You Don’t Have to Cringe at Your Past Self

Before my 25th birthday, I lived a very different life from my life now: no therapy, no knowledge of many of my emotional issues, no daily writing, moving from apartment to apartment, feeling lost, weak boundaries, low self-esteem, and full of fear.

I was naive, raw, and authentic; I grieve that self often. For a moment, I thought about the people who used to be a big part of my life and wondered what they would think of me now. The people I chose because I hated myself. The people who reflected all the insecurities, wounds, and misguided beliefs I had.

They knew such a vulnerable, honest part of me that means a great deal to me now, yet they didn’t appreciate or register any of that. They had nothing meaningful to tell me about me. There was probably one person who was emotionally compatible with me while the rest of them were as stunted as a rock.

I doubt they would read my articles, and even if they do, they wouldn’t be able to interpret my words the way I intended them. They would misunderstand me, see me in an offputting way, or have no idea how to assign value to my writing. They would say baffling things to me.

See, when I was younger, I kept expecting emotionally inept men to be intelligent and somehow “get” me. But now, I need none such validation. I give them the exact amount of expectations they deserve — zero. And they’re free to be inept and have any opinions of me because that has nothing to do with me and my life now.

To the people who found me in the dark, well, this isn’t a thank you letter. I think you should be ashamed of what you did in our relationship, but even your shame doesn’t interest me because your existence doesn’t interest me. Wow, doesn’t that sound cold?

Actually, writing this article has given me a new insight: I was in the dark for a long time, and during that time, I didn’t make any real connections with men. I objectified them. My relationships with them were about me. Even now, my thoughts about them are all in relation to me.

Maybe I should be sorry, but it’s not like I had other choices. They were just like me, and I doubt they were capable of forming a real connection with anyone then. The people who found me in the dark were also in the dark. We used each other to distract ourselves, but in the end, it was just cruel.

Now that I’m in the light — and stopped objectifying myself and other people, I find it hard to take in that those men didn’t just exist in my anxiety-ridden mind but were real people and are still real people now, having memories of me. We still live in the same universe and same lifetime, even though my old self and old life feel like a long-gone past for me.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I came across them again in real life, feeling the discrepancies between the girl they used to know and the woman I am now. I would probably cringe at first, but I know I should be indifferent because 1) there’s nothing to be ashamed of, and 2) we don’t know each other anymore. We were strangers then; we’re even more strangers now.

It’s easy to cringe at the parts of you that made questionable decisions and portrayed values that you no longer agree with. But why would you cringe when you know your reasons why — all the little and big things that led you to where you were then? Instead, you should show love and compassion. You should stand up for that girl who really just did what she knew best.

In a way, it’s a blessing to be able to cringe at your past because it means you’re not in it anymore.

Give yourself permission to be who you were and change into who you are. And give yourself permission to draw boundaries with your past and the people from your past. If you ever get reminded of the girl you used to be, let yourself cringe for a second if you must, but don’t forget the strength, courage, and effort that got you here — it’s what matters.

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