When you are a child, you don’t learn how to walk without falling down. No one keeps bringing it up or holds it against you. It’s no secret that we all make mistakes and, maybe we want to forget them or we have learned from and grown from it.
Unfortunately, it’s not the same with the mistakes you make as an adult and no matter how different we feel inside and out, someone may choose to keep reminding us of the things we did when we were possibly selfishly unaware or simply not as educated, emotionally and physically.
Nothing pops the air in your balloon like someone forcing you to defend your past choices when you feel like you have successfully made better choices.
It makes you feel like you can’t escape the former you and all your hard work has been in vain.
Why Do People Do This?
It really depends on your relationship with the person.
If it someone you trust and who you share a fairly good relationship with, they may have a misguided belief that reminding you of your past mistakes is making you a better person. Or, they may not be able to accept that you are changing, so they continue to remind you of your past.
You also have to remember that people don’t see everything you are doing so they go on the information they have which may be an older version of yourself. And, people often judge you in the areas they want to fix themselves. When they are bringing up your past mistakes, they are often talking to themselves about the areas of their lives they think they need to improve but haven’t made progress.
If they are not someone you trust, their motives could be to embarrass or control you. Someone who doesn’t want to see you become a better person will keep reminding you of your mistakes so they can keep you feeling shame which will undermine your progress.
How Do You Stop Them from Bringing Up Your Past?
The short answer is: You Don’t.
You can’t stop people from bringing up your past mistakes. You can’t stop them from seeing you the way you used to be. You can’t stop them from putting more emphasis on your mistakes over your triumphs. They have to come to that conclusion in their own time or, possibly, never at all.
However, what is in your control is how you feel about your mistakes.
Do you judge yourself harshly for your past mistakes? Do you still feel bad about them or beat yourself up for them? Have your forgiven yourself? Do you accept them as the way you learned and a necessary part of your past?
If you can accept your past, even with the mistakes, as apart of who you are and not use them to torture yourself, then nobody can torture you with them.
It takes the power out of someone bringing it up. Without shame, they can’t control you or make you feel something that you don’t want to feel.
Does that mean it won’t be frustrating? No, it will still be frustrating that the person chooses to see the worst in you instead of the best of you. But, your detachment from it makes it their problem and not yours.
And, you will ask yourself why are you trying to defend yourself against someone committed to a version of yourself that doesn’t exist anymore instead of acknowledging the improved version of you.
What to Ask Yourself When Someone Keeps Bringing Up Your Past
Is this person someone I need to maintain a relationship with?
If it’s not, then move on and let that person live in the past since they love it so much.
Perhaps, it is a co-worker and you worked on a project together in the past where you missed a deadline and left them scrambling to cover. They won’t let you forget that you didn’t come through like you promised.
I think, sometimes in business, we forget the human component and that people bring their own emotional hangups to work with them. Perhaps that person has trust issues and you triggered them, now they forever feel like they can’t trust your word because that is how they operate in their personal life.
Acknowledge their feelings. The conversation may require you to apologize for making them feel like you could be depended on and then leaving them to finish the project. Let them know you respect their time and appreciate their assistance. Offer to assist with another project if they find themselves in an emergency. And, together figure out a way to make sure it doesn’t happen again so they can feel secure working with in the future.
It could be a romantic partner, family member or friend who continually uses your past mistakes against you even though you have made efforts to rebuild trust.
Acknowledge their feelings but also acknowledge and express your own. It is easy to get angry, shut down or just decide there is no point in trying. However, if you want to work on the relationship, you are going to have to tell them how it feels to keep being slapped in the face with your mistakes and for them to not acknowledge that you are making efforts to not be that person anymore.
If they continue to choose not to see your growth, then you have to decide if that is a relationship that is healthy for you, mentally and emotionally.
Instead of letting someone bringing up your past make you feel bad, let it empower you into deeper acceptance of yourself; help you build stronger boundaries around who you give access to your vulnerable self and allow it to teach you who should remain in your life and who you may have outgrown.
Let it serve you instead of control you.
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