5 ways to let go of haunting words from your past

Posted April 28

Struggling to forget “those things which are behind” is perhaps one of the most tragic things that unites the human race.

But as philosophers, scientists and religious leaders have taught, healing and beauty comes from moving on and focusing on more hope-filled futures.

Perhaps that's why Elsa’s song brought tears to children and adults alike when they first heard her sing "Let. It. Go."

Letting go of the haunting words spoken to you by important people in your past is particularly challenging. Sometimes that person in your past may even be you. Negative self-talk is just as harmful as negative words spoken to you by another person. If you allow them to, these words will eat away at the very core of what makes you, you.

I myself have allowed words to haunt me and get in the way of me blooming toward my possibilities; words like —

  • “You’re such a goody-two-shoes. That’s why I broke up with you.” (My 11-year-old crush)
  • “He’s with her, and not you, because he doesn’t think you’re smart/deep/interesting enough.” (My 14-year-old self)
  • “I can’t believe you like this song. There is no meaning behind it.” (My 15-year-old boyfriend)
  • “Eating disorders are horrible. They make it so women can’t have children. I could never be with someone like that.” (My 16-year-old boyfriend)
  • “If you quit, you’ll always regret it.” (My would-have-been varsity basketball coach)
  • “My mom found out you take antidepressants. She doesn’t think we should get engaged.” (My 20-year-old boyfriend)
  • “So many soccer moms think they can just pick up an expensive camera and be a photographer. They don’t get art.” (My photography teacher in college)
Revealing the words that have haunted me makes me extremely vulnerable — it reveals my weaknesses and shows I have let the words of men and what they think of me affect me for far too long. But I’m giving place for this vulnerability because I’m hoping by putting this into writing and letting it out into the digital sphere, I will start my journey toward letting it all go. And I hope most of all that if anyone can relate, they will find encouragement and help from some small part of this.

Here are five ways I am letting go of the haunting words of my past. Join me on my journey.

1. Love yourself first

This one is crucial because if we truly love ourselves, what other people think of us won’t affect our self-worth. There will be no need for words to follow us around like ghosts because we’ll already know who we are and know that we’re enough.

This is hard to do because humans are such social creatures and what others say so easily affects us. But with practice, letting go and loving ourselves is possible.

Simple things like telling yourself what you love about yourself, forgiving yourself of past mistakes, quitting the shaming process for mistakes you’ll yet make, being grateful for who you are today, giving yourself a break and loving others can slowly begin to change negative neural pathways.

2. Try something new

If you haven’t already, watch Matt Cutts’ less-than-four-minutes TED Talk. In it he talks about the benefits of trying something new for 30 days. “You can do anything,” he remarks, “for 30 days.”

What is something you’ve always wanted to try that the haunting words from your past have held you back from doing? Do that one thing. Try it for only 30 days. This will instill confidence and belief in yourself.

Trying new things opens up your mind to the awareness and appreciation of newness, the hope the present and future bring and your ability to carve out the life you’ve always dreamed of.

3. Practice mindfulness

Psychology Today states, “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

What better way to let go of a haunting past than to live fully and completely aware in the present?

One of the best ways I’ve found success in doing this is to cultivate gratitude in moments of fear, anxiety, nostalgia or regret. When you take a moment — in almost a state of Zen — to feel gratitude, fear and other negative vibes dispel.

Practicing yoga, meditation and anything that gets your parasympathetic nervous system working helps you live a mindful life.

4. Get outside

There’s a connectedness in nature you can't find anywhere else.

I have found that simply getting outside of the apartment to walk the dog, looking up at the sapphire sky and feeling the sun tickle the hairs on my arms is enough to get me thinking outside of myself.

When we let our pasts follow us around, we are doing one thing extremely well: focusing on ourselves. By getting outside and seeing the world around us, we broaden our perspectives and strengthen feelings of thankfulness.

5. Focus on present relationships and gleaming futures

Lastly, we must do as St. Paul urges us to do — we must reach “forth unto those things which are before.”

As tempting as it is to bathe ourselves with twinkling memories of the past, the more healthy thing to do is look toward glimmering cascades ahead. Focus on the beautiful people you have in your life now and the wonderful adventures that await you in your future. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, because look at what you have in front of you now.

Alexandra Crafton is possibilitarian, creative writer, editor, boarder, photographer, and believer in Christ. Get to know her more by visiting her website.


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