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.

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

  1. mercedes says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    thanks for this article

  3. EL says:

    Thanks for this, I have been struggling for some months with my guilt and the thought I am an awful person.

  4. Anony says:

    This helped because for the path month till now I have felt bad about a lot of things I did even though I was a child when I did it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Much needed! I have been feeling really guilty about something I did awhile back and recently and I hadnt known how to deal with it

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been searching the Internet for anything that’ll help me feel relief and finally this did it. I know the anxiety will come back, but if I keep reading this and reminding myself of these key points, maybe I can get by. Wish I can talk to people who feel the same way. Such a big world. So lonely. But thank you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Reading this and others comments does really help. Story of my life and my demon is alcohol. Without it in a lovely person would do anything for anyone.keep myself to myself . Like Friday night i drank too much and showed myself up in my home town. Anti depressants,shots,,beer don’t mix very well. Haven’t stopped crying since. Wish I could run away and start a new life. I’ve apologised to the person who owns the pub but feel so so bad inside. Could scream!! want to up and move but can’t.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thank You

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the help

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so so much I’ve been dealing with this alot lately and this article helped

  11. vic treasure says:

    thanks it really helped

  12. Micheal haines says:

    Thank you for this article it has been really helpful, I am glad I am not the only one who have done something bad in the past,I feel a lot more relief. I will not beat myself up anymore over my past I will just keep moving forward, I know I can’t get over it right a way, but everything takes time and it will just be nothing but a memory.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been dealing with guilt for months and this does help. I’m not that person anymore and my intentions were good but impulsive. Im still scared of the consequences though. And for the person I have hurt.

  14. Anonymous says:


  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you I have done some bad things in the past when I was a child like awfull things and its caused me bad anxiety and depression for the last 3 years and finally this year I think I may be starting to somewhat accept it and move on so thank you, and to the people who read this and have done bad things in the past aswell your not alone.

  16. Charlotte says:

    Thank you so much for this when I was little I did this thing that I would think was worse than murder in my mind and I still worry about it today even though I was only 7,8 or 9 I can’t really remember and so anyone out there who have done something stupid with a boy when you were little your not alone everyone makes mistakes and I know it is hard to get over them but Sometimes you just have to think there is nothing you can do to change it or do anything about it you may have some days where you just feel this heavy bag on your shoulders and other days you feel fine and that is not the only stupid thing I’ve done wrong when I was that age but I would never do anything like that again now like it says in the article you are a different person now and way more sensible then I used to be please remember other readers you are not alone! Xx

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