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Is Your Past Sabotaging Your Future?

Do You Ever Reminisce About the Past?

In light of the pandemic, many of us think about the good old days as pre-COVID. Our past experiences shape our future. They create our perception of reality. Our parents, teachers, supervisors, partners, and friends impact how we see ourselves. If we felt safe, supported, and encouraged by our parents, we are more likely to have confidence as an adult.

Self-Sabotaging Behavior

A painful marriage or an unsupportive boss can create feelings of inadequacy and shame. A history of being abandoned, earlier in life, can lead to abandoning partners and friends or lashing out when feeling emotionally vulnerable. This can lead to a string of unhealthy relationships and self-sabotaging behavior. Reflecting on past situations and mistakes as learning experiences can help us grow as individuals and recognize what we do not want in our lives. Unfortunately, for many, reflecting on painful experiences becomes a destination. It becomes difficult to move forward in life. The need to relive the past becomes overwhelming. Emotions are triggered by sites, smells, and sounds. This can lead to chronic depression and Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD).

Also Read: The Questions I Ask to Overcome Fear

Overlooking the Challenges

There is also “the grass is always greener” mentality. Before I left the corporate world, my last position was in a very toxic environment. I dreaded going to work. I was completely burned out, working 80 hours/week. Everyone was stressed. Morale was at an all-time low. I often reminisced about my former job. My former job wasn’t stressful. I had been in the position for several years and become very comfortable with my responsibilities, to the point of boredom. When I reminisced about that job I focused on the positives and overlooked the factors that caused me to search for another position in the first place. Sometimes, when we reminisce about the past, we can overlook the challenges and focus only on the good things that occurred. This is okay if we do it occasionally. When the reflection becomes a regular occurrence that only focuses on the positive, we create a false sense of reality.

Warning Signs

According to, here are some warning signs of living in the past:

  • Conversations revolve around a particular time, person, or situation.

  • You are attracted to or attract, the same type of people that cause you pain.

  • Disagreements revolve around past arguments.

  • Easily bored or frustrated.

  • Comparing your current situation to previous ones.

  • Prior trauma or painful events replay in your mind.

  • Self-sabotaging behavior.

  • Emotional triggers that cause you to think about people or situations from the past.

  • Relationships are used to fill a void or to prevent being alone with your thoughts.

  • “Waiting for the other shoe to drop” — expecting something bad to happen.

  • Feeling anxious or acting impulsively.

  • Experiencing regret over impulsive choices.

  • All or nothing thinking about new people or new experiences.

  • Avoidance of new people or new experiences.

Take Action

If your past is preventing you from finding happiness and achieving success in your life, it’s time to take action. A therapist, counselor, or coach can help identify experiences and triggers that are causing self-sabotaging behavior. Setting boundaries regarding who you spend your time with provides an opportunity to heal. Accepting the past is imperative. It can’t be changed. Accepting that the past is over, allows time to grieve and to release the pain.

Practicing mindfulness is about training the mind to stay in the present and remain calm when experiencing emotional triggers. Mindfulness can be developed through meditation and visualization exercises. Hit reset when challenges arise. We are human and imperfect beings. Let that sink in for a moment. You too are human! Be kind to yourself if you slip up, find yourself reliving the past, or revert to old behavior patterns. Talk to yourself as you would a friend or family member you’re close to.

Balance is key when working on self-improvement. It’s okay to disconnect from social media, friends, or family to focus on self-care. When we are alone, we can get to know ourselves and give ourselves the attention and love we need to stop living in the past.


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