Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I heard from many readers when I posted Remember the Good recently. It made me think more about how easy it is to take the past into the present with us. It’s a lot harder to leave it where it belongs—behind you! But you can. Whether you like it or not, always keep in mind that it’s YOUR choice to hold onto old memories and pain and let it affect your mood, decisions, confidence and ability to function as well as you could. It’s also YOUR choice to live in right NOW.

Awareness is the first step that brings your life and happiness into right now. I lived in the past way until years after I took the train out of DoorMatville. Before that, I didn’t realize how much I let the past affect me today. Looking back, I see consequences of not living for NOW that are common in many people, such as:

* People Pleasing: Growing up insecure makes you more likely to jump at doing favors and it’s hard to turn folks down, even when you greatly want to. Then you feel lousy like I did when people take you for granted or never support you. It also makes you tolerate unacceptable behavior, albeit unhappily, because you have a need to be liked.

* Paranoia: Insecurity makes you take blame for things you aren’t responsible for and wonder what you did wrong whenever someone doesn’t call on time or can’t see you. That was a big one to get over for me. Not feeling good enough makes you worry in a variety of situations that people don’t like you or that you’ve done something wrong when you haven’t.

* Fear: If something reminds you of a past incident or person that hurt you, you may get scared it will repeat itself. That’s a big reason why people sabotage a good romantic relationship. If you’ve been burned by love, you go into self-protective mode. It can escalate and make you misinterpret harmless words or behavior. Anything that brings up unpleasant memories can trigger you to respond inappropriately now. Fear also keeps you from quitting the job you hate, taking risks, and many other things that could enhance your life if you weren’t afraid.

* Limitations: In the last post I talked about how my kindergarten teacher made fun of my artwork, which made me think I couldn’t do art for over twenty years. You may have had a bad experience fixing something or screwed up a job interview—once—and feel in incapable of being successful at it. So you don’t bother to try.

* Poor body image: When you grow up thinking you’re too fat, thin, short, etc., that mentality can stay with you. Even if your body changes, it’s hard to feel good about it if you’ve felt like it wasn’t good enough for years. I’ve worked hard to let go of the cellulite blindness I had growing up. It made me unable to appreciate how hot and sexy I really am because all I saw was my cellulite, which most women, even slim ones, have.

* Bad habits: Incidents from the past can give you habits used to protect yourself or as rebellion against things you were made to do as a child. You may have lied to defy your parents and now still lie to people you care about to avoid trouble. You may have smoked or drank too much to calm earlier stress and now can’t stop. Bad habits can be broken if you focus on just NOW!

* Keeping your guard up: If you’ve been burned by someone you loved deeply and let your guard down for, you might keep your guard glued up to avoid being hurt again. That keeps you from experiencing the loving intimacy that makes a romantic relationship most special. You may shut down when things get good, to keep yourself from falling for someone and risking being hurt again. Or you may not allow yourself to develop deep, trusting friendships if a friend burned you badly.

* Sabotaging good situations: If you’re scared of getting hurt, you may do even more than keep your guard up. Sometimes people do things to ruin a relationship or situation before it can hurt them. I’ve dated guys who did stupid things to ruin the good between us. I knew they’d been burned and were or scared. I even asked one if he was doing things to tick me off so I’d push him away. He admitted he was. His willpower wasn’t strong so he wanted to annoy me enough to put distance between us for him. I did by refusing to see him again. Yet so many folks ruin something pleasurable to avoid repeating pain that occurred the past.

* Low expectations: When you’ve been let down a lot, you may not expect people to keep their word or help you. Since the Law of Attraction gets its cues from your expectations, you’ll continue to lament about not getting much if you stay in this mindset.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these? Most of us have some baggage from the past. It’s hard to get through life unscathed, even if most things go well. No one wants to be hurt. People wrote after my last post and asked for suggestions on how to leave the past behind and live more in right now. While there are no easy solutions, I can assure you that if I was able to do it, anyone can! History guided my present for many years.

At first I felt helpless to let go of old beliefs and behavior. I was conscious of what I did, but had no tools to deal with it. But I wanted to! You have to really want to let old thoughts go in order to do it. Not just kinda want to. It can be very scary to move away from what you’re used to, even if you don’t like it. That’s why so many people stay in abusive relationships.

One of my most profound lessons came from a session with a therapist who considered himself a tool giver. He didn’t give traditional therapy and most people just saw him once. Someone recommended him highly. I was just on the brink of moving forward. I’d been on my own for a while and was getting stronger. It was before I was published. As we talked, he picked up on things I said and challenged me to think about my words. I learned a lot of great tools for living from him in that hour. But one blew me away, and helped me leave the past.

He asked what motivated me to go after success. I said I wanted to succeed for the helpless girl I used to be, who was pushed away from majoring in business by my high school counselor. She insisted I should major in Liberal Arts and get a husband to take care of me. It prepared me for nothing. Being the consummate Good Girl back then, I did as told. When I married a teacher at 20-years old, I became a teacher too. And hated it! I loved the kids but felt so unstimulated.

So I was determined to help that little girl who didn’t know any better to develop a fabulous career, despite new warnings to stay in teaching since it was too late to reinvent myself. Peter immediately jumped in to explain that was poor motivation. Living for the child I used to be kept her old hurts and limitations with me. What a profound wake up!

When you live with memories of who you were or what happened earlier in your life, you keep t
he old baggage with you too!

Peter suggested I remind myself I’m not that little girl. I’m older, have better self-esteem and more experience in handling situations. He’s so right! It jolted me into the present. I had to live for the terrific woman I am now, not the scared, insecure girl I was. A few days later, I put it to the test. It may sound silly but when I was five years old, I was sick and had to swallow my first pill—an aspirin. Prior to that Mom had always melted them. I was healthy and rarely needed medication. She gave me the pill and I was scared.

You know what happens when you’re scared! My throat closed up and I began choking and it all came up . That a traumatic experience made me unable to swallow a pill—not even a teensy one.

Shortly after meeting with Peter, I bought some Quercetin capsules that a natural pharmacist highly recommended for my allergies. I opened one and tried to take it with applesauce. But, it was very bitter and I couldn’t bear to take 2 each day like that. I sadly put them away. Then I remembered what Peter taught me. I reminded myself that I’m not that five-year old who choked. I’m an adult and perfectly capable of swallowing a pill. After repeating it over and over, I looked in the mirror and told myself as an adult I can swallow the pill. And I did!

NOW I can swallow huge pills. All because I reminded myself I’m not the girl who choked on an aspirin. I’m a capable woman and can swallow pills like other adults. I’ve used this lesson to handle many other situations. Without it, I’d still be lamenting about how I wish I could swallow pills.

Instead of holding me back, my inner child’s job now is simply to keeps me playful and smiling, not living in the past.

Later in the week I’ll have part 3 of Remember the Good. For now, think about where some of the baggage that holds you back comes from. Consciously remind yourself that you’re not that person in the past. Consciousness about your behavior and why you do things is the first step for stopping them from affecting your life NOW.

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