We live in a world in which people define each other and themselves based on accomplishments, titles, things we have heard about others or their circumstances. Even in therapy, the emphasis is put on talking about our childhoods or past experiences. We are made to believe that the events that happened in our past define us and forever shape our lives. But is it really true? Does the past have to be this chain dragging us down our whole lives? Is there a way to free ourselves from it?
If you go deeper into the topic of memory retention, you will find that every time our brains recall a certain situation, they distort it just ever so slightly. Over years, what we’re left with is not as much a memory as a heavily opinionated story we tell ourselves, distorted by our emotions, opinions and view of life. There is even research proving that through suggestion, people can form memories of events that never even happened in the first place! Given all this, it doesn’t seem very reliable to base our self image solely off what we remember or define ourselves as broken because of something that may have happened in the past.
Undeniably, it is important to analyze certain events from our early years in order to become aware of how they might have shaped our behavior. However, the key is to realize that once we are aware of then, we do have a choice of whether we allow them to continue defining our lives or we’d rather let go and redefine ourselves according to our own rules. Holding on to the past once we’re fully aware of it is nothing more than an agreement. From this moment on, it is only our choice if we blame our behavior or misfortune on the past.
You are not your past. You are here and now and the past is only a story you’re telling yourself to justify things that don’t go well in your life. What you might not realize is that if you make a conscious choice that you no longer desire for your past to define you, you are free to define yourself however you want.
Of course, it feels strangely satisfying to tell people how unlucky you were, how hard your life has been. It takes real courage to break the pattern and reshape your mindset. But once you do, you’re completely free and life becomes a blank canvas which you paint anew every single day.
If you cannot fully let go, the least you can do is change the meaning you give to your past. This is extremely powerful because again, you put yourself back in control of your life. Instead of wallowing in sorrow or blame towards other people who you chose to identify as the source of your feeling of hurt, you can choose to see the challenging times as a blessing in disguise. An illness or a difficult childhood can often be seen as a push for growth or for seeking solutions. The most difficult events in life often make us completely change or redefine ourselves and our lives for the better. If we allow them to, they can become the push we needed to take our fate into our own hands. Why not be grateful for them?
The past truly doesn’t matter. It only has as much power as we give it and it takes on the exact meaning we choose to give it. There is really only here and now and that is all there will ever be. Isn’t it more important, then, to choose what you do and think today in a way that best shapes who you are and who you want to become in the future? In the end, it all boils down to the question of ‘who do you choose to be?’. If you lost all your memories and woke up today not knowing anything about yourself, who would you choose to become?
As always, very insightful and quite relevant for many of us. Thank you.
Thank you, Kent. I’m glad you enjoyed it!