One particularly painful and ongoing part of my recovery process has been learning how to stop living as me in my past.
It has been surprisingly painful, as a matter of fact!
Truthfully, the more attention I have paid to my own relationship with myself, the more I have become aware that I don’t really see myself as I am – right now – today.
Rather, I often unwittingly continue to relate to myself as if I am the me I was yesterday, five years ago, 25 years ago.
Here is an analogy.
When I go to visit my folks, my mom automatically starts cooking for me and doing my laundry. Even when I ask repeatedly what I can do to help out in the kitchen or with the chores, she just keeps cooking and washing.
I suspect this is because she still sees me as a younger me – as the infant she delivered, as the girl she raised, as the young woman she has never quite been able to stop worrying about and caring for.
And this can work for me (she is an excellent cook and has a way with the washer and dryer) – at least for short visits.
But when I personally continue to relate to myself as if I am still five, or 15, or even 35, problems arise.
The reason is – it is not fair. I am wiser now. I am stronger now. I like myself much more now. I respect myself much more now.
I know more than I’ve ever known before, and each day I become ever more aware of how each choice I make can either hinder or support the kind of whole-person evolution I am intent on pursuing.
So when I relate to myself as I was, instead of as I am today, I disrespect my own courage and determination, I cheat myself out of the hard-won fruits of my self-development, I shame myself unnecessarily, and I miss out on today’s precious transformative lessons.
Because of this, learning to see myself as I am, right now, today, has become a conscious discipline I practice daily.
For example, when I notice I am getting extremely upset at myself over some relatively minor mistake I’ve made in the present, this is a sign I am really upset at the past-me.
So then I can stop, forgive the past-me for the much bigger mistake(s) this present mistake reminds me of, and then return to the present and deal with the minor incident at hand.
As well, when I catch myself saying things to myself like, “Why don’t you EVER learn?” or “Why do you ALWAYS do this?,” that is a dead giveaway I am relating to past-me instead of present-day me.
So then I have to stop, remember whatever painful memory or lesson is still so vivid, do whatever work I need to do (such as forgiving myself and others) and move on in my life as present-day me once again.
Learning to see myself as I really am today is a constant challenge.
After all, I have been there for all of my life to date, not just today’s experiences. Like seeing photographs of a younger me, I can still recognize “me” in my past, even if I don’t look or act like that anymore.
What has helped the most is just to recognize that I do this – that I tend to relate to myself as if I am five or 15 or 25 years younger – then catch myself when I do it, and then make a conscious shift back to relating to me as I am today.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever notice yourself being particularly self-judgmental or critical and wonder why? Have you ever felt like you are relating to yourself not as you are, but as you were (or that others relate to you in this way)? If so, what has helped you stay centered and present as “you now?”
Cooking image available from Shutterstock.