Last week, I did something I never thought I would do: I attended my 10-year high school reunion. I enjoyed high school; I had good friends and I made a lot of great memories. However, I also experienced a lot of pain—relationships lost, embarrassing moments, extreme loneliness and depression. I remember people telling me at the time that it would all get better, but I never believed them.
I wish I had listened then, because it did get better. When I started talking to all those people I hadn’t seen since high school, I realized how much I had overcome my past.
You want to know the best part? You can, too. Here are a few things that worked for me.
- Stop playing the comparison game. Social media has made it easy to peek into the lives of the people around us, and that often brings with it feelings of envy and self-doubt. But what we see on social media is hardly ever reality. Researchers at Stanford University named this phenomenon the “Duck Syndrome.” It refers to the way that ducks seem to effortlessly glide across a lake, while they struggle to paddle frantically under the water. You might think someone else is living a better life than you are, but we all have struggles that we deal with under the surface.
- Recognize the lies. When you tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc., you are repeating lies to yourself that keep you from living in the truth of who God made you to be. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we should “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This means that we need to align our image of ourselves to the truth that God has revealed to us through reading the Bible, prayer and worship. When you have an accurate picture of who God is and who He made you to be, you can better tackle the lies that you tell yourself.
- Change the narrative. Once you start to recognize the lies you tell yourself, you can literally retrain your brain to start focusing on the truth. Adopt a verse or proverb that encapsulates the truth you need to teach yourself. Whenever you find yourself dwelling on a lie, repeat the verse over and over. In time, you will create a new pathway in your brain, and you will start to believe the truth.
- Forgive yourself and others. Holding on to resentment can keep you stuck in the past. Even if the person who hurt you didn’t ask to be forgiven, you can still give it to them by writing them a letter explaining how you feel. You don’t have to send it, but it will help you move on. You can even write a letter forgiving yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.
- Set a goal. There is no better way to leave your past behind than to focus on the future. You might have experienced failure in the past, but you won’t ever succeed if you dwell in that failure. Learn something new or take a leap of faith on a new experience—you’ll start to see your past doesn’t matter as much as the present.