How can we accept our past?

If you are anything like me, there are parts of yourself that aren’t exactly your favorite. There are things you struggle with, things that leave you with a bitter taste of shame or guilt in your mouth. And there might be parts of your past that leave you embarrassed. Maybe you look back on who you used to be and can’t recognize that person. You’ve come so far, grown and changed so much, and you can’t reconcile who you were with who you are now. And perhaps you wish you could take an eraser to some of the things you’ve done and forget them forever, wiping them from your story.

Sometimes we look backwards and only see the less than savory aspects of who we are. And while we might no longer be those things, we find it difficult to accept that once we were those things. Once, we slept around. Once, we drank far more alcohol than we should. Once, we lived with an addiction to drugs. Once, we acted in a way that deliberately hurt someone else. Once, we lied, cheated, and stole to get what we wanted. Once, we did bad things, made mistakes, and didn’t care about the consequences of our actions. Once upon a time, we were a person that we aren’t proud of. How could we possibly move forward knowing where we’ve been?

We think we have to divide ourselves up, hiding the bad things from our memory. We don’t know what to do with our past, so we lock it away. But still, it haunts us, lurking in the dark corners of our mind. The harder we try to separate ourselves into a before and after, the more torn and distraught we become. We take the parts we like and try to forget the parts we despise. We hurt ourselves, loving only certain pieces of who we are, while loathing ourselves for things we cannot change. But that isn’t real love, and it doesn’t lend itself to happiness.

In the film Silver Linings Playbook, the character Tiffany is starting a new chapter in her life. But she’s kind of a hot mess. She’s all over the place, trying to figure out love, happiness, and how to just live life as best she can. My favorite line in the story comes from her, when she says:

“I was a slut. There will always be a part of me that is dirty and sloppy, but I like that part of myself just like I like all the other parts of myself. I can forgive. Can you say the same?”

Her words stunned me. She was honest – I was a slut. But there was a kindness to her words – I can forgive. She didn’t make excuses. She didn’t try to hide who she had been. She had finally come to a place in her life where she could accept her past for what it was. She could accept the flaws, the mistakes, the poor judgment and realize that who she had been didn’t define who she was now. She could embrace her past and move on by forgiving herself for it.

Rarely, I believe, do we grant ourselves the same kindness and grace. Rarely can we look at the darkness in our past and do anything besides punish ourselves. How can we love ourselves in light of those mistakes? How can we accept who we were when it isn’t someone we’re proud of?

When did we decide that perfection was the only option? When did we forget we’re human, flawed and perpetually imperfect? When did we start believing we have to erase certain parts of our past in order to be worthy in the present?

Because here’s the truth – we’re all broken, messed up people. We all come from somewhere, we all have a story, we have secrets we’d rather forget. And while your past does not define you, it brought you here, to this moment. And you can’t undo it. You can’t erase it. You can’t change it. But you can forgive yourself for it and love the broken pieces of yourself, because those pieces make up the lovely, amazing, strong person you are today. By accepting who you once were, you free yourself to become who you want to be. You are freed to love yourself wholly, rather than picking yourself apart in an attempt to separate the good from the bad. You are freed to move forward with your life, rather than forever regretting your past.

In your brokenness you are remade into something wonderful.

So today, I can forgive myself. Can you say the same?

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.

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