Have you ever had a moment in your life where you’ve thought ‘ I wish I could go back to…’ or ‘why did that happen?’ or ‘I wish I could re-do my life and my choices’? Have you had a few moments like that? A hundred moments like that?
I know I have.
In fact, it got to a point in my life where I was almost constantly reviewing my past that I couldn't even see past the memories to enjoy living in the present. I was too transfixed over what had gone wrong or wishing for the ‘good times’ to come back. It seemed to be almost like an obsession – it was easier to live in moments of regret or to relive the happy memories of my childhood than it was to push through the challenges my life was throwing at me. I call this LIVING IN THE PAST.
Now, maybe it’s something that only happens every now and again for you or maybe it happens more often than you’d like to admit – either way we are all guilty of having lived in the past at some point which is why it’s one of the most relatable topics when it comes to letting go of the things that don’t serve us.
It’s funny, isn’t it? That when things are going fantastic in our lives the natural thing to do is to look to the future, get excited for what’s to come and spend our days celebrating the small wins. I mean let’s face it – no one has ever won the lottery and then said: ‘Oh why did I wee my pants when I was 5, that’s so embarrassing!’ – of course not! Winning the lottery would be incredibly exciting, so why on earth would we then start thinking of the negative? Like I said, it’s natural to look for LIKE – when things are going well, you’ll look for the positive. However, when things are going bad, you’ll look for the negative.
The problem with looking for the negative in negative situations is that it's just adding fuel to the fire. When you’re in that negative state, the hardest thing to do is look for the positive – but hands down that is the only cure going.
When we live in the past (whether it’s holding onto good or bad) it adds to that negativity in one way or another. Now, I’m not saying to never reminisce or cherish your memories – after all, there’s a time and place for everything – but there’s a massive difference between reminiscing and living. Living in the past is when you can’t let go of your attachment to it and the feelings, emotions, idealisms you have associated with those memories.
Think about this for me -
That list is endless! Those thoughts that take you back to living in the past are so easily available to us and can either be fleeting and just last for a second, or they can stay there and linger for days, weeks or even months! We are our harshest critics and we don’t need questions like these to help fuel that criticism – in fact, so many times it’s these living in the past thoughts that almost seem to prove our points when we judge ourselves. In short, living in the past can really stop us from achieving our true potential AND more importantly it can impact our happiness, our mental state and our ability to live everyday with clarity and presence.
Part of the journey of life is change. Nothing stays the same no matter how much we LOVE it or HOLD onto it. There’s no guarantee of that. Right from when we are born, we experience change through growth, though our senses, through learning, education, relationships etc. It’s almost the first bit of concrete knowledge that we have – change is inevitable. Yet it’s so easy to hold onto something so tightly that the attachment becomes rock solid and therefore hard to break.
When we live in the past, we fear change. Living in the past becomes a security blanket of everything we are comfortable with and when someone or something threatens that security all hell breaks loose.
But rather than holding onto something that you’re so used to, allow yourself to continue on your journey – allow yourself to move and grow with the change, rather than wishing things were the same as they ‘used’ to be. Look forward to the new. Love your memories of your ‘comfortable’ time, love your memories that you cherish but let go of any attachment that stops you from moving forwards in life.
I’ve already mentioned how living in the past can become our security blanket and hold us back from moving forward in life, but it can also stop us from pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones.
At the end of the day, it’s easier to hold onto something that’s not good for us than challenge ourselves. Have you ever experienced that? That feeling of knowing what’s holding you back isn’t necessarily good for you, yet you just can’t let it go? I know I have.
As humans, we love to be comfortable – we love security and that knowledge that everything is OK, but when you push yourself past your comfort zone it challenges all of that. That’s when things get hard but at the same time it’s where the magic happens.
Living in the past can stop you from pushing yourself past the boundaries that you know of for so many reasons – maybe you’ve tried before but can’t let go of a perceived failure, maybe you’ve always told yourself you couldn’t do something and can’t let go of that past self-doubt, maybe your past choices are getting in the way of you trying something new or maybe it’s that constant living in the past that is allowing you to believe you’re just not good enough.
Regardless of how living in the past is affecting you from living outside of the box – let it go. Take that leap and enjoy the consequences. You’re wise enough to handle them.
Living in the past makes it easy to relive hurt, anger, embarrassment, anxiety – you name it, if you’ve felt it then for sure living in the past is only going to make those feelings more exaggerated and so much worse. In fact, the more we go over what was said or not said just increases our ability to punish ourselves. That’s exactly what reliving negative emotions is: a punishment. When you punish yourself you’re not showing yourself any love at all! There’s absolutely no kindness when it comes to going over past traumas.
It might not be as easy as ‘let it go’ but the least you can do is work through it. If you find that something is sticking with you and you can’t stop questioning why something happened, then work through it! Ask yourself:
When you can’t let go of something then ask yourself why. It’s probably the most important question on the planet and yet so highly underrated. Once you learn to let go of your attachments to these memories you’ll feel such a sense of freedom to go and take on the world. It allows more space in your heart for self-care.
This is the pity party stop on the bus of living in the past. Who do you know that has conquered the world while in the middle of their pity party? That never happened in Bridget Jones or Legally Blonde – in fact both Bridget and Elle slammed the door on their pity party and kept pushing onward and upward.
It doesn’t matter what has happened in your past, it doesn’t determine your future. Simple as that.
The problem with living in the past is that it makes it so much easier to hold onto bad memories and question ‘why me?’. That’s giving into the pity party rather than looking for a solution and working towards the life you dream of.
Let go of living in the past to allow space for your future and for you to grow. If you have always wanted to do something, it doesn’t matter what your past choices were – it matters what your choices are now and how you can align them with your goals!
We are all unique and on our own unique journey yet it’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game. As much as I love social media, it does make it even easier to allow for comparisons and for us to judge ourselves against other people. Worse than that though is when we compare ourselves against our past – when we judge ourselves against ourselves. Like I have said before – if you want an epic life you have to fuel it with self-love and self-care but how on earth can you do that if you’re judging yourself AGAINST yourself? Seriously.
When we live in the past, we create an idealised version of what we used to be or how life used to be and then we compare our current life to that of the one we have in our heads. Again, by doing that how are you moving forward? It’s impossible to go back – we all know that – so all we can do is change our lives in the present to create this amazing future we desire. But as long as we compare our lives to that of our past, we are never going to get there. Why? Because we can’t change our past. It’s done. It’s set in stone. Rather than wishing your life was how it used to be or wishing you could have done things differently, start creating the life you want. If you want something to change, it can’t be changed in your past so it may as well be your present and future that changes.
By all means, cherish your memories and hold onto them tightly – I know I hold mine close to my heart and have even kept a diary for the past 9 years so that I never forget a thing! But there is a massive difference between loving a memory and using it against you. You need to treat everything in your life with love, with care and with affection – that’s when your life will start to work for you. Living in the past is not allowing yourself to move forwards and it keeps you stuck on repeat – in fact, it keeps you stuck. Full stop. So let go of living in the past and start living in the present to create the most incredible future for yourself imaginable.