Moving Past Your Past: Tips to increase self-awareness for greater SELF-ACCEPTANCE
by DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness Expert, Jessica Pass, LMFT
In my post last week, I extended the challenge to take a deeper look into who you are. To reflect on your past experiences and engage in a conversation with yourself about parts of your life story that were written for you, meaning what life experiences happened to you that you felt as though you had little to no control over but that affected who you are in a deep way.
I shared my experience of my parent’s divorce and how for a long time I blamed myself and in doing so I believed discouraging thoughts that I wasn’t good enough or that it was my fault, which inevitably resulted in seeking out unhealthy relationships and self-sabotaging my own success.
Understanding my story and how I’ve interpreted my life experiences has opened up new meaning and understanding. It has allowed me to recognize old feelings of doubt, shame and insecurity and understand them for what they are; left over feelings from unresolved experiences. Knowing this helps me disconnect the feelings from the past with what is going on in the present and deepen my awareness of who I am so that I can approach new situations with an open mind, instead of with assumptions and false expectations.
Awareness presents the open door to understanding our deepest self. It’s not always enjoyable (If only!) but it is the key to reversing repetitive negative patterns and moving towards the life that you deserve.
Once you decide to seek a deeper understanding of who you are, what motivates you and what might be holding you back, you’re actively opening up new opportunities for personal growth. In doing this you’re level of self-awareness increases, maximizing your potential for success and you’re ability to let go of your weaknesses and intensify your strengths.
So… Now that I have recognized a pattern or recurrent theme in my life, what do I do? How do I change it, fix it or just plain forget it?!
First things first, awareness is the key to creating lasting change in our lives. If we are unaware of something there is no motivation to change because the need does not exist. However, when we become aware we cannot “un-know ‘what we’ve learned. A magic eraser does not exist when it comes to self-understanding; it is written in permanent ink, tattooed on our subconscious in bright red ink as a reminder anytime we try to move forward (the exact reason it is easy to get pulled into the same negative patterns over and over again.)
Self-awareness can feel like both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it enables you to respond versus react emotionally, gives greater understanding and allows a way to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses, however, on the other hand, it can be painful and difficult to recognize the root of emotional distress or recurrent negative patterns and ultimately can be the reason why so many of us deny or reject doing the work.
I’ve often had client’s say, “What’s the point of bringing up the past when I want to move forward?” It can feel as though going back in time is literally going backwards or regressing, however, the opposite is true, when we journey back to understand what has led us to where we are we have the opportunity to finally see things for what they are and relieve our emotional self from the responsibility of carrying around unnecessary baggage from the past.
Identifying old unresolved feelings is not playing the blame game or becoming a viciim to your circumstance, rather it is an act of self-empowerment that opens the door to positive change and emotional transformation. Resist the thoughts that journeying back is a pointless and unnecessary venture, your defenses are just stepping up to protect you against the possible feelings of sadness, disappointment or shame.
Remember that self-awareness is the single most important aspect of self-empowerment. It is the ability to know oneself deeply to better choose positive outcomes in relationships and other directions in our lives.
If you start the process and find yourself feeling worse than before you started, know that this is common and part of the process. Becoming aware puts us in tune with some intense feelings and painful memories that have been hidden or denied for years. Even after 10, 15 or 20 plus years, we can experience our feelings as if they just happened. A scary and confusing process that can prevent us from going further, however, until we’ve expressed what is desperately wanting to be heard, we will not be able to move beyond it.
It is challenging to just trust the process. Believe me, I am a perfect example, once I have an understanding about what is going on I am immediately in need of a solution to prevent any further uncomfortable feelings. I want to move on and take action. However, sometimes all we can do is just trust the process and allow ourselves the space to feel what we need to. Finding healing is feeling heard and acknowledged, when we deny ourselves this fundamental and human need, we are overlooking our vulnerability and saying that it is not important. We are dismissing who we are and continuing the cycle of feeling misunderstood, insecure and disappointed.
The upside of awareness is that once we have a deeper understanding of who we are we begin to catch the negative patterns much quicker and learn to trust our intuition. We recognize past times that we ignored our “gut” and learn to sense the feelings before our vulnerability is in question. We recognize our underlying subconscious motives and seek out positive influences to keep us on track. Just like weight training and building muscle takes practice and consistency, gaining self-awareness takes time and discipline. Both end results are similar as well, once you start you feel so good you are motivated to continue, with each new insight, you’re increasing self-esteem, empowering yourself and stepping towards a life full of all you the wonderful things you deserve.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
Moving past your past, to refresh your future is difficult. It takes strength and courage to open up and become vulnerable, even with ourselves
Without the process of journeying back and understanding our narrative we are unable to move forward
Trust the process and take deep breaths
Allow your self the space to feel your feelings, no matter how painful they may be
Practice self-love and self-care by making it a point to increase the activities that feed you, mind, body and soul
Recognize that life happens around us and we are all affected differently, our truth is our truth and our pain is subjective to our experience
Make peace with yourself and release self-criticism and shame
Set up a support team to check in with or talk openly about your feelings
Know that you are not alone. We all have a past, try not to compare yours with anyone else’s
Taking the first steps towards awareness will make way for new insight an the ability to take control of your life story, both where you have been and where you are going. Knowing ourselves more fully is gift and an important piece to creating the life that you want and deserve. Be empowered by your life story and take ownership of your past in a way that you can feel proud of and use to inspire others. We no longer have to be a victim in our circumstance, but can be free to make peace with the past and move towards a much brighter future. You deserve only the best!
DEFINE’s Emotional Wellness Expert, Jessica Pass, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Instructor at DEFINE body & mind. She has a private practice in Houston, Texas, specializing with children, adolescents, individuals, couples and parents. Jessica’s approach incorporates mind-body integration, education and practical strategies to improve emotional wellness, emphasizing all aspects of who we are to live fully and thrive in our relationships.
For more articles by Jessica – Click Here