Letting Go of Old Ways
You call it spring-cleaning. You clean your closets, your pantries, and your garage. You scour your linens, shampoo your carpets, and scrub your windows. You like things to be clean. But when it comes to cleaning the cobwebs and badly blemished mirrors of your own mind, you are less likely to do so. You allow dirty self-criticism, stained images, and soiled decisions to linger for years and years, sometimes until it is nearly impossible to clear them away. Healthy self-esteem enjoys a home that is cleaned of our polluted past decisions and actions.
Why is it so hard to move beyond what you have thought about yourself for years? Why is it so hard to believe that you can, and have, changed? The primary reason is repetition. You have heard the same old song in your mind for so long that you have come to believe the lyrics about yourself. Sometimes, you even catch yourself (you negative self-talk) remembering things that you said about yourself in high school.
How can that be? How can you still remember what you thought about yourself 25 years ago and you have trouble remembering what you ate for dinner last night? Again, repetition is the answer. The truth is, you have never let go of your past negative self-talk. You have given it safe harbor in the back of your mind and it knows exactly when to appear.
“The voice” appears when you are afraid. It appears when you are sad, depressed, and lonely. It stalks you when you have faced a challenge unsuccessfully. It comes around like an old acquaintance that you'd just as soon never see again. But, because you never had the courage to tell it to leave, it continues to come back and remind you of all the negative things you believe about yourself.
This voice makes it difficult to move past decisions that you made long ago. This voice embodies what Robert Frost wrote almost 100 years ago: “And nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.” Given the chance to survive, this voice is incapacitating.
“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
— Anais Nin
For healthy self-esteem, you must move toward a state of self-forgiveness. You must move toward eradicating the negative voice that lives in you. You must work on the optimistic part of your soul that says, “Look only at the goodness you have. Look only at the joy you give. Look only at the work you do. Look only at the love you share. For once, look only at the harvest and not the loss.”