To some degree or another, we’ve probably all been haunted by our past at some point in life. Whether we have hurt someone we love, are ashamed of a wayward parent or are simply embarrassed of some awkward encounters, we all have moments and circumstances that we’re not proud of. Making friends with the past doesn’t mean you have to like what happened, but it does entail finding the power to move on. Here are seven ways to help you come to peace with your history.
1. Apologize for what you need to apologize for
Often, the first step in making friends with your past is to recognize the mistakes you made and to take accountability for such decisions, apologizing for what you did and making recompense where possible. If you cheated on your boyfriend and still suffer from feeling guilty, it’s time to say you’re sorry. If you stole something, it’s time to pay for the cost of the merchandise. If you hate how you behaved as a kid growing up, it’s time to tell your parents that you know now how wrong you were then. The key to moving forward is to take accountability for what you’ve done, making up for the situation as best you can and then closing the door on that experience.
2. Get closure for difficult situations that you never fully addressed
When it comes to a bad breakup, a parent who abandoned you, a friend who betrayed you or a similar situation, it’s easy to have unresolved feelings and to continue to hurt from the incident long after the relationship is over. Sometimes getting closure involves actually talking to the other person involved, asking why something happened or just expressing your viewpoint to let your voice finally be heard. Other times, talking with the other person is either not possible or not helpful and talking to a counselor or even a spiritual adviser can be beneficial in mentally and emotionally working through the situation so you can identify your pain and come to terms with the finality of the relationship.
3. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made
None of us are perfect and we’ve all made some wrong decisions. I trust we all have had incidents that we wish we handled better, words that we wish we had never said and thoughts we wish we could get rid of. If you constantly replay in your mind all of the regrets you have, your past will continue to overwhelm your present. After you’ve done all you can do in making up for your less-than-best behavior, it’s time to forgive yourself and move on. If you lied to someone you love but have since told the truth and expressed sincere sorrow for your mistake, for example, the best thing you can do is simply not repeat the same problem going forward.
4. Forgive others who have wronged you
Sometimes a past that continues to wreak havoc on the present is filled with times of being the victim when you really weren’t in the wrong. Although it can be beyond challenging to forgive those who have hurt you, for your own sake, it’s still better to forgive and forget. When you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that you have to keep yourself in the same place so that the other person can continue to hurt you–that’s not the case at all. Get yourself to a safe setting, whether that just means you emotionally have created distance or actually physically have relocated, and then let the memory of the hurt no longer affect you.
5. Remember that your past is not who you are now
When you’ve overcome the bad and sad situations that plagued your earlier years, you’re no longer the same person that you once were. Hence, you don’t have to let those painful feelings linger on. The you of your past isn’t the you of today so forget about that old self. If uncomfortable memories continue to surface back to the forefront of your mind, push them out of your brain as quickly as they pop in. Keep on paving the way for a bright future by choosing to be your best self.
6. Ignore the temptation to feel responsible for the decisions of others
Part of the regrets that many of us have ultimately stems from or relates to the agency of others. Someone chose to leave our life and we’re still frustrated, hurt and sad. We didn’t get accepted into the college we wanted to, we were laid off when the company started having financial trouble or we had our purse stolen when we were walking through the park. Although feelings of discouragement and disappointment can naturally accompany unwanted situations, there’s no use in obsessing over how others use their ability to choose. You’re not responsible for any of the decisions that others have made and you can’t change how they use their agency. You don’t need to be weighed down by the choices of other individuals.
7. Fill your life with purpose today
When you take accountability for yourself and live a life with purpose today, it’s easier to make peace with the past and be happy right now. When you fill the present with meaning–with love, kindness and service–you’ll come to realize that the past isn’t what matters. Where you are now, what kind of person you are today and where you’re headed are the things that really count. If you hate that you dropped out of high school, take the necessary steps to get your GED and see what interesting classes are available at a local community college or online. If you’re disappointed by your weight and health, work with your doctor about diet and exercise programs that can help you get to where you want to be.
When you empower yourself to become exactly what you want to be, your past can become a non-issue that never drags you down ever again. Have faith that the future is bright and leave your past behind.