“Feeling our feelings won’t kill us, it’s our attempt to not feel them that will.”
– Collin Ross
How much of your energy do you spend trying to overcome or fix the past? Many times our drive and determination, the decisions we make in life, come from a desire to redeem our past. If our marriage fails, we work harder for a successful new marriage. If we lose our income, we will do whatever it takes to build significant wealth. If we grow up without birthday celebrations, we now plan the grandest birthday celebrations we can dream up.
When I think about the areas of my life I was working to conquer and overcome, I always find great significance and meaning in the process of overcoming. Each time I hit a goal, I was filled with pride and ready to set a new one. I loved the feeling of challenging myself to accomplish something I never dreamed I could. Something no one in my family had ever done before. What I have learned over time is that I haven’t truly been able to enjoy my successes. The drive to reach new heights was always fueled by a need to overcome or redeem my past—an insatiable desire to prove to myself I am worthy and no past experience will keep me from living a good life in the future. What has been so hard for me to accept is that this means my past is still controlling my present. I have been working hard to overcome my past so that I can live in the present. I am really proud of who I am and how far I have come. My perspective shift isn’t about taking that away; it is about slowing down, looking within, and asking myself what I want because it is who I am, not because I can prove who I am not.
This shift has opened up a whole new level of healing for me—primarily because it requires me to be human. To feel all my feelings. For the first time in my life, I am aware of what I want, what I like, and most importantly, how to express those things to the people who choose to be in my life. It’s the simple things, like creating an avatar on Netflix for me rather than just using the avatars of my other family members. Not saying, “I don’t care,” when asked what I want to eat. Saying “yes” when someone offers to buy me a coffee or expressing an opinion when shopping with girlfriends. Hell, just being out shopping with girlfriends is new to me. These situations all require me to see myself to let others see me. The focus has shifted to who I am, what I want, and where I am going. And even though the process is new to me, it feels centered, peaceful and purposeful.
Living to undo the past feels anxious and somewhat chaotic. An underlying fear and sense of disappointment remain constant underneath the success. We spend our time continuously seeking validation of our success, and the disappointment we experience when there is evidence we are not is crippling or enraging, depending on our personality. This is no way to live! If we have learned anything in the last two years, it is that life is precious; it is a gift. And we never know what is around the corner that will change everything. Now more than ever, we are challenged to live life to the fullest. Here is my challenge: let the past go. There is nothing we can do to change what was: an abusive childhood, a failure to start a career, a failed marriage, children who are struggling and not successful, an inability to get pregnant, so much loss and disappointment. We can’t change any of it. Chasing dreams to fix the past doesn’t take away one moment of grief we need to feel. It just doesn’t. I so wish that was the way it worked. It feels like it would be so much better if we could accomplish all the overcoming instead of feeling the loss, disappointment, and grief. I can tell you I have tried. I have spent years striving to prove myself to myself. I have denied myself all forms of emotional safety, pleasure, joy, and fun in the name of proving I am enough. What I know for sure is that it doesn’t work. In the end, I was just as lost and lonely and scared because no amount of goals can take away the grief that needs to be felt and processed. This reality brings me to my knees.
Now that this reality humbles me, the real work begins: facing our disappointments, failures, frustrations, and abuse and seeing them as loss is the only way to be genuinely free moving forward. We must do the incredibly painful work of grieving the loss and making peace that it will never be different than it was. We take the lessons we learned, the character strengths we had to build, and the wisdom with us as we vulnerably look to the future with open hearts and minds. We have purpose, and a meaningful life is waiting for us to step in and engage. We have nothing to prove to ourselves or anyone else. Once that reality truly sinks in, joy and peace abound. We connect with those who bring joy and meaning into our lives, and we no longer feel the pull toward people who keep us stuck in the patterns of our past. We are free.
My Courageous Woman Transformation Journey has all the tools and resources you need to learn how to grieve the past, let it go, and embrace the future with hope and courage. Find out more here: go.janiceholland.com/start. I cannot wait to help you reach the life of your dreams.