Why You Shouldn’t Beat Yourself Up Over Something from the Past

I’ll be the first person to admit that I’ve done things in the past I’m not proud of.  I think most people can say that.  Even if you always try to be a good person, you can end up doing something bad once in a while.

Sometimes it’s hard to look back on those past actions and rationalize them away.  They can stick in your mind and make you feel bad.

But you can’t beat yourself up over them.  Sometimes you just have to accept the things you’ve done and move on.  Just because you did some bad things in the past doesn’t make you a bad person.

Beating Yourself Up Over the Past

We all have something in the past we wish we could change.  Decisions were made and at some point you did something you otherwise wouldn’t have done.

Perhaps you treated someone terribly.

Maybe you stole something from someone.

Or you just said something to someone that hurt them.

Whatever it is, you wish you could go back in time to do it all over again.  But of course that’s impossible.  Things that happened in the past are there forever and you have to live with your choices.

Some people have a hard time letting go.  They beat themselves up for those decisions and keep saying how they should have known better.

Yet that’s destructive thinking.  You can’t keep reminding yourself how bad you are for something that happened a long time ago.  All you’ll do is descend into the darker areas of self-loathing.

It’s time to move on.  It’s time to start telling yourself that doing something bad doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.

If something from the past is eating you up inside, you have to realize three things:

1. Everyone has done something bad at one point

No one is perfect.  Making mistakes is part of the human experience.  So that means you’ll eventually do something you’ll regret.

But mistakes don’t make you a bad person and you shouldn’t criticize yourself too harshly for it.

Instead of feeling bad and focusing too much on yourself, you should look to what others have done.  Everyone is dealing with something from the past just like you.

Once you realize that everyone has something in the past they wish they could change too, it makes you feel normal.  You realize it’s a part of life.  You can’t be too hard on yourself when it’s something everyone experiences.

2. You’re not the same person as you were back then

Looking back on the something bad from the past with regret means you’ve changed as a person.  It means you wouldn’t do the same thing again.  You’ve grown.

That’s something you should feel good about.

It’s those people who’ve done bad things in the past and feel no remorse at all that should feel bad.  Not you.

Regret is a sign that at some point, you’ve learned a lesson.  It’s a sign that you’ve worked on yourself as a person and turned into a better person.  If faced with the same decision now, things would be different.

You can’t be mad at yourself for a decision you made in the past.  After all, the person who did it isn’t the same person you are today.

3. You’ve learned from your choices

Mistakes are great learning opportunities.  That goes for the really bad ones too.

Instead of looking back on something and feel bad about it, you should see it as a great learning opportunity.  If you learned something, some good did come out of it.

Many bad choices help shape the person you are today.  Learning from them can influence your personality and development.  That’s a good thing.

Even if you don’t think you learned something from your decision, you still can.  It’s never too late to learn from a mistake.  Instead of feeling bad about it, think of it as an opportunity to reflect and learn.

Getting Good From Bad

There’s not much you can do to prevent doing bad things.  No one comes out of life without making a terrible mistake or two.

What you can do is control how you see your events from the past.  You can feel bad about them or learn and move on.  Since you can’t change the past, you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any good by feeling bad now.

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, self-improvement and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest by following him on Facebook and Twitter.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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