Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, 'So what.' 'My mother didn't love me.' So what. 'My husband won't ball me.' So what. 'I'm a success, but I'm still alone.' So what. I don't know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.
— Andy Warhol, "The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol."
These are wise words, but they're easier than said done.
Undeniably, the fragments of our history make up who we are.
They are important and necessary to our human growth and development.
Experience is what keeps us from making the same mistakes over and over again.
But for many, the past acts like a small lens through which we see the world, or it's like a stubborn ghost that pervades the present.
This is where many of us can run into trouble.
At 23, it feels safe to say I have made many mistakes in my life, possibly enough for two people.
My road was never a clean and tidy one, and instead of walking around the debris, I seemed to prefer to hoard them instead.
I would pick up scraps of these darker times in my life and shelf them in my mind.
Frankly, it began to make me feel comfortable.
It was a wall and a negative form of protection.
But what happens when new people, new experiences and new opportunities for life crop up?
Well, I'll tell you.
While I walked through life like a blind person, always looking back, I missed out on a lot.
Because I had been hurt before, I decided I could not trust others.
By doing so, I missed out some completely fabulous people in more ways than one.
If you never offer your trust to someone, you essentially never offer your true self.
Relationships are built on trust. This applies to friendships as well as intimate relationships.
By deciding that because I had been hurt in the past, and I was now incapable of having faith in other people going forward, I let go of the trust in myself.
I shared less with friends and missed the opportunity to get valuable insight that would let us bond over knowing personal things about each other.
I offered only half of my heart to my lovers, and I was never able to fully allow the love they had for me in.
By not fully trusting, I built fear into my relationships with people.
The lack of faith created half-assed relationships with the people I cared for, and I wasn't able to receive or give the love I so badly needed and wanted.
What about experiences?
Did the fact I had made mistakes, been rejected or made a fool of myself disqualify me from getting positive and fulfilling things in the future?
But, it was done by no one else's hands but my own.
What bad past experiences bring is self-doubt.
The truth is, now and again, people will hurt me, and that is simply a part of the many slants of life.
Now and again, I will make a total ass out of myself because I will do something stupid.
But so what?
If I hadn't gotten tossed around a little by life, I wouldn't be sitting here and breathing as deeply and comfortably as I am now.
The safety comes in the fact I trust myself enough to know I can handle it.
Pain and embarrassment are parts of the human experience.
We are not as weak as we think we are; what weakens us is the fear.
What ruins relationships more often than realized is the fear, and what ruins our own sense of peace is the fear.
What is fear?
Fear is doubt, and doubt is a killer.
There are entire movies based on the concept of doubt, and people are let off trial based on "reasonable doubt."
Doubt infects the mind and is not easily shaken because we hold onto the "what ifs."
But what if I told you the past experiences that make you inwardly cringe and doubt yourself really don't matter?
They only exist to you because they are locked up inside that pretty little head of yours.
The past is in no way defining today.
All that is happening today is what we decide to do.
We are always in the present, and therefore, we always have the opportunity to define ourselves anew.
We always have the opportunity to be better as long as blood is pumping through our veins.
That is empowering.
Allowing ourselves to learn from our past experiences in a detached way enables the ultimate growth and benefit from it.
It spares us from making the same mistakes again and again, and it also spares us from living in it when it is no longer happening.
The concept "Let go of your past" may seem clichéd, but it's a clichéd for a reason.
It has been spoken by wise men and women throughout the course of human history (see Buddhism), and those who free themselves from the mental chains of the looming past will smile so much easier because of it.