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Trusting My Past Self
Entering the matrix of my mind
It all began with a simple decision that, in hindsight, I should have trusted my past self on. An hour earlier, my past self had it all planned out – I was going to leave for the pool at 9:00 AM, and be there in time for a full work out before it closed at 10:00. But, an hour later and I’m so immersed in a project that I pull rank and age on my past self and decide it will be okay to leave at 9:15.
When I finally made it to the pool, I realized that my past self had known better, because she knew that the pool closed at 10:00 AM, not 10:30 AM which my older self insisted was the correct time. My workout was cut short and I asked myself, why I couldn’t have just trusted my past self? That got me to thinking, do I always doubt my past self? Like when I make a commitment to do something really hard, and six months later I’m regretting it, why can’t I just trust my past self that this was truly what I thought was best at the time and complete it, if only for my past self? No, instead I think, “What was I thinking?!” and I wallow in regret. What would my past self think if she knew what I thought of her picker?
My husband Michael said to me recently, “People always think about helping out our future selves, but we rarely credit or trust our past selves.” They both sound similar, but they are different. We tend to justify why we don’t listen to our past selves all the while putting in a new plan for our future selves (who likely won’t listen to us in the here and now but will have words for our future, future selves! It’s like those reality shows where a bunch of B-list celebrities sign up to do special forces training. They are all interviewed at the beginning why they signed up to do something so hard and they almost always have really good reasons. But as time passes, for those that don’t get seriously injured, their reasons for quitting are never as good as their reasons for signing up. And while I can’t get into their heads, I know what I would think regardless of what I said to the camera on my exit interview. Contrary to the public statement of “I’m proud of myself,” or “I got out of this what I needed,” deep down I would feel regret that I didn’t listen to my past self and follow through for my original reasons.
That leads me to the question: what if I could trust my past self, if only part of the time? Like there are times in marriage when I have asked myself, “What have you done?” Like when we had a baby; what was I thinking? But, giving props to my past self, I am so thankful that I made that spontaneous decision to do something I was actually scared to do. Of course, if I would have listen to my really past self, I would never have had a kid at all, I was so freaked out by the concept. So, I guess the lesson is, listen to your past self with the intention of trusting them, but also remember that you’ve come a long way and learned a lot since then.
Maybe it’s in the shorter term that you can trust your past self. My mind gets so crowded with my to-do list that just trusting what my past self said was the time to leave would take a significant amount of my older self’s plate.
I guess, in the end, trusting my past self means having confidence in the decisions, commitments, and goals I made in the past, especially when I was younger and less experienced. I want to recognize that my past self had reasons for making those choices and believing that those decisions were made in good faith and with the best information available at the time. So, here is what I now think it means to trust your past self:
1. I’ve come a long way baby: People change and grow over time, obvi. I can tell you for certain that my past self had totally different priorities, and perspectives than I do now, and I can’t fault her because she didn’t know as much as I do now. Trusting my past self doesn't mean I have to rigidly stick to past commitments if they no longer align with my current values or circumstances, but it does mean that it can’t hurt to remember that the ideas, hopes, and dreams I had when I was younger were valid at the time, and following through on those hopes and dreams is something my past self would have wanted.
2. Those are the consequences of living: Trusting my past self means I have to embrace the decisions I made in the past, even if the consequences are bothersome today. That means I’m not going to dwell on regretting my, what I now may think of as ‘stupid’ decisions, but instead I’m going to recognize that my past choices shaped who I am today. Way to go girl!
3. Have a little compassion: Okay, so I might have made mistakes and had some setbacks in life, but I want to learn from those mistakes instead of blaming my past self for being, well, too young to know the difference.
4. A girl can change her mind: While I want to honor my past commitments, it's equally important to assess whether they still align with my spiritual and emotional growth and values today. If they no longer align, it's okay to adjust or change my commitments, but if they don’t conflict, but are just hard, I want to continue to trust my past self and keep it going the direction she started.
5. It’s time for the next new thing (to me): My past self once said that working out wasn’t necessary for me. I could eat dessert all day long and not gain a pound. “I have a high metabolism,” she boasted. So, she spent the past 10 years just eatin’ pie and ice cream and relaxing by the pool, but she didn’t know that times would change, and now I’m frankly kind of mad at her for not sucking it up and getting some exercise and a proper diet. But, since she didn’t know then what I know now, I’m going to pick up the next new thing (to me) and get my body in shape.
Sometimes I get mad at myself for forgetting things, like when I wanted to leave the house, or eating right, but now that I’m thinking about the idea of my past self, I’m feeling less frustrated. I know, it’s not like I’m two different people, but who I was two years ago is so different from who I am now, that it’s almost like I’m two different people. And, I want to stop getting mad at myself for choices I made before I learned what I’ve learned since then. I want to trust my past self in the times when she made wise decisions, like planning on when to leave the house, or who to marry. I don’t know if any of this makes sense to anyone, it might read like I have a split personality or I’m talking out both sides of my mouth, but it sure has kicked my regrets in the butt and given me more patience with predicaments that my past self has gotten me into over my lifetime.
Final note, my past self said, “No working on newsletters after 7:30pm! The excitement of it all keeps me up all night.” Yet, here I am writing way past 7:30pm and remembering why my past self set that rule. Rats! I’ll try to listen to her tomorrow night, now that I’ve convinced myself that my past self isn’t all that bad.