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Make Peace with Your Past: Find the Good and Embrace the Lessons

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” ~Tony Robbins

Daughter of an alcoholic. Welfare recipient. Teenage mother. Non-college attendee. Poor decision maker. Unhealthy relationship participant. Financial disaster. Evictee.

All of these statements described me. They also propelled me into action, transforming me into an over-achieving perfectionist. Yet they still weighed me down because I felt like I had to constantly prove I was better than my past—better than the circumstances from which I came.

It took a lot of effort.

It took a lot of energy.

It was a burden.

I gained a lot of knowledge, built a tremendous skill set, and developed expertise. I was successful on the outside, but on the inside I felt like nothing more than a fraud. 

I avoided events where the question of what college I attended may surface.

I avoided situations that would put me in the company of highly educated people, for fear that their vocabulary would be beyond my understanding and I would appear stupid.

I avoided conversations about any topic that I did not feel a level of expertise in discussing.

I avoided talking about my past and my history.

Avoidance became a whole new skill set—one that I executed with a level of mastery. At some point I began to realize this game of charades was not in alignment with my core values of honesty and integrity.

I began to realize that the energy I was putting into creating a false image of myself was taking away my ability to live my life fully and openly.

I began to realize that in order to move forward, I had to come to terms with my past, to extract the good, to carry forward the lessons learned, but to leave behind the all of the garbage I’d outgrown.

Good like…

The kindness and generosity shown by to me strangers, neighbors, family, and friends when I was in the greatest need. The people who cheered me on and believed in me when I did not believe in myself. The few who knew my biggest, darkest secrets and loved me anyway.

Lessons like…

Understanding that no matter how much you want something for someone else, the only person you have control over—that you can change—is yourself.

Accepting the fact that when you blame other people for what is wrong with your life, nothing is ever going to get better.

Realizing that no matter how bad a situation seems in the moment, someone else is surviving, sometimes even thriving, in much more difficult circumstances.

And also…

What you believe about yourself and your limitations will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And, it doesn’t matter how “successful” you seem on the outside if you are miserable on the inside.

When my perception shifted, so did my life. Today I embrace who I am—all of me—the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I am grateful for all of the experiences I’ve encountered.

I realize that I was judging myself far more harshly that anyone else ever could.

I let go of the belief that I had to hide from my past.

I let go of the belief that I was “less than.”

I let go of the belief that I was not worthy.

I no longer pretend.

I share openly and, in claiming my story, it not only helps me but also helps others on their journey. It gives them the courage to share their truth, to stop hiding and start living.

Recovering perfectionist. Student of life. Woman of strength. Overcomer of obstacles. Seeker of growth. Embracer of truth. These are the descriptors I’ve added to my life story. The rich and messy truth of my past makes possible the true success of my todays.

What beliefs are you clinging to that are holding you back? Where in your life are you feeling like a fraud? What are the tough and painful lessons that you can be grateful for today when you look through this new lens of perspective?

Reflect. Journal. Dig deep and find the answers. It’s in this process—in your truth—that you will find true happiness, success, and self-acceptance. It’s where healing begins. It’s where you will find peace.

About Lanette Pottle

Lanette Pottle is the founder of the Maine-based non-profit, Positivity Nation, and is affectionately known as Positivity Lady. She is a facilitator of breakthroughs and helps women claim their dreams as reality so they can live the rich, fulfilling lives they deserve.  Learn more about her journey & work by visiting her website: www.positivitylady.com

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  • Tim

    Thank you for this post. It’s really gotten me to think in new directions. There are areas of my life where I feel like I fraud, but I’ve never stopped to think why I feel that way. You’ve given me another topic to reflect upon. Thank you.

  • Val

    It has been a long season of getting past the past for me…and not just a long holiday season. It really comes down to forgiveness of self. I have often thought I was there to find out I am not. Thanks for the article. Here’s to a happy new year!

  • Talya Price

    This was a very good read. I think we all have to accept what has happened in our past and move on. Most people on this planet are living in the past. I have made my peace with the past because I don’t want my past to influence my present and future. This all comes down to self love. I love myself 100%. To become the greatest person you can be is to love yourself. To move on from your past is to love yourself 100%. Therefore, people need to start loving themselves 100%. Thank you for the lovely article. 🙂

  • Debbie W

    I’ve found some of the smartest people have very little common sense. They may have also had similar stories as you. Our past defines who we become not who we are. You sound like a lovely person. I agree each of us has things we need to release and move on. Thank you for your story.

  • Kalypso Kent

    Your story is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing it.

  • eannel30

    I am not in a place I can do what the author did with the past as some things are too difficult to move on from……..I am working on trying to move past the things I have no control over- in my case its not being able to become a mother, a parent………now very few people have any idea how that feels and the subject is taboo…….it is also really difficult to move on from when families are everywhere and you have people telling you ‘it will happen’ or ‘you can always adopt’ like thats a solution…….any thoughts on how to ‘move on’ and ‘let go’ of your loss………….

