How many decades have you purposely or subconsciously beat yourself up? Raked yourself over the coals about every little thing? Dragged yourself again and again through the mistakes you’ve made?
I imagine we’re all guilty of negative self-talk.
Your life doesn’t get better by replaying the missteps you made a year or five years or decades in your past. It gets better by acknowledging those mistakes and moving on.
Why is that so hard to do?
Every single one of us has made mistakes. Some of them are small, seemingly inconsequential to people outside looking in. Some are big, the kind of mistakes that keep you up at night or even change the course of your life.
I’ve made my share of both kinds. There were moments I made small blunders that felt huge at the time they happened, that made me sick with dread.
A good example of that is an accounting error I made for a project bid while at my first “non-retail” job for a construction company. After all, to get the job, I said I knew how to use accounting software (I didn’t). I figured I could learn it on the fly (I did).
I was sure it was a firing offense. I was in a panic for a full day and physically nauseous as I walked into my boss’s office to explain my oversight. He literally shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s fixable. Don’t worry about it. I bet you never make the same mistake again.”
He was right. I never did and the relief I felt over an error that could have cost the company several thousand dollars – but ultimately was fixable and didn’t – was a tangible thing.
My marriages are an example of the bigger mistakes I’ve made. I’ve had three and all ended in divorce. I learned powerful lessons but I wish I’d gained that knowledge in another way.
They changed the direction of my life. They altered my view of myself and my own potential. One of them even skewed my own physical self-image. Marriage is hard, divorce is vicious, and people get hurt. Even good and decent people pay a price when a marriage ends. There are casualties and pain on both sides.
Again, I’ve learned from my mistakes. Sometimes, the memories of specific moments pop up in my mind and try to drag me back to that time, to the way I felt.
I fight the negative self-talk that wants to rehash my part in the dissolution of those relationships. I fight to remember that those marriages – and the divorces – showed me valuable aspects about myself and my own dreams, goals, and needs. I remind myself that I kept it together, I remained empathetic, and I wasn’t needlessly cruel. Those reminders help.
In my vast expanse of blood relatives, there are drug addicts, alcoholics, and those who’ve done prison time. What lessons I haven’t learned in my own life, I’ve learned from theirs.
You’re in control of your destiny. Always.
Maybe it doesn’t feel like you are. Maybe you think it’s too late or you don’t have the skills or resources to pursue the life you truly want to live. Maybe you feel like failures in your past mean you shouldn’t try again.
The three biggest lies we tell ourselves…
- “I don’t have the power to change anything.”
- “I’m not smart/strong/capable enough.”
- “It’s too late.”
These lies will sabotage your happiness. They’ll erode your trust in yourself. They’ll place you in a prison of your own making and make you believe there’s no way out.
I’ve been there. I had the key to my prison all along. I learned I was smart enough, strong enough, and capable enough to make the changes that wouldn’t change my past but would dramatically change my future. I had the power and no, it wasn’t too late.
Only you can stop the cycle. Moving somewhere new, getting into a new relationship, changing jobs, or implementing a fitness regimen are all ways we try to silence the whispers in our own heads. They’re short-term solutions at best.
You’re still you.
Until you work on how you really feel versus the illusion you show the world, who you are versus who you want to be, and figure out the direction you want to be moving in versus the path of least resistance you might be on…true change can’t happen.
It starts and ends with you stripping away the chaos, the white noise, the habits. Examining each area of your life to find the patterns. Understanding the real you. The person you are in the dark of night when no one else is looking.
I was shocked at what I learned. I think it’s safe to say most people are when they pull away the mask they wear for the world. I discovered truths I never would have believed existed. I hid them from myself and everyone who knew me.
It was brutal to see myself without the fluff and filler that’s part of everyday life. To the world, I was wife, mother, friend, and co-worker. In my mind, I was useless, broken, and alone.
I felt shock at the revelations – as if I was finally seeing all of me for the first time. I acknowledged the abuse, the shame, the guilt, and all the things I allowed in my life.
I gathered together the tattered baggage I’d dragged along behind me for decades while pretending it didn’t exist. I purged it until I felt raw on the inside. I tore away the negative self-talk, the pretense, and the lies. I faced the pain, I accepted my role in the decisions of my life.
Then I started over.
You don’t have to live crazy. Your life doesn’t have to be a ghost town of abandoned dreams and lost potential. You don’t have to define yourself by your mistakes and you don’t have to make the mistakes yourself to learn what you don’t want.
With a new year comes the prospect of resolutions. They set you up to fail because they only work if you’re applying them to the real you. Most of us don’t know who that is but I urge you to do an in-depth examination.
It will literally change your life.
Strip everything away. Your relationships, the expectations of others, ingrained habits, and all the other “set dressing” that makes up your world.
Look at you. Examine you. See who you were at every stage of your life. Don’t sugar-coat it and don’t cast blame. Recognize your mistakes, your scars, your quirks, and your flaws. See the person you were “then” and determine the person you wish to be “now.”
See it all. Accept it. Then close those chapters of your life forever.
Today is a new day. This will be a new year. Your life can be exactly what you want and need based on your decisions from this moment forward.
You have the power. You are enough. It’s not too late.Today is a new day. This will be a new year. Your life can be exactly what you want and need. #newyearnewyouClick To Tweet
Shayne McClendon is an author and positivity practitioner. Shayne believes love crosses all boundaries, social castes, races, genders, and belief systems. If you are lucky enough to find soul-deep love, you should fight for it. Life-certified, reader approved.