We all have scars from our past.
Whether it was something someone else did to you, a mistake of your own doing, or something else altogether, some events leave a mark on us and, no matter what we do, that mark leaves a lasting impression on the rest of our life.
But that impression doesn’t have to be negative. You can use your past as a source of confidence, knowing that you won’t make those same mistakes or be affected quite the same way by those same experiences because you’ve learned from them.
The past has infinite value if one learns from it.
– Ken Hensley
I know, it’s easier said than done. Your past holds a pain that’s difficult to reflect on.
However, your past experiences always hold within them the potential to make you better, even if the experience wasn’t originally through any fault of your own.
Each experience is different, offering the opportunity to become better in a unique way, so it’s important to look at each experience in the right light to take the most from it. If you can do that, you can use your past to rewrite your future and become a happier, stronger, and more successful person.
Below are a few of types of impactful experiences we encounter in life, along with tips for turning them into a source of confidence that allows you to take control of your destiny:
You believed, or trusted, too easily (and were hurt as a result)
I know a lot of people who are way too gullible. They believe infomercials, sketchy articles, and slick salespeople.
Most of us aren’t like that. However, it’s still easy to be fooled if you’re not careful (and, sometimes, even if you are). Most commonly, by a sly crush who was great at wooing you but never really cared about you, an organization that promises opportunities but was actually on the downturn, or an acquaintance that seemed trustworthy but ended up being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The examples are endless.
How to use it:
Look for facts, authority, proof, and acts of trust. But most importantly, look for signs of good character in the people you interact with before placing your trust in them, whether it’s buying a home, doing business, entrusting someone with something dear to you, or getting serious with someone you like.
Ultimately, it’s impossible to know for sure whether someone is trustworthy. However, by learning to judge people based on their character and other signs of trustworthiness, you can greatly reduce the likelihood that you’ll be hurt in the same way again.
By developing ways to gauge trust and believability in things, you’ll gain confidence in your future decisions and place the power back in your hands.
You took something for granted
We take things for granted all the time.
Often, these moments encompass the greatest lessons we learn throughout our entire life. They’re also the source of our biggest regrets.
- A job opportunity you didn’t take seriously
- A partner or other relationship you didn’t appreciate
- A period of your life or situation you didn’t fully utilize
- Something else which you’ve lost and can never get back
How to use it:
While it’s difficult to admit that you’re at fault (whether you understood what you were doing at the time or not), only a few experiences in life can motivate us more than realizing you took something for granted.
You need to be careful not to get stuck in a perpetual loop of self-blame, though. It’s natural to beat yourself up over the situation and reflect on it for a time. And it’s better to identify and feel these emotions rather than try to push them down and act like they’re not there, as that will only cause you more pain. So, take however much time you need.
However, once you’ve given yourself a bit of time to let these emotions run their course naturally, you need to pick yourself up and move forward.
Use the situation as motivation to become the kind of person that never takes anything for granted. Let your past become your strength and wield it as a kind of badge, a reminder of what can happen when you don’t take responsibility for our own actions. In this, find the confidence to live fearlessly and without regret.
Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could’ve done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman – you’re perfect!
– Coach Gary Gaines, Friday Night Lights
Someone, or something, hurt you directly
Whether we placed our trust in someone and they betrayed that trust, despite them never showing any signs of unfaithfulness or distrust, or some unpredictable and unavoidable outside event such as a natural disaster occurred, some things are simply out of our control despite our best efforts.
How to use it:
These are easily the most difficult situations to come to terms with. However, while difficult, the path to dealing with them is very simple and straightforward.
Much of the pain we experience in life is tied to our expectations. When a curveball hits us, it’s often– at least in part– the fact that we expected life to continue on unchanged that really causes us great pain.
This is often the result of living too much in the future, pushing and pulling to have the world conform to what we want it to be. It’s important to have goals and a vision for the future, but you need to learn to root yourself more firmly in the present to appreciate your life and find joy in each moment as well as navigate challenges as they arise.
The more you’re rooted in the present, living life one moment at a time, the more you’ll find yourself able to adapt to these unexpected events as they arise (a skill most easily developed with mindfulness practice).
They’ll still hurt like hell, but over the long run, you’ll notice a huge difference in your ability to adapt more quickly and move on more effectively.
Like a tree whose roots have stretched deep into the Earth, when you see that you have the ability to weather any storm with grace and poise, you gain a confidence that no one can take from you.