How to Make Peace with Your Dark Past

How to Make Peace with Your Dark Past

We all have our crosses to bear. We can all recall times in our lives when we were in dire places. Maybe we had a mental illness, maybe we were in a bad relationship, maybe we were in debt or maybe we just made a lot of unfortunate decisions that got us into big trouble.

And as we’re human beings, we beat ourselves up over it. We get stuck in a pattern of trying to figure out why we did what we did, why we were so stupid, so dumb or so naive.

I know this dark circle so well. For the longest time, I held on to many resentments of the past and believed that because of my eating disorder, I lost the most valuable years of my life. And while it is true that I never got to experience my youth the way other teenagers did, I came to a point, where I was able to be grateful for having developed my anorexia.

That’s a bold statement to make, but it’s the only one that will enable me to live my life fully. I know that without my anorexia, I wouldn’t have survived my difficult youth and my many childhood traumas and that’s reason enough to be tremendously thankful for.

Embracing your past, even if it is a really dark one, is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself.

Think about it, what happens when you hold on to regret, shame and other negative feelings? It impacts your life today, makes you miserable and keeps you from moving on. It casts a dark, depressing shadow over everything you do, feel and say.

However, if you embrace this dark time of your life and even see it is a stepping stone to the person you are today, you’ll be able to learn from it, move on and focus on what’s important: the present and future.

So, how can you see the positive in the darkness of your past? How can you transform it into light?

  1. Remember that you were in a different place in your life.  Your circumstances at the time of regret were different than they are now. You had your reasons for acting the way you did. Maybe your behavior enabled you to survive as it did in my case. Maybe it kept you sane or safe. And maybe you just didn’t know any better.   The point is that the situation then can’t be compared to the way you live and feel right now, so stop revisiting and questioning your past actions.
  2. See it as a portal that brought you to the place you are now.   Maybe you’re in a healthier relationship. Maybe you’ve overcome your struggles with eating and have a loving relationship with your body now. Maybe you’ve found the career of your dreams and maybe you’ve just grown as a person in general.   Had it not been for those dark periods, you would not be who you are today. Celebrate that fact!
  3. Use it for good.  For a while, I used my recovery story to help those who are still going through the anorexia hell and it felt amazing to use my past for something good.   What can you do to use your past to create a lasting change in other people’s lives? How can you use the lessons you’ve learned to save others in the same situation? Give your struggles a reason and use them to make this world a better place.
  4. Let it go.  Write a letter to yourself and forgive yourself or those that hurt you for what happened. Be sincere and compassionate to yourself. Then burn the letter or shred it into tiny pieces. Put a lot of emotion into this process to say goodbye to that part of your life forever. No, you won’t forget what happened, but it’s now in the past and you can look to the future.

Make peace with your past and live your life.

Onward, not backwards.

Photo by Liz Grace

Anne - Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a body-love expert, self-love advocate and the author of The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. Join her newsletter and receive your free 3-part video series empowering you to accept yourself wholeheartedly.

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18 Comments

  1. I really love this post and blog all together. It seems like everyday something I read on here has some profound affect on me. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    • So happy to hear that you’re enjoying this blog. It really is a great source of inspiration, isn’t it?

      Reply
  2. Thanks Liz. Beautiful post. My darkest time was coming out in high school. It was hard. I felt isolated, even hated. It made me strong and helped me be the person I am today. We are only able to do the best we can with the resources we have at any time in our lives. A lot of the work I do is to help people let go, forgive themselves, learn the lessons they needed and move to a bright future.

    Reply
    • Brian, thanks for your comment. It’s so true that at any given moment, we do the best we can. And all the talk later on about how we could have done a better decision is simply wrong because we couldn’t. We made the decision we had to make and we dealt with a situation the way we had to deal with it. I think the work you describe is so so important and I’m sure you’re helping tons of people.

      Reply
  3. Beautifully inspirational and so true.

    We do tend to beat ourselves up over things that happened in the past, things we cannot change now, and which made us the person we are today in the first place.

    “Make peace with your past and live your life.”

    I especially appreciate your honesty in stating that you’re grateful for having developed your anorexia. It probably sounds odd and shocking to a lot of people, but I can relate to it so much.

    Because today, I am profoundly grateful for having gone through depression. It’s been the key to facing so much pain head-on and moving beyond it. It wasn’t pretty and I would never willingly choose to walk that darkness again in future, and yet I’m glad it is a part of my past. Because it made me stronger, more confident, kinder to myself and others, and so much happier.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Bina, that’s so powerful and I’m glad you feel that way. The more positivity you can see in any given situation the more you will gain from it. I’m so glad to hear you feel stronger now and can be kinder to yourself. That’s huge! I’m proud of you. :)

      Reply
  4. I was the child victim of a cult and subsequently had some rough and dark times, especially in my 20s. I have learned to let things go. My number one method of dealing with the darkness of my past is through writing. I’ve been a songwriter, kept journals, and wrote my first book about my cult experience earlier this year. You can learn more about my writing and my book “A Train Called Forgiveness” at http://www.danerickson.net

    Reply
  5. I love this post!

    “If you don’t have any shadows, you’re not in the light.” – Lady GaGa

    Reply
    • That’s a fabulous quote and it’s so very true. Gaga just always knows what to say. Thanks for sharing, Jill.

      Reply
  6. Thank you for this post, I am going through a very difficult time and the past has shaped who I am.
    Letting go and writing a letter to myself, being real and truthful and forgiving. I have survive I am here and have done good.

    “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”-Winston Churchill

    Reply
    • Geoff, sorry to hear that you’re going through a hard time. But I think that the tools you use to get through it are brilliant and will help you without a debt. Just stay positive and know that it’s OK to struggle; as long as you keep going, you’ll be a winner.

      Reply
  7. The past is what made us who we are today. However dark or unpleasant it was, it’s part of who we are now. It’s what made us strong or what made us a great person. We must treasure these past experiences instead of regretting and wishing we could change it.

    Reply
    • Amen to that, Jorge. Couldn’t have said it better. The more you appreciate the past the more beneficial it is for your present life. There’s always, always something positive in a situation if you choose to see it.

      Reply
  8. I agree wholeheartedly! I think the best way to get over the past is to celebrate how far you have come!This is a positive way of dealing with it!

    Reply
    • Celebrating your achievements and your growth is indeed the best way to live life altogether. The more proud you are of how you’ve changed the better and the more value you place on moving on and living life in the now the happier you’ll be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Karen.

      Reply
  9. Wow what a great post, and personally very timely. I was just recently busted for a DUI and have spent the past few days giving myself a beating. I knew better, and know better. Now I will pay the consequences, but I am trying to remind myself that I will learn and grow from this hardship.

    Reply
  10. I understand that this is not an easy situation, Curt and it’s easy to beat yourself up. Choosing to learn from this and moving on in a good spirit is the courageous way to go and I’m glad you are headed that direction. Best of luck.

    Reply

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