How to Make Peace with Your Dark Past
We all have our crosses to bear. We can all recall times in our lives when we were in dire places. Maybe we had a mental illness, maybe we were in a bad relationship, maybe we were in debt or maybe we just made a lot of unfortunate decisions that got us into big trouble.
And as we’re human beings, we beat ourselves up over it. We get stuck in a pattern of trying to figure out why we did what we did, why we were so stupid, so dumb or so naive.
I know this dark circle so well. For the longest time, I held on to many resentments of the past and believed that because of my eating disorder, I lost the most valuable years of my life. And while it is true that I never got to experience my youth the way other teenagers did, I came to a point, where I was able to be grateful for having developed my anorexia.
That’s a bold statement to make, but it’s the only one that will enable me to live my life fully. I know that without my anorexia, I wouldn’t have survived my difficult youth and my many childhood traumas and that’s reason enough to be tremendously thankful for.
Embracing your past, even if it is a really dark one, is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself.
Think about it, what happens when you hold on to regret, shame and other negative feelings? It impacts your life today, makes you miserable and keeps you from moving on. It casts a dark, depressing shadow over everything you do, feel and say.
However, if you embrace this dark time of your life and even see it is a stepping stone to the person you are today, you’ll be able to learn from it, move on and focus on what’s important: the present and future.
So, how can you see the positive in the darkness of your past? How can you transform it into light?
1. Remember that you were in a different place in your life.
Your circumstances at the time of regret were different than they are now. You had your reasons for acting the way you did. Maybe your behavior enabled you to survive as it did in my case. Maybe it kept you sane or safe. And maybe you just didn’t know any better. The point is that the situation then can’t be compared to the way you live and feel right now, so stop revisiting and questioning your past actions.
2. See it as a portal that brought you to the place you are now.
Maybe you’re in a healthier relationship. Maybe you’ve overcome your struggles with eating and have a loving relationship with your body now. Maybe you’ve found the career of your dreams and maybe you’ve just grown as a person in general. Had it not been for those dark periods, you would not be who you are today. Celebrate that fact!
3. Use it for good.
For a while, I used my recovery story to help those who are still going through the anorexia hell and it felt amazing to use my past for something good. What can you do to use your past to create a lasting change in other people’s lives? How can you use the lessons you’ve learned to save others in the same situation? Give your struggles a reason and use them to make this world a better place.
4. Let it go.
Write a letter to yourself and forgive yourself or those that hurt you for what happened. Be sincere and compassionate to yourself. Then burn the letter or shred it into tiny pieces. Put a lot of emotion into this process to say goodbye to that part of your life forever. No, you won’t forget what happened, but it’s now in the past and you can look to the future.
Make peace with your past and live your life.
Onward, not backwards.
Photo by Liz Grace