In this life, there will be myriad versions of ourselves we’re going to meet. These various editions (usually referred to as phases) will sometimes be fleeting and only exist within particular moments. Other times, these stages will be more stubborn. These persistent chapters, as one would guess, are typically the most fundamental. And sometimes, they’ll be the ugly versions of us, too. And you know what? They deserve just as much love as the people we find ourselves as today.
Today, there is so much discussion on the imperativeness of self-love, and yet the importance of loving our past selves doesn’t seem to receive a lot, if any, attention at all. Scroll through sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr, and you’re guaranteed to see various quotes that encourage us to “only compete with our former selves” and “be better than we were yesterday.”
While these calls to self-improving action are meant to inspire, they can also induce shame and regret, especially in regards to the unsightly past sides of us. There are periods when we’re consistently impatient, judgmental, sad, angry, etc. and we can choose to dissociate with these past versions of us through the practicing and touting of our shame, but let’s ask ourselves this simple question: where would you be without him or her?
In my own life, there are parts of me that I would gladly never want inhabit again; the darkest and dustiest nooks of my soul whose corners are rigid; the periods of my life decorated with my self-doubt, self-loathing, and pain. Until recently, I would gladly have cleared them from my mind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style; now I wouldn’t trade them in for the world.
These times of self-doubt, self-loathing, and pain have led to the lessons that have become the cornerstones of mediating my life. Without navigating through these particular components of myself, I couldn’t have learned the importance of not taking things personally. I wouldn’t be able feel my progress and my strength. I wouldn’t understand how imperative it is to not take people and things for granted. Sure, I wish I had been known with the innate knowledge of these things, but (as for not taking things for granted) I don’t know if I would appreciate these principles as much as I do now.
I know in a few years, there’s going to be parts of current me that I’m going to initially look on at with disdain and I’m going to struggle to love these parts. I believe one of the hardest acts in this life is the act of loving ourselves in general, but especially those past components of ourselves. And at first, we might not even know how to love our past self. I suggest starting with writing a letter to 18-year-old you; speak of your triumphs and losses of yourself during that time. Seeing your lessons written out will make them seem less daunting and clearer.
In this life, those myriad versions of ourselves are going to test us, provoke us, and make us feel ashamed. They’re going to prod us to feel unworthy. And they’re here to stay. But once we learn to love and understand them, they’re going to inspire us, teach us, and lead us. Because, most importantly, you can’t love your current self without loving your past self, too.