Yesterday I put something up on Facebook to get some questions in for what you want me to write about. If you don’t already, be sure to like my page so that you have the chance to respond to this kind of thing when I post it.
The question that I’m going to answer this week is from Christina:
“How about how to work past negative views of your PAST self (be it weight, poor decisions, a “past”…) and see yourself as you are TODAY?”
Here’s what I have to say on the matter:
“We all make mistakes”
“Every failure is a chance to learn”.
We’re constantly fed these cliches whenever we fall down, usually by friends and family as a way of comforting us and helping us move forward from past failures.
But where is the line?
At what point should we stop forgiving ourselves for past failures? Many of us have done bad things; to ourselves, and to others. Things we still feel guilty for today. To a great extent, the things we have done in the past are responsible for us seeing ourselves as ‘low-value’ today.
Some people don’t like themselves because of what they were given from day one: their looks, their intelligence, their body shape. But for many people it comes from having felt like they let themselves down in the past.
I’m familiar with the feeling of having a self-negative view. My own often comes from the feeling of not having achieved enough in a day. I start to feel angry at myself for under-performing. But people can have a low self image for any number of reasons. Maybe they didn’t approach someone they liked and now they feel like a coward. Maybe they made an awful decision that has shaped their entire life in a negative way ever since.
It’s hard; and like most things in life that matter, it’s not easy to overcome. These feelings in many of us are deep rooted.
Then someone comes along and tells you to believe in yourself, or suggests it’s possible to simply wipe away memories of your past. Such a notion feels like an insult at best. I used to talk like that when I first started out. I have since learnt that life isn’t that easy.
So what do we do?
There’s some comfort in knowing that other people have made mistakes worse than our own. Focusing on their failures seems to help. But it’s usually not very long before our own baggage begins to feel heavy again, and in any case, focusing on someone worse than us is a crappy way to feel good.
Here’s what I’ve learnt from my years working with people: The only guaranteed way to have a ‘positive-present-view’ of yourself, is to BUILD it from scratch.
I say ‘build’ because a positive self-view is created the same way trust in a relationship is created – by being built on, one small step at a time. Want a better image of yourself? Do something today that’s slightly more than the YOU of yesterday managed.
You think you’ve been a shitty person in your life until now? Fine. Do something small today that’s the opposite of what a shitty person would do. Do something nice for someone, a small act of generosity. Show a moment of understanding. Prove to yourself that you are better than yesterday.
You’ve been a wimp you’re whole life? Someone who cowers away from risk, or rejection? The antithesis of the hero? Fine. Talk to someone today and tell them they look beautiful. Stick up for someone who’s being verbally bullied in a group. Set an example for someone you know looks up to you. Prove to yourself that you are stronger than yesterday.
You’ve been lazy until now? Avoided responsibility? Down-played your dreams and ambitions to take the comfortable route? Fine. Go set up a call with someone who can help a vision you’ve had for a long time. Run for 10 minutes, clean your apartment, prove to yourself that you are more tenacious than yesterday.
Will you erase all of your negative memories in a day? No. But instead of papering over past experiences with mindless pump-up mantras, you’ll have shown yourself something better: progress. A brief moment where you showed that even if only for 10 minutes, you were the person you wanted to be.
In the interests of full disclosure, even doing that one thing will probably not be easy. But do it you must. In that brief moment that you do do something different to the old you, you’ll like yourself. And we all know what happens when we meet someone we like. We want to spend more time with them.
When you do get to spend a moment with a version of you that you really like, you’re going to want to be around that part of you more. So you’ll find ways to be that person again tomorrow. It becomes a beautiful cycle that starts a new relationship with yourself. Not created – like a false friendship with a person we met the night before and told we loved in a drunken stupor – but built, one day at a time. A brand new relationship with the most important person in your life. YOU.
A thought to leave you with:
The criminal who just got out of jail can’t wipe away all of his crimes. But he has the ability to be better than before, one day at a time. You can too. But please before you start, let yourself out of jail. It’s stopping you from starting, and you’re the only person who’s been keeping yourself there.
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