It’s no secret that we all seem to be the same in this respect. We all harbour a cringe for something we did in the past. It’s deep inside, and only revealed in shady moments when we can take it out the box and indulge in some more agonising discomfort.
But it’s high time we learned to leave that cringe box alone! Here are the 3 reasons why we do what we do, and how we can set ourselves free.
1. The past needs to stay in the past. What happiness are we robbing ourselves of today by remembering the painful past? We can keep conjuring the past as long as we like. Keep bringing it into the present, keep disappointing ourselves with what we did a year ago and reminding ourselves of how we failed. The result – we base our future not on who we are now, but on who we were, probably when we didn’t know any better.
The real truth is, every day is a clean slate to begin anew. If we give ourselves the opportunity to begin the day from that place of fresh opportunity, imagine what could get done with a heart full of optimism, free from self-criticism?
2. We don’t need pain to learn and grow. How did we come to believe that pain was a necessary part of becoming older and wiser? It’s true that mistakes can be painful, but it isn’t true that we need to keep feeling the pain year after year. The idea is to remember what we learned and feel a sense of gratitude for the new skills, knowledge or experience.
Imagine going through life not feeling bad for screwing up, but instead feeling happy or grateful for having learned. Imagine if that was the focus. It doesn’t mean we don’t remember the lesson or its value. We just no longer torture ourselves unnecessarily when remembering the meaning of the lesson. Now that would be wiser.
3. What’s the true motive behind the past and the pain? Very often there’s a hidden strategy behind indulging in all that sad reminiscing. There are a few clues to assist in becoming aware of what’s going on.
Top of the list is ‘When are we doing the indulging?’. It’s common to discover that we make ourselves feel miserable when we’re actually feeling pretty happy. Maybe that’s because we don’t feel we deserve our happiness, or perhaps feeling sad is just more familiar and more comfortable. Whatever it is, there’s nothing to be gained from feeling bad, when you could be feeling good.
Then there are the occasions when we hurt someone, but it’s too late to apologise or make it right. The truth is sometimes it just isn’t appropriate to apologise way after the event. But is it written anywhere that we must keep feeling bad about it forever?
If we are sorry for what happened, but we can’t make it right, a wonderful way to forgive ourselves is to write a letter of apology, but not to be sent. People often burn the letter as a symbol of freeing the feelings of regret. It can be done as a little ceremony, which makes it feel quite special. That helps too.
So there you have it, three top tips on why there’s no point in making ourselves feel bad all the time. No one gains and that can’t be right. As my granny used to say, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good!