Looking at our past selves with *cringe*

Patterns often reveal themselves in psychological patterns, and it's funny how I frequently hear my clients independently describing matching experiences in their past weeks - even though they've never met each other or spoken to each other.

The current pattern I've heard from 5 different clients lately is the act of somehow reminiscing about one's past self and cringing. "Cringe" being that feeling you get when you're embarrassed or even mortified. They found their cringe moments in several different ways, from reviewing past journal notes, past documents or social media posts, to even just thinking about the things they did in the past.

And of course, this brings up negative feelings: "Look at how awful I used to be!" When looking back, people frequently feel like they were immature, silly, stupid, clueless, naive, or anything that makes them feel like they had less value in society. Socially and culturally, many of us have come to believe that a lack of value means that others will reject or abandon us. This is important, because acceptance and belonging are important for our perceptions of survival and self-worth. While it is good to actively contribute to society, many of us have been given the message that no matter what we do, our contribution will never be enough to have any kind of worthiness or value.

The current way we're taught to think is to compare ourselves to others. They seem so much more put-together, strong, efficient, and confident than we are! Maybe they're seemingly more glamourous or successful, too. But in this world of illusions, we're all putting on a show to seem "more" than what's really going on inside. You could be comparing yourself to someone who has nothing, even if it looks like they have everything.

What are we supposed to do instead? Compare our current selves to our past selves. Look how far you've come! Of course it's natural and normal to *cringe* when we think about what we used to be like - because we're so much more awesome now! And that's worth celebrating. It's not that you used to be awful; you were a totally normal human who got an upgrade through your own hard work.