“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.” - Robert Tew
To reference one of my favorite movies (The Lion King), Pumbaa tells a young Simba, “It's times like this my buddy Timon here says: you got to put your behind in your past.” To which Timon responds, “No, no, no. Amateur. Lie down before you hurt yourself. It's ‘You got to put your past behind you.’” This hilarious advice was meant for Simba who was trying to run away from his past. He didn’t want to look back, and he didn’t necessarily want to look forward – he wanted to escape.
In life, I’ve always been taught that running away from your problems will never solve anything. You need to confront whatever it is you’re scared of or trying to escape from. But as the cliché goes, “Easier said than done,” right?
Do you ever find it funny that in movies, psychologists are always asking people about their childhood? That used to baffle me a little. How can a forty-something year old still be affected by what happened when he was eight? Time is supposed to heal those things, isn’t it? The years are supposed to wash away the pain and bring healing, or at least some kind of closure. Then I look at many of the older people in my life (thirty and forty-somethings) and I see that they are completely who they are because of what happened when they were five, eleven, twenty-five, etc. Because out of all the things we can get rid of in our life, the past will never be one of them.
The past is a mastermind, who creeps in and out of your life without you ever knowing how it came back. But, like everything, there are things out of your control and things within it. You can’t control who reenters your life, or who leaves it again. You can’t suppress those memories of something painful. But you can choose what you’ll do next, how you’ll handle it.
There is one very important rule I’ve learned to follow whenever it comes to confrontation: choose your battles. Know when to confront something or someone, and when to walk away. This rule can be applied to dealing with past issues, traumatic experiences, and people you’ve tried to forget.
When to confront it:
The truth is, your past will never go away. No matter how much you run, hide, or try to forget. If you don’t deal with your problems, they will affect your life in ways you may not see for a long time. If fear is the only reason keeping you from facing something, then that’s not a good enough reason. When something affects your life negatively, you need to acknowledge it, and then take steps to deal with it. It may never be fully dealt with, but at least you have the power to not let it take over your life.
When to walk away:
On the other hand, sometimes there are things you need to stop running from, and just walk away from. What’s the difference? The fear that keeps you on the run versus the respect you have for yourself. There are things or people from your past that are unhealthy for you now, whether you want to admit it or not. Maybe it’s some kind of an addiction, maybe it’s an old relationship. You’ve come a long way, so don’t let yourself stumble now. Or maybe there are things you just can't let go of, perhaps out of the fear of losing something or someone. Again, fear should never be a factor in your decision to move on. Respect yourself enough to keep moving forward, not to escape, but to walk to something that’s better for your life.
Whether you choose to confront it, or walk away from it, don’t ever forget it. Mixed in with that pain, trauma, and many unpleasant memories, there’s beauty, love, and happiness that should always be remembered. But you need to remember both, so that you know who you were then and who you are now; so you know what you’ve overcome, what you can handle, and what you’re capable of. Keep moving forward, but know that the past, good and bad parts, will always be moving along with you.