Buddha always said to live in the present. If you Google “focusing on the past,” the top articles are “8 Ways to Stop the Past from Ruining the Present” and “How to Get Over the Past and Focus on the Future.” It’s all about the future, thinking ahead, and trying to forget who we used to be or what happened to us. “The past” has a bad stigma surrounding it, as if so much as uttering the word will cause society to force you into exile.
Well, I’m here to rain on this constant future focused parade and call bullshit on all that. Occasionally thinking about the past can actually be a good thing, and dare I say it, even motivate you.
Like any normal human being, sometimes I feel inadequate or bad about myself. It’s during these moments that I turn into an absolute masochist. I’ll stuff my face with a box of donuts while I scan social media accounts of girls who look fashionable while on their third beach holiday in a month. Don’t even get me started on how LinkedIn makes me feel.
Powdered Sugar Anyone?
What pulls me out of the deep, dark, powdered sugar covered hole I’ve dug myself into?Not “being in the present” because at present I feel unsuccessful and bloated. Not “looking forward to the future” because that causes a wave of anxiety the size of that tsunami in the 2012 movie to hit me in the stomach. I think about the past. There’s that dirty word again!
If you never look at who you were in the past, would you be as proud of the person you are today? It’s common to feel like you’re behind everyone else in terms of success and accomplishments (unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg.) You feel like a loser who is being left behind while everyone else seems to be doing these amazing things with their lives.
It’s Time To Make a List
I want you to do something for me now.
First, go buy yourself some comfort food and then put on a sad music playlist (try Bon Iver if you really want to get dark.) I know this seems contradictory, but just try it, and if it fails you can berate me in the comments section.
Next, make a list of your five worst memories or greatest failures (this got sadistic quickly, didn’t it?) For each bad thing on the list write something positive. Can you think of something good that you learned from it? Can you think of a way in which you became stronger? Could you even help others?
My bad memories have showed me that I’ve actually progressed 10 times more that I thought. I’m proud of who I’ve become as a result of my past. I’m a strong woman with metaphorical balls and damn it, I deserve to feel good about myself. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, and I think most people are the same.
So what if you aren’t the editor of a magazine or you haven’t climbed Mt. Everest. I guarantee that if you really look at who you were 10 years ago compared to now, progress has been made and that is something to celebrate.
The Past Doesn’t Have to Be Negative
Don’t insult the person you are today by pretending the past doesn’t exist. My point is not to constantly dwell on the past and let it ruin your life. I want you to stop casting it in such a negative light. Rather than letting the past bring you down, use it to build yourself up. Think about the progress you have made since then, and be proud of where you are now.
Instead of trying to forget the past all together, we need to use it as a tool for motivation and a record of lessons learned.