A lot of us are stuck living in our past, even if we don’t realize it. We are letting our mistakes and our past stories define who we are today. We are allowing our past fears and stories to keep us stuck in one place. We are carrying the heaviness of our old regrets with us every single day and reliving the pain over and over again. And we are allowing ourselves to be defined by who we used to be, rather than by who we are now.
I think the main reason we cling to yesterday is because the past is familiar—it’s what we know and what we are used to. It’s comforting, even if it’s heavy. The unfamiliar is daunting and scary. And we don’t know how to face it without carrying our yesterdays into today. We fear losing our old, comforting memories. We don’t want to move forward. Or we don’t know how to move forward because we feel so much regret and remorse over our previous mistakes. But by living in the past, we are stunting our growth and holding ourselves back. We are preventing ourselves from becoming who we are actually supposed to be. We are preventing ourselves from writing new and better stories. We are all changing with every single sunset. We are all becoming more. And we have the ability to not just become more, but to become better. We have the ability to create miracles. We have the ability to make waves. We have the ability to move and be moved. But to do so, we have to stop letting ourselves be defined by our yesterdays. We have to have the courage to learn who we are becoming and, in time, to become.
I think it’s safe to say we all learn from our experiences and grow through what we’ve been through. But there’s a difference between clinging to our past and using our past to help us grow and move forward. We are not obligated to be a certain way, act a certain way, or take on any sort of identity just because we were a certain way in the past. Ultimately, our past should not stop us from being who we want to be now. It’s actually kind of cool to realize that we are constantly evolving and that we can ultimately be whoever we want to be. But I also think that we are afraid of the present. We are afraid of who we are and who we are becoming, especially if it strays from who we used to be. We get so used to being a certain way that we are afraid to look at the world from a different perspective. And because we don’t always love change, we try to stay the same as to not cause ripples in the water. We let our yesterdays determine our identities, rather than doing the work and deciding who we want to be today. And by staying the same, we are restricting ourselves to small boxes, rather than allowing ourselves to see the world as big and expansive.
Out of comfort, we cling to our old identity because we are afraid of what would happen if we changed. And we think we need to be the same way we’ve always been because that’s how other people expect us to be. In an attempt to not let them down, we try not to change. But in doing so, we are putting the satisfaction of others above the satisfaction of ourselves. And this is a big red flag. Holding ourselves back for the benefit of others prevents us from thriving. Trying to please everyone else in the way we always have is just another way of letting our past dictate our present. It’s just another way of keeping ourselves small, rather than allowing ourselves to grow.
And sometimes, we cling to our yesterdays by living in a constant stage of regret. We worry so much about our past that we don’t have the energy or stamina to adjust to our present. We worry about the mistakes we made and the decisions that we are not so proud of and we let them define us. And ultimately, we fall into the belief that we are the sum of our mistakes. We are the sum of our failures. But this kind of thinking is heartbreaking, and it’s not true.
See, really, we are the sum of all of the progress we have made. All of the times we decided to move forward against all odds. We are the sum of all of our little victories, not of our regrets. We don’t have to live in a constant stage of guilt or regret. We don’t have to keep reliving our mistakes or letting them define us. And we don’t have to hold ourselves hostage to who we once were. Instead, we should put our energy into focusing on who we want to be or what we want to contribute to this world. We should focus on how we want to live now, in the present. We should focus on what kind of souls we want to surround ourselves with. We have all of the power to write our stories. The key is to use our past as a stepping stone to become who we want to be, rather than falling victim to it. The past is the starting point, not the entire story. As the great William Shakespeare once said, “The past is prologue.”
Maybe you can’t rewrite your story. But you can write a new story. You can start wherever you are and go in whichever direction you choose. You have the power to create whatever kind of life you want moving forward. You have a blank slate in front of you. You can do whatever you want with it, not in spite of but because of your past story. You can be whoever you want to be now. You can reinvent yourself every single day.
And some days you may miss your past. You may miss how life used to be and how you used to be. It’s okay to pause for a minute and appreciate how good life was. But living in memories takes away from the now. Even if today doesn’t feel as good as yesterday, use your past experiences to create today’s experiences. What is it that you miss? How can you recreate that feeling in a better way in the present ?
And sometimes, to move forward, you may need to burn bridges to the past. Sometimes you will have to learn and acknowledge that what is ahead of you is going to be better than what is behind you. So focus on what brings you joy in the present. Put all of your energy into what fills up your cup now, even if it is different than what used to make you feel whole.
So please stop letting your past hold you back. Stop attaching too much of your identity to yesterday’s regrets or yesterday’s mistakes. Stop letting your yesterdays take up too much of today. Try to put your past behind you and realize that each day is a new day, and you get to decide what this new day will look like. No amount of guilt is going to change what happened yesterday. No amount of regret or remorse is going to solve yesterday’s problems. So apologize to whoever you need to apologize to (and this person may be yourself) and then tell yourself that it is okay to move forward. Know that you are safe to move forward. You deserve to have the opportunity to move on. You deserve to have a blank, clean slate ahead of you. You deserve a second chance.
You don’t have to be whoever they think you are. You don’t have to be who you used to be. Yesterday belongs in the past. Today is the present. So make the most of it. Be the person you want to be and live the life you so desperately want to live.