My favorite show when I was younger was Sex and the City. I watched that show religiously. So much so, that even to this day, I am able to quote the series verbatim. I loved the message of the show. A world where woman had control over their own lives, talked about fashion, sex, love and friendship, and they did so without any qualms. Many people think the show only celebrates the wonders of female sexual liberation, but for me the characters were smart, well-paid women who weren't afraid to show their femininity and live life on their own terms. Guys were not the center of their world but an added blessing to the incredible life they already had. Plus who doesn't love the New York City backdrop?!
This is what I wanted and craved; a life on my own terms, whatever that meant at the time. Any opportunity to put on my self imposed Manolos, was my chance to make this my reality. Unbeknownst to me, I would get a fraction of this life style. My life use to consist of all consuming friendships, huge glamorous dreams, and the freedom to discover myself. And while that was great, it left me presently at a crossroads. Just like the characters, I woke up one day realizing that I didn't have much stability in my life. I had only accomplished a small percent of the dreams I wanted so badly. So I had to ask myself...Did I want a life solely based on the dreams of my past? Dreams from a younger self who romanticized single-hood and the importance of being too independent?
To find the answer, I took my parents up on their offer to go back home. Thinking I would surely find the answer in a environment that was the opposite of the one I came from. But all I found was a reflection of my former self and the yearning to return to the life I had before. Then something unexpected happened. I began to no longer take the extra effort to put on a pair of heels, or make sure every curl in my hair was perfect. I threw away all of the shoes that hurt my feet, even if they were cute, and I gave away all of the clothes that cut off my circulation to the Goodwill. I started reading spiritual books, and listening to enlightened teachers. I woke up early to mediate and pray. I stopped caring what happened on the E channel. I found a new focus as materialism no longer reigned supreme. And though I have improved for the better and I have gained much needed clarity, I still missed my former self. I miss the glamour and excitement of that girl. There must be some way to reconcile the two images. The one of the single city girl whose focus was on the friends she loved, the places she wanted to go, and the spontaneity of life with the enlightened, save the world, stability focused yogi. Here are some ways to not get stuck with ideas of your past self and start living in the present (and perhaps marry the two).
1. Express your feelings about the past. Often times when we are comparing our current selves to our past self, it is usually to an idealized version. Society teaches us that we must never downgrade, regress, or backtrack in our life. So if we are in a position that may appear as if we have not evolved from our past we experience fear, anxiety, and angst about our future. It is important to know that there will be times in your life when your current situation feels as though it does not compare to the glory of your past. But the reality is we often are either comparing ourselves to our perceived "peak" time, or everyone else's favorite version of us, or we are longing for an glamorized or even fictional past. When you address those feelings, start being honest about those times in your life because you just might discover that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.
2. Be positive. Maybe it's true that you use to have more friends, traveled to exotic locations, wore the best clothes. Instead of focusing on the negative, start to reassess the way you see it. You may have had tons of friends but now your attention is on the quality of friends you have versus the quantity. You might not have the trendiest clothes but you now have classic pieces you can past on to your future daughter. Look for the positive in your life. Focusing on the negative can prevent you from seeing all the many blessings that are around you.
3. Concentrate on your progress. Life is a journey, not a destination. There will never be a time when you have completely arrived. You will always have a new challenge to overcome. So celebrate your small wins in life. Give yourself credit for the things you have accomplished, conquered, learned, and experienced. You will marvel at your growth.
4. Identify what matters. In the words of Dr. Seuss, "Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Concentrate on what is affecting your life now. Discovering what is touching your life in the present will help you stay focused on what is important.
5. Have a sense of humor. So what you gained a couple pounds, you aren't going out every night, or you haven't gotten a pedicure in a year. Sometimes the best way to handle things is with a sense of amusement. Try to bring optimism, humor, and levity to any situation in life and it will make things lighter.
There is nothing wrong with appreciating your past self. Looking at the past can be a reminder of how far we've come in our journey. Just remember as American journalist Katherine Anne Porter says, “The past is never where you think you left it.”