The past, present and future walked into a bar…it was tense
HAHAHA! My degree is in English so this is probably my all-time favorite joke. Seriously, if you don’t find it funny, I just don’t know what to say about that. What’s not a joke however is the way in which too many of us allow the trials and traumas of our pasts to rob us of our joy in the present and our dreams and aspirations for the future. We still hang our heads in shame over the mistakes we made, losers we dated (or married), opportunities we missed, things we said (or didn’t say) and a myriad of other moments that we just can’t seem to let go of or forget (even though everyone else no doubt has forgotten them). Or, maybe the mistake wasn’t necessarily ours, but we remain held hostage by the cruel words that someone spoke to us in fourth grade or emotionally crippled because of actions that were taken against us that made us feel small and victimized. Regardless of the circumstances, the fact of the matter is that the past is, all too often, one of the biggest hindrances that we face in our efforts to create a FabYOUlous future.
While there are certainly some issues from the past that need to be handled delicately with the help of a professional therapist or counselor (instances of abuse for example); many of our past traumas have a far tighter grip on our psyches than what is appropriate. I should not (as a 46 year old woman) still feel ugly or inferior because the class “mean girl” called me gross back in fourth grade (I’ve let this one go…really, I have…I swear!)
No matter how we might wish the contrary, the fact of the matter is that we cannot change the past. We can however, learn to reframe it. We can’t deny the past but we can defy it. We have within our possession, the ability to take the past, learn the lessons that it has to offer and use those lessons to fuel the fire of our FabYOUlous future. The key is to keep the past in its proper perspective. I like to compare my past to the rearview mirror in my car. It’s there and it can provide valuable feedback when I take a quick glance at it. However; my rearview mirror is tiny compared to the size of my car’s front windshield because the action in front of me is far more important and deserving of my attention than anything that is behind me. I will not be able to cruise along on the highway to my FabYOUlous life if I spend more time looking in my rearview mirror than I do the windshield. Instead, I’ll wind up crashing and burning, stuck in some ditch, dented and deflated.
So, how then do we keep our past where it belongs (in our rearview mirror—not our windshield) and use it to help us create a more FabYOUlous future? Try these four suggestions for starters…
Use Your Past to Fuel Your Future with these Four Tips
1.) Change the filter. I just love the social media platform, Instagram. I love it because it offers so many fun filters that you can use to change the appearance of your photos. I can take a hum drum photo of my cat and turn it into a veritable work of art simply by switching up the filter on the photo. This is the exact same approach that we need to take with our past. I have some pretty horrible memories of incredibly volatile fights with my ex-husband. Even though I am now happily married to an amazing man who treats me with incredible love and respect, the memories of these fights and the emotions that I felt as I was being spit on and called atrocious names still rear their ugly heads from time to time.
Fortunately, I (with the help of copious amounts of therapy) have learned to switch the filter through which I view these memories. Instead of seeing these memories as difficult, scary and damaging, I now see them through the filter of FabYOUlousness. I view these memories as instances where I was becoming stronger. I see the girl in these memories as someone who was finding her voice and learning to stand up for herself. I recognize these past moments as crucial puzzle pieces that were needed in order for me to get my life together, make the break that set me free to be FabYOUlous and move forward in a new direction. Were these past experiences difficult? Yes, incredibly so; but they were also necessary in order for me to become the person that I am today and the person that I am striving to become in the future. Changing my filter has allowed me to see that.
You too can choose a different filter through which to view the circumstances of your past. Are there memories that are hard or painful? Of course there are—it’s called being human. The fact that you are still here however, shows that those moments didn’t destroy you. Now, flip the filter on those memories and begin to see them as moments that shaped, strengthened and taught you valuable lessons. Let them serve to empower you rather than enslave you.
2.) Look for the patterns. Sometimes our past can hold clues as to where we need to make adjustments in our behavior. For example—do you constantly seem to find yourself in unfulfilling relationships with narcissistic jackwads? If so, you probably need to do some inner work to discover why your psyche is continuously drawn to emotionally unavailable jerks. Or…do you look back and see an ongoing cycle of emotional shopping followed by soul crushing debt? Maybe it’s time to figure out what emotional void you are constantly trying to fill with new shoes and handbags. Maybe your pattern is one of playing small when you long for so much more in life—settling for an administrative job when you know that you have management potential or serving on a PTA committee when you really want to be PTA president.
We all have patterns in our lives that will continue to repeat themselves unless/until we take the steps to break them. Fortunately, the first step to breaking negative patterns is to recognize that they exist and by glancing back in our rearview mirrors, we can begin to identify those patterns, figure out the purpose that they serve in our lives and establish new, positive patterns to take their place.
3.) Stop picking at the wound. We all know what happens when we skin our knee (say from wiping out on your son’s skateboard that you really had no business being on in the first place…not that I would know anything about that). The wound bleeds like a mofo for a little while but then it eventually starts to scab over. If we allow the scab to form and exhibit enough self-control to keep from picking at it, the wound will eventually heal and we’ll be no worse off than we were before the alleged skateboard show-off debacle took place.
If, however; we pick at the scab, never allowing it to harden and do its job of protecting the wounded skin beneath, we run the risk of infection, scarring and prolonged pain. The same is true when it comes to our pasts. While it may be beneficial to occasionally peel back the Band-Aid and take a quick peek at the wound (a quick glance in our rearview mirror for example), it is never helpful to pick at it and cause it to continue bleeding. Peeking at the wound will allow us to assess the rate of healing that is taking place, help us to protect the area from further injury and provide input on ways to prevent further damage. Picking at the wound however, does nothing but leave us open and raw. We simply cannot heal our past if we relentlessly continue to pick at it.
4.) Move on or get help. When we change the filter on our past, identify and replace harmful patterns and allow our wounds to truly heal, we are setting ourselves up for a FabYOUlous future. By allowing the past to teach us and empower us, we are effectively using the past to fuel our futures. If, however; you are not able to reframe your past in a way that helps you to move forward, please, please seek out the help of a qualified therapist or counselor. Your FabYOUlousness is far too valuable to allow it to be sabotaged by the specter of past wounds or victimization. You deserve to be healed of your difficult past and there is no shame in seeking out help in this endeavor. I speak from experience here. I’ve overcome a lot in my life (dangerously toxic marriage, devastating eating disorder, self-sabotaging behaviors…I could go on and on) but I didn’t overcome these issues alone. I had the support of family & friends and the professional guidance of a counselor. Seeking out professional help when you need it does not make you weak—it makes you smart.
When we view our past with the proper perspective and give ourselves the grace to move forward with more confidence and resiliency because of the things that we have overcome, we allow ourselves to step into the best, most FabYOUlous versions of ourselves. Don’t allow your past to keep you down. Instead, use your past to move from victim to VICTOR.