There is something romantic about the good ‘ol days. Waxing nostalgic releases endorphins that not only make us feel better about our past, but seemingly protects us from the crap we dealt with back then. Quickly, everything in the rearview mirror looks peachy. But if we’re being honest, would you really want to go back to high school or freshman year of college?
I used to wear a necklace a family friend gave me that said “carpe diem.” At the time, “seize the day” was my personal reminder to live with no regrets. The 21-year-old version of myself had a vastly different interpretation of what that meant compared to the woman I am today.
So, did I have any regrets? Of course. Probably more than I want to remember largely in part to wanting to seize the day without enough forethought of who I was or who I wanted to be. But those regrets are the ones I have brushed aside and used as learning experiences or the building blocks for learning the experiences. (No doubt you learn from mistakes, but candidly, sometimes you have to make those mistakes a few times before the lesson actually presents itself.) It’s easy to look back at those seemingly stress-free times and want to rewind. We fall into the trap of thinking we were somehow better at a younger age. That we missed the mark of developing into someone awesome, so we want to get back to the point where we let that opportunity go.
As it turns out, when we blur the past and bend memories into how good things were, or how good we used to be, we end up shining a spotlight on every current wrinkle in our armor—or makeup.
Why do we do this? Life is crazy. How many times have you thought “I used to think I was busy when... “
I remember I thought I was busy in college, then in my first career, then during law school, then as a lawyer, then with one kid. Now with two kiddos and two start-ups I realize it’s all about perspective. And each person’s perspective is their reality. A friend of mine has a successful business and seven kids. Who am I to be overwhelmed? The truth is his life is full—and so is mine even though I have five more open seats in my car.
Back to my lie. It’s a lie I think I share with many women, single, married, or part of the mom-pack. My lie is that I’m never good enough and that an earlier version of me was better. If you ask most women to pick a time they wish they could “go back to” many of us will identify a period in life when we had the body we wish we still occupied. Superficial?—you bet. But if we’re honest, we look back at pictures from yesteryears and sigh.
Here’s the problem. My husband tells me constantly that I’m improving with age. Mentally, emotionally, physically, etc. He says every day I’m the new best version of myself. But I ignore him. Because I see imperfection. He sees that he married up (his words—not mine) as he gets the benefit of an appreciating asset. I, of course see something more analogous to depreciating value. Why is that? Why do I —-why do we—do that to ourselves regardless of what age we are?
I am my own worst enemy.
When I was 21, I didn’t have a positive image of myself either. Or positive enough self-worth. So I guess you can say I may have missed out because my confidence held me back. It held me back from aggressively pursuing jobs, positions, and opportunities that others wouldn’t hesitate to thrust themselves into. It held me back from spending time working on my personal development because I was focused in all the wrong places. (It also held me back from wearing outfits I would die to wear today. But I digress).
When I was 28, same thing. And so on into my 30’s.
This is a vicious cycle on repeat. With each new phase of my life—from new careers to becoming a mom to moving into a new environment—it comes back and I find myself reminiscing and thinking more highly of the younger version of myself.
Here’s the truth. You’re as good as you once were. In fact, you’re better. We need to stop selling ourselves short.
Do I wish I could jump into a bikini and look like I did in my twenties? Who doesn’t! But I wouldn’t trade it for the self-identified “flaws” that come with growing up, becoming a parent, venturing through a career, or all the other aspects of living (both good and bad) that have affected my physical and emotional makeup.
We need to stop trying to hide the bad and only show the good. We all have a dark side. We all have imperfections. We all have something holding us back from being at peace. What are we hiding from?
If I’m regretting not pursuing more (or wearing less) six years ago, won’t I have new regrets six years from now? Longing for 2016? I don’t need the good ol’ days because these are the good ol’ days. I can’t keep playing it safe. I can’t keep doubting myself or assuming a certain level of success or accomplishment is for others. What do you want and how do you achieve it? There’s arguably always a path to make yourself better. If you want to wear those short shorts again eat less carbs and do more squats. If you want to rise and accomplish what others don’t or you haven’t, you’ve got to really seize the day—and not in the “make it to every fraternity party way”—but by grinding it out. By taking risks.
Don’t worry about failure or being embarrassed or that you’ll be exposed for falling short. And don’t assume you would have been better six years ago or sixteen years ago. Time to live in the present. Today is great because you’re going to do it. So, seize the day and focus on who you want to be now.
Keep digging ladies!