Forgiving Your Past Self
I read the phrase on the left in a recent meme that I came across on IG, and it made me think of younger version of Michelle Gomez. The picture on the right, was taken on July 26, 2012; and the caption read:
"Today is gonna be a good day. Reviews, performance bonus, and dinner with my bosses tonight. Then it's off to Indio for 3 days! #workhard #playhard"
While I read this, very much of "me" is still there. The ambition. The drive. The desire to work hard and play harder. The enjoyment of doing work that I felt was important in the moment, which was to lead employees through performance reviews, express my gratitude for their hard work, and hand out merit increases. I guess I felt happy and proud of what was going to happen that day - but my face shows no signs of sincere joy (atleast not on this day!) All seemed well on the outside, but on the inside there was so much that people just didn't know.
I was feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of trying to 'do it all'
I was giving 80% of ME to my job/career, and only 20% toward my personal life
I was ensuring that the needs of my boss were met, while the needs of my home life were falling by the wayside
I was NOT taking care of myself - no self-care regimen at all
I would never let on that this was going on, as I was afraid to admit that I was in over my head, that I needed help, and that something had to change. I also resented that I needed so much validation from the outside world. Ensuring that everyone else thought I was great, and handling things well, was of my utmost concern. Is my boss pleased with me? Does my team trust me to lead them? Is my husband happy? Are my kids content? Is my extended family proud? Am I a good enough friend to those I spend my leisurely time with?
All....about what EVERYONE ELSE thought. No time or energy placed on what I had to say about myself.
So as I read this meme and looked back at this photo taken in 2012, I am reminded of the shift that took place in my mind and heart in 2016 when I made a career change, began to slow down my day-to-day life, and took some time to inquire within myself about WHY I needed so much outside validation and WHY I needed to spend more time with myself.
Knowing what I know today, I do sometimes think back to my past years and cringe at the thought of memories where my work style was unloving, inauthentic, lacked empathy, and was forceful in nature. I know now that those are NOT traits of an effective leader. Which is what I had always wanted to be in those times. It all came back to my lack of self-awareness, lack of self-care, and the imbalance of managing my work & life in a productive way.
And so...here I am today, seven years after this picture was taken, and I have come to a space of forgiveness for this younger version of myself. I choose to forgive her for:
Spending so many years caring about what others thought of her
Allowing herself to lose sleep, spend weekend time, and give away her energy towards her career when she should have been spending that time connecting with those she loved
Allowing her anger, and need-to-be-right, to take over her management style
Allowing herself to 'play small' so that others around her wouldn't become threatened by her power
Letting outside sources determine her worth
Forgiveness is a powerful source of life. When we learn to forgive ourselves, we allow space and time to move forward and grow into the next-level version of ourselves. I realized that in order to get to my next-level, I needed to shed some old skin, change old habits, and show up different so that I can be different in the world - and my version of being different meant: being healed.
Now I can think back to my younger self and, instead of cringing at her errors in judgment and lack of emotional intelligence, I simply extend grace towards her and chalk it up to a simple phrase..."She didn't know."
Forgive your younger self for her mistakes, her imperfections, and her inability to ask for help. She didn't mean any harm. She was trying to do her best to appear strong and unafraid in a time when she hadn't yet discovered her true identity. She was so much more than what she knew about herself, back then.
What will you forgive her for this season?