Why Judging Your Past So Harshly is Wrong

There’s something truly special about a fresh start, isn’t there?

It might be the dawn of a brand new year, the start of a bright new month, the kickoff to a fresh week, or simply the breaking of a new day.

It could even be the exhilaration of embarking on a new job or stepping foot in a new city.

There’s a unique charm to that ‘Day 1’ that sends a tingle down our spines.

Each time we leap into a new beginning, there’s this innate urge to shake off our past missteps like dust off our shoes.

It’s no surprise that we’re brimming with optimism, buzzing with excitement, and practically overflowing with positivity at the prospect of a clean slate.

It’s a stark contrast to the gnawing feelings we often associate with our past – the times we stumbled rather than soared, fell rather than flew.

The Charm of a Fresh Start: Reflecting on the Past

But hold on a minute; there’s a bit of a twist here. Our assumptions, you see, could be a wee bit skewed.

As we journey further, we’ll be reflecting on the past, peeling back the layers of such assumptions, and shining a light on why it’s a tad unfair to judge our past selves with such severity. 

Picture this: you’re gazing into the rear-view mirror of your life and thinking, “Blimey! If only I’d done things a smidgen differently…”

Now, at that moment, we’re inadvertently falling into a trap. We’re viewing our past through the lens of our present knowledge and experiences.

We seem to overlook the fact that our past selves didn’t have the luxury of knowing what we know now.

Back then, we were navigating the choppy waters of diverse emotions and circumstances, making decisions and taking actions that we may not choose to take today.

Reflecting on the Past: Unfair Judgements and Assumptions

Now, let’s have a bit of fun and stir our imaginations.

Picture yourself in a cosy café, sitting across from… well, you. But it’s the ‘you’ from your past, and you two are in deep conversation.

As you chat, you begin to notice the differences. The way your past self sees the world, the pursuits that intrigue them, the books they’re leafing through, the balance in their bank account.

It’s all so different.

Indeed, you and your past self are two distinct individuals.

The past-you took risks, made choices, and faced the music, whether it played a sweet melody or a dissonant tune.

All this journeying has brought you to where you are today.

Trying to scribble over the past is as pointless as trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.

You both have unique identities, carved out by a myriad of emotions and life circumstances.

Reflecting on the Past: A Conversation with Past and Future Selves

Now, let’s add a third chair to our imaginary café table.

Welcome, your future self. 

She’s going to be a distinct character too, with her own quirks and values.

She might, for instance, cherish family ties that you, the present you, may not feel particularly inclined towards.

The crux of it all is this: lay off the criticism of your past self.

Not only is it unjust, but it also discounts the fact that she did the best she could in the circumstances she found herself in.

So, instead of donning the judge’s robe, how about offering her a bit of compassion?

After all, she played a significant part in shaping who you are today when reflecting on the past.

Embracing Self-Compassion While Reflecting on the Past

As we delve deeper into the quirks of our mind, we come across a rather bewildering truth: our memories can be surprisingly fickle.

Sure, they paint colourful pictures of our past, but just how accurate are they?

As it turns out, not very.

Our memories often embellish the truth or even fabricate whole scenes!

Let’s say, for instance, your siblings never miss an opportunity to recount that one hilarious tale of your childhood mischief.

It becomes a staple at every family gathering, eliciting laughter and teasing.

Funny thing is, you don’t even remember it happening. But with every recounting, the story begins to take root in your mind.

After all, if they keep bringing it up, it must have happened, right?

And before you know it, you’ve got a ringside seat to the spectacle of your own past.

You can visualise the precise moment of your childhood mischief, complete with vivid details of the when, where, and how.

The story has been recounted so many times that it’s almost as if your memory has been auto-filled with believable details. 

Memory: A Deceptive Storyteller when Reflecting on the Past

Until… *plot twist*! 

During a family reunion, your long-lost uncle drops a little truth bomb: the mischief-maker was your sister, not you!

Now, doesn’t that throw a wrench in the works of reflecting on the past?

It turns out that memory lane is less of a straight, well-lit path and more of a winding, shadowy alley.

Questioning the Certainty of Our Memories while Reflecting on the Past

It’s time to challenge the certainty of our memories.

That cherished tapestry of past events you’ve been replaying and retelling over the years?

There’s a good chance it’s not entirely accurate.

As unsettling as it may sound, our memories aren’t necessarily the reliable databases we think they are. 

I’ll admit, this revelation had quite an impact on me.

For the longest time, I allowed my childhood memories to shape my self-perception, instilling a sense of inferiority that had me playing the defeatist.

But once I discovered that my memories might not be entirely true, my perspective began to shift.

I realised that many of my recollections, while repeated and retold, could have been misinterpretations of the past.

Yes, they seemed believable due to the sheer frequency of recalling them, but was that enough to validate their truth? 

Thanks to this newfound understanding and a little help from my younger sister, I started deconstructing these self-deprecating beliefs that stemmed from my potentially inaccurate memories.

As it turns out, my past self might not have been as deficient as I’d thought.

I understood, finally, “That was me then, and this is me now.”

The Liberation of Releasing False Certainties: Reflecting on the Past

The moment we release ourselves from the grip of false certainty, it is genuinely liberating.

It’s like wiping the fog off a window and seeing the world clearly for the first time.

It’s an understanding that we aren’t to blame for everything that went wrong. 

Suddenly, our minds aren’t filled with guilt, regret, or fear. Instead, they’re flooded with hope, possibility, and anticipation.

My inferiority complex, while not entirely gone, has been pushed to a tiny corner of my mind, barely casting a shadow on my self-esteem.

So the next time you find yourself reflecting on the past and criticising and belittling yourself for the things that didn’t pan out as expected, pause for a moment.

It’s likely that the past-you didn’t mess up as much as you believed.

Perhaps you’re looking at your past through a distorting lens, magnifying mistakes, and filling in gaps with imaginary details.

Remember, the past-you is a different person from the present-you, and the future-you will be yet another version. 

Final Thoughts: Self-Compassion and Acceptance in Reflecting on the Past

So, let’s untie ourselves from our imperfect memories and skewed perceptions and wipe our slates clean.

Instead of criticising the past-you, show some compassion.

Thank her for doing the best she could under those circumstances, and allow her to live freely in the here and now.

By reflecting on our past and accepting ourselves as we are, we open the door to greater happiness and success. If you find yourself embracing your past, quirks and all, and becoming your own biggest fan, you might be on the journey to self-acceptance. Find out more in our article, 10 Signs You’re Loving Who You Are.

As you embrace self-acceptance, remember it’s never too late to rewrite your story. Find out how in It’s Never Too Late to Start Over: Reclaim Your Life Today.

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