“Oh, yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” – Rafiki, “The Lion King”
A quote from a Walt Disney movie is very fitting. Walt Disney is up there with people like Gandhi, Napoleon, and Martin Luther King Jr. as one of the most influential people who has ever walked the earth. Creator a Mickey Mouse and countless classic children’s movies, Walt Disney holds the record for the most Academy Awards with 26. What many don’t know, however, is that at the age of 22, Walt Disney was fired from his job by his newspaper editor for “not being creative enough”.
Imagine the feeling a young Walt Disney must have felt from, not only being let go, but receiving that comment from someone of authority. Imagine having a dream or vision and being told that we lack what it takes to achieve that dream from someone who, to our knowing, has the credentials to make that assumption. Do we give up? Do we let these troubles guide our path? Do we become who this authority figure says we are?
Truly, we all wish to say fudge no to this, but that is not the case. It is hard to pretend negative events never happened and move forward into our future. Bad experiences shape who we are. Things like the loss of a loved one, a cheating spouse or physical injuries can alter our personality and control our decisions. Get cheated on and we may be afraid to love again. Get in a serious car accident and we may be afraid to drive again. Make sense right? If that’s true, then think about how everything we’ve gone through, from birth to adulthood, can make us who we are. Things like alcoholic parents, abusive family members, bullying, heartbreak, failure, tragedy, and so on; these past events have created the kind of person we are today.
This is because every single decision we make is based on experience. We don’t drink certain drinks because we know we don’t like it and we prefer specific foods because they remind us of good experiences. Even when we try new things, it’s because of a positive experience in our past where we tried something new and liked it, or vice versa for those who don’t like to try new things. The same goes for negative experiences as well. If we’re told that we’re average our whole life and have events that back up that fact, then the decisions we make are based on proving that we are average. Like becomes like. What’s worse, these beliefs from our past are so deeply driven into our minds, we don’t even realize they control us.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. People can change, right? We are not defined by our pasts. We know, from this post about vulnerability, that the past can develop into walls that shield us and try to protect us from any more pain or displeasure. We need to realize that letting go of the past and breaking down these walls is the only solution to becoming who we want to be. Letting go of the past is about no longer being controlled. It’s about us telling life what we want. It’s about making a stand and proving that we can be who we want to be.
Start with positive self-affirmations
A woman who would eventually be known as Peace Pilgrim (sweet name, right?) once said “If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought again.” She said this because when we think something about ourselves, we actually become that thought. If we think we’re a loser, then we’ll be a loser. If we think we’re fat or ugly, then we’ll be fat or ugly. If we think we’re unhappy, then we’ll be unhappy.
We may have been telling ourselves we are these things for years and years, so in order to let go of the past and this belief, we need to start creating some new, positive experiences to draw from. We need to wake up every day, look in the mirror, and tell ourselves we’re not a loser, we’re not fat or ugly or unhappy. We need to say that we’re not going to be the person we were yesterday and that today we become who we want to be. Yell at ourselves. Scream! These self-affirmations will kick our brain into overdrive and give us not only the answers to how we can become who we want to be, but the motivation and confidence to make it happen. Why waste another second in life being someone who you don’t want to be?
Forget all of our bad experiences
So you got cheated on. You got a DWI. You ran over an innocent squirrel. That sucks.
The question, though, is what sucks more: being a squirrel murderer or never driving a car again because you’re afraid of what could happen?
I don’t need to repeat that lame cliché about the choices we have when bad things happen in order to make this point. We all know that we have a choice when things go wrong to let it build us up or to let it crush us. All I really need to say is this: we are not our past. We are our present and our future. We are what we’re doing today and what we plan to do for our entire life.
Leave the past in the past. Become who we want to be and who we need to be. We are the masters of our own life. We are in control.
We choose who we want to be.