Did you know that if baby elephants are chained to a tree when they are young, they will remain by the tree when they are full grown, even if the chains are taken off, and even in spite of the fact that they could probably pull the tree from its roots?
The same thing happens to you mentally.
There’s something in psychology called an anchoring bias. This is when we assume that the first thing that we hear is most true, even if we are presented with new and more correct evidence. This is why we hold tight to hold beliefs, prejudices, and yes, at times, self-concepts that no longer apply.
You are probably anchoring yourself to a version of yourself that you used to be. One that does not exist anymore. One that was crafted not from true self-understanding, but what you learned and adapted from other people. Their beliefs, their reactions, their responses, and even worse, their opinions of you.
If you’ve had a pattern of being anxious, you’ll think you’re an anxious person. If you’d had a pattern of bad relationships, you’ll think you’re an unlovable person. If you’ve had a pattern of bad grades, you’ll think you’re unintelligent.
Are you though?
What’s holding you back more than anything is the self-belief that these things are true. If you think you’re an anxious person, you’ll continue to be anxious. If you think you’re bad at relationships, you’ll still be bad at them. If you think that you’re not smart, you’ll continue to perform poorly.
You can change the story.
You can tell yourself that you’re a sensitive person, which is a gift, and that you’re working on improving your emotional regulation and addressing irrational fears. You can tell yourself that you’ve grown tremendously because of what you’ve learned not to do based on your past relationships. You can tell yourself that you have to study a little harder, or that there are multiple types of intelligence, and only one is measured on a test.
You get to write the story here. You get to decide.
But first, you have to realize that nobody is forcing you to hold onto this baggage but you. Nobody is tethering you to the past but you.
Every single time you see someone, you are giving them a new opportunity to greet you as you are today. If you continue to be the person you were, that is only going to solidify that single view of you. If you adapt, if you change, if you show up differently, their perspective of you will, too.
Do you remember every past version of who someone else used to be? Of course you don’t. You see them for who they are now. You have to give yourself the same space to grow. You have to meet yourself where you are.
More than anything, you have to remember that nobody is looking at you and seeing the failure, the regret, the mistakes you made in the past. However, they will start to see it if you are acting on them still, if you are holding back because you’re scared, if you’re carrying the past into the future.
Every day, you get a clean slate. Take it. Extract the lessons from what you’ve been through and use them to build your new, beautiful life. Nobody is holding you to it but you, and nobody is going to do it for you… but you.