Letting Your Past Go Doesn't Actually Change Anything

I'm seriously bothered by this quote I keep seeing posted on Facebook. "Your past doesn't define you. Let it go." Did I mention that it seriously bothers me?

It's not that I entirely disagree with the concept behind it. It's that I find it disempowering when its intention is to be empowering. It's a message about moving forward, or so one would think; however, when we disavow our pasts, we devalue our experiences and therefore our selves. When we don't value our selves, we can't actually move forward.

What happened in your past, happened. Nothing is going to change that. What you did yesterday, you did. Nothing is going to change that. Who you were yesterday is who you were. Nothing is going to change that.

Letting the past go doesn't honor it. Regretting it doesn't honor it either. Dwelling on it doesn't honor it either.

I'm not saying we can't change. I'm not saying who we were has to be who we are. I'm not saying we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over. I'm not saying we can't change our present and our future. We can.

Let me reword that. We can change our present and our future.

We don't change by letting the past go. We change by embracing what happened in the past and who we were in the past. We change by honoring what we learned from the experiences of the past. We change by acknowledging what worked and what didn't work. We change by incorporating what worked into our lives and finding new solutions for what didn't work. Letting the past go as a whole is not a solution to anything, and it is definitely not the path to change.

We change, and that change is based on our experiences. Our experiences make up our pasts. None of us like to be judged for what we did in our pasts, but if we own our pasts we take away other people's power to pass judgment. When we own our pasts, other people's judgment about our pasts ceases to matter. We can simply say "Yes, I did that. And here's what I learned from it..."

My past is my past. I learned from it, and I evolved.

But that's just me....


  1. Yes! The phrase always bothered me, too. Who I am is the SUM of my past. I am different today because yesterday was different from the day before, birthing the me I am today. Tomorrow I will be changed as well by today - which tomorrow will be my past. Some of the change will be imitated ny me. Some by the interactions with those around me.
    And this is a good thing.

    1. Precisely, Ariel! That idea was behind my poem Evolving, but I'm sure you know that since it's the opening poem in Reflections. :-)


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