Have you ever thought about your past and just cringed at the mistakes you’ve made, wishing you could make the memories disappear? I have. But I know I can’t change the past, so I see two options. I can either let my mistakes define who I am, or I can accept them for what they are, learn from them, and allow the lessons I learn to make me a better person.
When you learn from your past, you realize that you’re not destined to repeat it. That’s life-changing, because it means you cannot be defined by old mistakes.
1. Don’t let your past define you.
In the past, when I was stressed, angry, or upset, I would respond to those emotions with binge eating. In some strange way, I was trying to stuff my feelings of doubt, guilt and regret back down instead of allowing myself to actually feel them and move through them. Self-soothing with food became such a habit for me, as I would try to numb my feelings, that I never really realized the effect it was having on me.
Over time I ended up gaining one hundred pounds. If I stayed on that path, I would continue gaining weight. I could have easily gone into victim mode, thinking that I couldn’t help myself and had no control over the situation.
But as with any situation, it didn’t need to define me, and it didn’t mean I was destined to always make the same choices. In fact, I changed my habits and lost those one hundred pounds.
You, too, have the power to choose and to change. Consider these famous mistake-makers. They were all considered failures at some point in their lives: Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Walt Disney.
Do you associate these people with their mistakes or with their successes? What if they had believed they would always screw up? Michael Jordan has missed over 9,000 shots in his career, but he attributes his success today to his failures in the past. Oprah Winfrey has been quoted as saying, “Failure is just life trying to move us into another direction.” Walt Disney had several failures, and even went bankrupt at one point, but he learned from each experience and never quit trying.
What would be different in your life, if you refused to dwell on your past mistakes and didn’t allow them to define you?
2. Learn from your mistakes.
I struggled with the cycle of starving and bingeing for many years. I wanted to change, and I knew I would need to do the work. I knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I had been doing and expect things to be different, but everything I’d tried in the past had not helped.
I looked for answers and came up with a new plan. I realized I couldn’t conquer binge eating by myself and found a therapist who specialized in eating disorders. I learned that binge eating is a coping mechanism to deal with emotional distress.
So what did I change? I learned to ask myself, “What do I need?” before eating. I’d often realize that, instead of being physically hungry, what I needed was to feel heard or to be understood. In doing that, I became aware of my eating patterns and how I dealt with emotional distress.
The point is that I was able to look back at my mistakes, learn from them, and then choose to change. That’s how we need to approach every mistake we make in life—as a learning experience.
3. Accept where you have been and where you are now.
The past is what it is, and that’s okay. I think we can all look back on things we have done and, knowing what we know now, would do them differently if we had the chance. And while reliving life’s past experiences in a different way is not an option, there’s a big difference in accepting and learning from those regrets, and holding onto them, never allowing yourself to move on.
I cringe at some of my past mistakes, but what I learned from them helped make me who I am today. And the woman I am today is someone who has been through the valley, climbed up the other side, and found hope. I own the journey that got me here, but I no longer believe that I am the sum of my past mistakes. That is self-acceptance.
What is one lesson you have learned from a past mistake that has made you a better person? I would love to hear your answers in the comments below.
Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life – Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.™ Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.
What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?
I’ve accepted my past mistakes as part of who I am. It took a long time to be okay with imperfection, but I’m a much happier person for doing so.
What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?
I most appreciate my desire to always do my best no matter what task I’m undertaking.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
Losing 100 pounds was a great accomplishment for me, but my most rewarding achievement was completing a full marathon. My goal now is to share the things I’ve learned along the way with other women who are struggling to be the best version of themselves.
We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?
I’m an extreme introvert. I’d much rather read a book than go to a party. Solitude re-energizes me.
“I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my life, and I’m so happy I can say that. After a long period of unhappiness, I’ve learned how to take care of myself, which provides me the ability to give back to others.