It's mind-boggling to think about the amount of times we, in everyday conversation, tend to express utter disgust at our past selves. If you've made a 360 degree change and cut out bad habits from your life, that's great.
But often, we tend to beat ourselves up for minor things, things like simply being inexperienced. While being so vocal about our thoughts about our past self may just serve as a friendly joke on occasion, it can also be reflective of our true feelings about our personal growth.
For some, when their life one year, two years, or even five years ago is mentioned to them, it triggers feelings of self-loathing. They are incredibly ashamed of the way they looked back then or the way they used to interact with the world around them. Perhaps they also think back to mistakes that they made that reflected inexperienced, and they cringe at the thought of how silly they probably looked to others.
Yes we all have embarrassing stories of the past. However, it's much healthier to develop an attitude where you can laugh those embarrassing situations off and be thankful for the progress you've made rather than torturing yourself with past memories.
A related quote that's had quite an impact on me is:
" I did then what I knew how to do, now that I know better, I do better." - Maya Angelou.
I love this quote because it is such a positive way of looking back at your past.
If you really think about it, I'm sure you can likely come up with a sensible explanation of why you behaved a certain way in the past. You'll likely see that you were just beginning to learn a certain lesson, that some of the events and experiences that shaped you into the person you are today didn't exist back then.
So you were still learning...
And you're still learning now.
In the months and years to come you'll probably discover a lot more about yourself and learn how to do things better. But that doesn't mean you should cringe when you think back to this period and feel the heavy weight of self-loathing. Learn to appreciate every stage of your life and meditate on the huge differences with gratitude.
If you discover that the person you are now has improved significantly compared to the person you were a year ago, be happy. Don't dwell on how bad you were in the past and think "I can't believe I was ever like that, what was wrong with me". Focus on the present and be optimistic about the improvements you can continue making.
The more you're able to embrace the notion of getting through some embarrassing stages on the way to improving yourself, the more you'll allow yourself to grow in the future. We love the end result of personal development, so it makes sense to try and love the process and initial discomfort that comes with it.
Even when you joke about "how terrible" you were in the past, make sure that deep down you know that change is natural and awkwardness is normal. Own your progress and look back on your past self with thoughts of admiration. Remember, it took courage to take you from the past to where you are now.
When you are ashamed of your inexperienced past it makes you:
When you make peace with your inexperienced past it makes you:
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Below is an excerpt from Jhené Aiko's Poetry Book, 2Fish, that is both moving and beautiful. Here's a moment of reflection on the words and the meaning they convey.
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