  • Wow! So relate to this article. I grew up poor, lower social status, didn’t go to college etc etc…..and I’ve had to work hard to drop a lot of my old beliefs about myself or who I used to be…wonderful article:-)

  • Sumbul Naqvi

    Loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Lovaine Cohen

    Hi Lanette.
    You are so brave for posting this article and for sharing the beliefs you held of yourself.

    We can be so hard on ourselves and what has happened to us in our past. But that’s what it is, the past. We can learn from our experiences, good or bad, and not allow events in our past to define who we are now or what we are capable of being and accomplishing.

    It’s important to live in the present so we can become more aware of what our inner voice is telling us and pay attention to the answers that we receive so we can find the courage and strength to move forward.

    I love this quote as it sums it all up so nicely:
    “The past is history, the future is a mystery, and this moment is a gift. That is why this moment is called ‘the present.’ -Anon
    Thanks.

  • Lanette Pottle

    You nailed it, Talya! Unconditional love and acceptance of ourselves is incredibly important. By changing our perspective of the past it can actually influence our present & future in positive ways. It takes work but the payoffs are great. As painful as it was at times, there is not one thing about my past I would change. I draw strength from it all.

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thank you for your kind words, Lovaine. Sharing my story authentically — and helping others achieve personal breakthroughs as a result– has given my past a meaningful purpose. And for that I am very grateful.

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thank you, Sumbul!

  • Lanette Pottle

    Val, acceptance of ourselves is a life-long endeavor. When we let our guard down self-loathing & limiting- beliefs can wiggle their way back into our thinking no matter how much we evolve. Raising our awareness and getting in tune with ourselves to know when this is happening — and counteracting it quickly — keeps us on a healthy, productive path. Best wishes for a fulfilling 2014!

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thank you, Michelle! Glad to hear that you are doing the work… you are worth it! <3

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thank you!

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thank you, Kalypso. I’m glad to know that it provided inspiration.

  • Lanette Pottle

    We all have different strengths.”Common sense” isn’t always common…and that is something that formal education doesn’t always seem to impart. I am grateful that we can all learn and grow, regardless of where we come from.. and no matter how old we get. 🙂

  • Lanette Pottle

    I’m glad you found the article to be helpful, Tim. Wishing you well on your journey of reflection.

  • Caroline Kirk

    That’s it in a nutshell Talya, may you always have love in your life, within & without 🙂

  • Caroline Kirk

    Lanette, love your honest & courage in accepting your past, we are never truly free until we accept all of us. Working on old beliefs unlocks the current chains that hold us hostage for sure.. they’re not always evident, awareness of our repeated patterns and ongoing fears, as you have mentioned are indicators of what we need to work on, I too, never went to college, though studied lots as an adult and often felt in adequate also around those who did, I know exactly how you felt and intend to further uncover that which i need to heal to live the best life yet, as Tayla says, it all beings with self love for sure xo

  • Eric Earle

    I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wow. incredible.

  • This is beautiful, Lanette. Thank you for sharing yourself!

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thank you, Stephanie <3

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thanks for sharing your kindness Eric. I’m happy to hear my story resonated with you.

  • Lanette Pottle

    It seems we have something else in common, Caroline: We both have a love of learning and thirst for knowledge. I am definitely a life long learner. The types of people I used to try to avoid having conversations with, I now seek out. Growth and acceptance are beautiful things.

  • Martine Joseph

    Lanette, Thank you for sharing your story and soaring beyond it! I love how you’ve replaced the old labels with a new, empowering vision of yourself. You’ve presented it simply and powerfully, in a way that invites us to do the same.

  • Caroline Kirk

    For sure, I’m a lover of learning & knowledge, always will be. They sure are beautiful. 🙂

  • Wonderful piece, Lanette. To make peace is, truly, the practice of a lifetime. There is always something to judge and something to resist. There are always standards which we are not meeting. Standards which, when we focus on them, hide those that truly matter: our own. To make life a conversation, an interesting and caring conversation, between you and the world first requires the conversation between you and you to be loving, respectful, and attentive. Thank you for reminding everyone of this important truth.

  • Lanette Pottle

    Vironika, thank you for you for this beautiful response.

  • Lanette Pottle

    Thanks for your encouraging and positive feedback, Martine. I appreciate it. <3

  • Scott Carbonara

    Wonderfully said, Lanette. Reminds me of something that I have to hear each day: I “will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” But that doesn’t mean I will repeat all of it! Nicely done!

  • Lanette Pottle

    Scott, great quote! Thanks for taking time to read the article and your ongoing support. <3

  • D

    Thank you for sharing this. On a daily basis, we often don’t realise how deeply affected our everyday lives/ actions are by the burden we carry. It’s only when we pause to take a closer look that we discover, that shackles of our past never left us. It’s important to let go and embrace our true selves, only then can we grow as individuals.

  • paoquan

    I love all these articles about self forgiveness and making peace with my past.
    And I applaud those who have achieved peace.
    But I still cannot see anything that actually tells Me How to achieve peace. What real practical steps to take, not just “forgive yourself” “you’re a good person” or “be alone with yourself and learn to like/love yourself for who you are”.
    Great! So how the hell do I do this?