I used to lie awake at night thinking about the time I got caught with gum in seventh grade or what could've been if I would've taken that one opportunity, but I had to let go of those past mistakes in order to focus on my future.
According to the Clifton Strengths assessment, one of my greatest strengths is "Context." Context is being able to reflect on the past and applying it to the future, and when I thought about it, I really saw why this was labeled a part of my personality. I love looking back on what was and seeing what kind of growth or development has arisen. The main aspect I've always looked back on was personal, how I specifically have changed, and in doing that, I found myself being proud of the growth I saw, but also getting hung up about the mistakes I have made in the past.
I'm still a lover of nostalgia, and I see the strengths in context and looking back on one's past and am glad to have them. However, there are pitfalls to this aspect of myself I had to face, and as the person who loves photo albums and talking about old stories, this wasn't easy. I learned to do it though, by looking more towards the positive outcome my choices had made on my future as well as the lessons I learned from the mistakes I made.
I think the greatest thing I've learned is to use failures not just as mistakes I made, but as learning experiences to look at for my future. This isn't always easy, and failure can make us feel like we aren't as good at something as we think we are or like we shouldn't have tried something in the first place. However, both succeeding and failing to inform us on what we are good with and what we are not. I think a problem all of us can face from time to time is we can be too overconfident or believe our strengths are much greater than what they actually are. A humbling experience of failure reminds us that we are all human, we all have weaknesses. It's okay to use these weaknesses just as much as our strengths to grow and develop within ourselves and our abilities.
The best approach I've found when it comes to letting go is to confront issues as soon as possible and also confronting mistakes in general. It can be hard to face when you've screwed up, especially as if affects another person. However, being able to face your part in an issue and apologizing or at least making the effort to show you feel bad can go a long way. Forgiveness isn't guaranteed and isn't always needed, but you'll lessen the burden on yourself by confronting your own actions sooner. You can start working on a game plan on how to avoid future conflicts for yourself, as well as how to face and improve that certain aspect of your character.
We can't erase our pasts, the good or the bad, even though we might try.
I've made plenty of mistakes throughout my life, and I know I'm going to keep making mistakes as I continue to grow. I used to dwell on these mistakes for hours though, letting them eat away at me and ruin whatever kind of growth or development I could've experienced otherwise. This wasn't healthy for me, and I don't think it's healthy for anyone, because we shouldn't let our shortcomings alone define us.
Both our strengths and our weaknesses are part of who we are, and embracing one and not the other only results in an imbalance of character that stunts our personal growth. I used to love thinking about what I could've changed in my life from what I had done in the past, but I came to realize just how unhealthy that was. Our lives have taken the course that we're on, and we can't change that. Though there might not be too much to be happy about for some people, there is at least some light out there for everyone that gives them happiness.
Bob Ross famously said, "We don't mistakes, just happy little accidents."
He was talking about painting, but let's apply that here. That light is the result of the mistakes we made as much as the good choices, and I think that's what we need to think about more than what went wrong or could've been. I stopped getting hung up on the past in large part because I wanted to be grateful and appreciate what was in front of me in the present. It's never easy to let go, but sometimes it's the best way to truly appreciate what you have before it becomes just another what if.