel like you have to constantly change to get people to love you, then it is likely that you are trying to get love from the wrong people. People who really care and love you, will not try to ask you to change. That isn't love, it is manipulation.
Letting go of others manipulations and setting boundaries with the amount of negativity you are willing to tolerate is a good first step towards feeling good about yourself, and becoming in tune with your inner worth.
Remember, normal people don't go around destroying other people.
If you are enmeshed with people who act this way, the problem isn't with you, it is with them. It is important to put as much physical and emotional distance between yourself and negative people as possible. If you aren't able to be physically away from them, it is important to set emotional boundaries.
Tell people that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. This is basic human decency. If they cannot do that, then let them know that you are going to walk away from conversations that aren't honoring your worth, and are violating your boundaries.
Learning to stand up for yourself can help you to leave the negativity behind you, because you are no longer mentally attaching to the negative messages that these people are feeding you about yourself. Saying no is a powerful tool to protect your self-esteem and your mindset.
The more you learn to stand up for yourself, against your own negative thoughts and those imposed on you by others, the stronger you will become mentally. You will be able to stand up for your own worth, and not allow anyone to treat you with less than the respect that you deserve.
Going into this holiday season where we may have to deal with difficult relatives who strain our mental peace, it is important to remember that you deserve nothing but goodness and love. Don't allow anyone to treat you with less!