How to Break Free from the Past and Start Feeling Good Enough
A lengthy, but excellent article on how the way we think about ourselves greatly impacts our lives. If you do the recommended exercise at the end, please let me know if it helped.
How to Break Free from the Past and Start Feeling Good Enough
“My biggest fear is that I’m not good enough. I have this voice in my head that I’ve been battling for years that says, ‘You’re not really talented enough. You don’t really deserve this.’ ” ~Rachel Platten
When we’re continually surrounded by unrealistic beauty standards in the media and highlight reels of others’ success on social media, it’s no surprise that many of us feel like we don’t measure up or fit the ideals of perfection.
At some point in our lives maybe we were rejected for the color of our skin, the shape of our bodies, or for the way we looked, and we decided that we were somehow separate from the world.
These events can be detrimental to the beliefs we hold about ourselves and turn into thought patterns that continually chip away at our self-esteem.
For me, the feeling of not being good enough started in my early childhood. My older sister looked like she’d stepped off the catwalk, and she was extremely academic. I, on the other hand, consistently got low grades at school and was rarely complimented for my chubby appearance.
My feelings of low self-worth continued when I started high school. I was the only Indian girl at my school and was constantly bullied for my skin color, my religion, and being ‘different.’ Kids would throw things at me on the bus and push me around in the hallway. I started to hate who I was and the color of my skin and felt even less attractive than I did to begin with.
As I reached my teens, I would jump from one relationship to the next, hoping that validation from a boyfriend would somehow make me feel better about myself, but it didn’t. The highs were short-lived, and those relationships soon spiralled into a cycle of rejection, which made me feel even more unworthy.
Like me, maybe you too experienced a string of events while growing up that made you feel like you weren’t good enough. Whatever the experience was, no matter how trivial, when we have low self-worth, our internal dialogue keeps it alive, like an echo that continually reverts to unresolved traumas long after they have passed.
Most of us don’t enjoy digging to the root of our beliefs and delving into why we think, feel, and act the way we do; instead, we’re wired to sweep things under the carpet and use alcohol, food, drugs, or sex as crutches to help us to mask our emotions and maintain our sanity.
It can feel unnerving to unearth years of buried emotions and take a trip down memory lane to explore painful events, but to break free from low self-worth it’s vital for us to understand what parts of us require healing. Otherwise, it’s like going to a doctor with a pain in our tummy and asking them not to take a scan to determine its cause.
The way we feel about ourselves on the inside directly influences what we will create for ourselves on the outside. If we don’t feel good enough when we’re in the privacy of our own thoughts, it often impacts the quality of our relationships, the level of our financial success, and the amount of love, health, and joy we allow ourselves to experience in our day-to-day lives.
Many of us trap ourselves by looking at our lives through a lens of low self-esteem and telling ourselves stories based on outdated perceptions of past events.
For a long time, I clung to the story of how I’d been a victim. I believed I had no control over what had happened to me—the abuse, the bullying, the heartbreaks, and the rejection. I would pity myself for having to endure all the events that had played out in my life.
Instead of believing I had the power to take responsibility, I allowed past events to define who I was and how I saw myself, because I didn’t have the knowledge, awareness, or tools to know any differently.
I was taught the importance of focusing on my education, finding someone to marry, and how to build a home, but I wasn’t taught resilience, I wasn’t taught about unconditional love or self-acceptance, and I wasn’t taught how to deal with life’s challenges.
I wanted more from my life, but the story I told myself made me believe I wasn’t worthy of having it and that it just wasn’t going to be my fate. I would replay events in my mind and continuously felt like things were happening to me. I couldn’t see that the events were happening for me.
If I hadn’t been bullied, I wouldn’t have built resilience. If I hadn’t been abused, I wouldn’t have developed compassion and empathy. If I hadn’t have been abandoned, I wouldn’t have the drive and ambition to be independent.
When I recognized all I’d gained from my past, I was able to shift my perception and start seeing myself not as a victim but as someone who was strong and empowered. I began to re-frame my experiences.
Knowing I’d been through hardship helped me to recognize that I had an inner strength to overcome challenges, and my strong sense of compassion and empathy toward others allowed me to recognize my ability to be emotionally intelligent. Seeing the gifts in my challenges allowed me to view myself in a more empowered way, and as a result, I started showing up in the world differently.
It’s easy for me to see this now that I’ve moved through my story, but when I was in a war with myself I found it difficult to embrace the lessons.
It’s hard to appreciate the painful events that have plagued your life and destroyed any ounce of self-esteem you had. It’s easier to blame the world than accept that although you may not have deserved what happened to you, it happened, and that the only choice you now have is to pick up the pieces and move beyond it.
Most of us struggle to move beyond our stories and continue replaying them repeatedly in our minds, which only reinforces our beliefs into our reality. The more we replay our negative story in our minds, the more we continue to manifest the same events—until eventually we get fed up of living life on a loop and are desperate to break free.
We may believe we don’t have the power to reshape our stories because they are so deeply ingrained into who we are and how we respond to situations, but we do. And when we rewrite our stories, we break free from our past and transform our lives.
If you would like to release your feelings of low self-worth and shift the energy you put into the world, this powerful exercise can help.
Take a journal and write down the story of your life.
How do you define yourself?
Is your story full of your greatest achievements and happiest moments? Or are you listing down all the bad things that have happened to you and how unhappy you are?
When you pen down your thoughts you’ll instantly get insights into how you currently view yourself.
Are you able to spot any common patterns? Is there a recurring theme of rejection, shame, or resentment? Are you blaming specific people or events for how your life has panned out?
You’ll soon get valuable clues on what beliefs or experiences are dictating your story, and how you choose to view your life.
Now, journal your answers to the following questions:
What did those experiences help you to learn?What skills have you gained because of those experiences?How can you apply those lessons and skills to your current life?If you could go back in time, what would you change about those events? Or do differently?Are you ready to let those experiences go? And if not, how does it serve you to hold onto those experiences or feelings?
With this newfound awareness, I’d like you to re-write your past story, and see if the language you are using to describe your past has shifted.
Often, when we look back on our past with a newfound perspective, we’re able to re-frame our negative experiences into positive lessons that have shaped the person we are today. Without our experiences, we wouldn’t be blessed with the wisdom we’ve gained because of them.
When we allow ourselves to move into a space of gratitude for all that we’ve learned, we automatically shift away from feeling like a victim and reclaim our power.
Remember, you, as much as anybody in this universe, have the power to change the direction of your future. You just need to be willing to let go of what no longer serves you.