Making Peace With Your Past Self
How often do we think of who we used to be and experience a burning seer of hatred for that person?
I would imagine that I am not the only one who does this quite frequently. Perhaps it is toxic, as I've heard from some, but in reality, when one experiences genuine growth, it can be difficult to forgive one's self.
Withholding forgiveness from others is a personal choice. There are reasons to do it, and counter reasons why it should never be considered. I'd say that it depends on the individual situation, and the consideration of the many variables involved. Some may forgive to move one themselves, others may refuse it as a way to take back their personal agency (and prevent themselves from being victimized again). Both are acceptable and both can be positive. Forgiving one's self, however, is something that must take place to continue to grow.
Guilt and shame do play a pivotal role in personal advancement. As such, we should not completely avoid these things, because in a sense they help to bring about personal accountability. That accountability stimulates growth by raising an awareness of the need to grow.
The dangerous part of this process though, is when a person refuses to move past that initial step of conviction, which consequently strangles any hope of true progression. Rock bottom is only advantageous if it begins an upward trajectory. If it instead becomes sinking sand and not a spring board, positive growth can never be achieved. A person may never commit the same mistake twice, out of guilt (and sometimes fear), but they never get the opportunity to prove that they've made a genuine change in a practical sense.
Wallowing in defeat at the bottom of a cavern does not prove that a person even understands where they went wrong. It just as easily could only mean that they do not trust their ability to change and so they have chosen to hide from the world and themselves.
Instead, by moving upward and away from past guilt, a person can actively live out their change and experience personal growth that not only betters them, but improves society as a whole.
Because of this, we must eventually make peace with our past self, if we ever hope to contribute to he community we live in.
There are a few clarifications that need to be added:
Making peace with your past is not the same as condoning your past.
Forgiving yourself comes only after a lengthy process of analyzing how and where you went wrong, as well as how your actions hurt others.
Guilt should not come from a place of self preservation, but instead, a focus on innocent parties who victimized because of your behavior.
Making peace with yourself should never come from forcing someone you hurt to forgive you. In actuality, even nudging them toward that is really a violation of their consent. Often times our need to be forgiven is selfishly motivated to begin with. It stems from a desire to feel better about ourselves rather than genuine remorse. If instead of further violating the person by contacting them we focus that same energy on personal growth, we show that we are sincere in our understanding of hurting them and the need to reform from our past behaviors.
To forgive is not to forget, and though making amends with our past leads to deeper levels of growth (something everyone should strive for), keeping mental guardrails to ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes is key.
If you are struggling with forgiving yourself, take the time to analyze your behavior, learn from it, and make a lasting change.