Healing From Your Past
Welcome to week one of the six-week series for learning how to overcome insecurity and gain confidence in a world that is constantly telling us we are not enough. This series is for those of you who struggle with insecurity, self-worth, and the symptoms that come along with that like depression, jealousy, anxiety and not experiencing joy or peace in your life. I am not a licensed counselor or psychologist. This series is advice from my personal experiences while adding inspiring stories from a few other women. I do not claim to know everything and would love to be held accountable if there is something you see wrong in what I am saying. Feel free to email me personally, and we can discuss it further.
I struggle with insecurity on a daily basis, so I’m not coming from a place of “I have overcome this," but rather because I know how detrimental it can be I can say, “I am doing something about this.” I also come from a place of wanting to help other women know what to do with those emotions that are evoked from our past. When these things were and are applied to my life, it has helped me to see myself how I was meant to be seen.
Before we begin, you should know that this advice is based on my faith in God. If you do not believe in God, I think you can also learn something here as these aren’t only spiritual steps, but practical things that can help everyone, whether you believe in God or not. That being said, let’s dive in! I hope you can learn something. Feel free to email me or comment and let me know if there is something specific that you might want to know from me. It may be helpful to print this out so you can keep it in your journal, or someplace you can have it handy and always refer to.
What is insecurity and why is one prone to struggling with it more than another?
Insecurity – uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence.
We are all susceptible to feeling insecure, but there are those of us who struggle with it more often than others. Why? Is it because we were raised a certain way? Is it because of our past and current circumstances? Maybe it’s because we have done it to ourselves by continually believing lies. I believe it is a combination of all of those things. Let’s start with the past.
Healing from your past
Our past is part of what makes us who we are, but it shouldn’t define us. We still have a choice in our present to not let the negative things from our past continue to steal our peace and joy. If you have had trauma or abuse in any way that you haven’t healed from, or if you struggle with suicidal thoughts and have not sought professional help, please do that. Call 911, a counselor, or someone you trust to help you work through those things, especially before you begin this series. Reading this article can assist you in your journey, but if you are at a place right now where you are feeling hopeless, please go and find help. It is nothing to be ignored or shoved down. Your feelings are valid, and it is best to deal with them in a healthy environment where you feel safe.
That being said, yes we have a choice, but it may sometimes take the help of someone else or even medication to bring us to that point. Only a professional will know, so again, please see one if you are severely struggling.
It is essential you go through this series in a healthy headspace; otherwise, it could be counterproductive and cause you to sink deeper.
So, back to our past. Right now, you have a choice to stop letting your negative past dictate your joy, happiness, and peace in the present. How do we do that? Let’s do a little project.
Identifying excess baggage
This will be your part in taking action to identify the things that might still be affecting you from your past. Do this when you have a quiet moment by yourself as to eliminate distractions. Write down in a journal or a piece of paper and answer these few questions. Remember, the goal here is to identify things that are causing you to feel insecure about yourself. If you believe in God, I would encourage you to first pray and ask for him to show you what could be hidden deep inside that you aren’t aware of. It is important to be as specific as possible.
1. Is there something that has happened in relation to how you look or who you are from your past that has caused insecurity in your life, such as being bullied for made fun of for a certain physical feature? Try and dig deep to name those things, the people who did them, and how it made you feel.
2. Was your family environment a place you felt safe and comfortable to be yourself in? If not, express how you couldn’t be yourself and how that made you feel.
3. If applicable, has your past experiences with being abused, molested or raped caused you to think less of yourself?
4. Is there a specific hurt or wound inflicted on you from someone you care about, like them having an affair, or being emotionally or physically abusive? Write down those hurts and how they make you feel.
5. Do you think that your past has caused you to become insecure about yourself? If so, why?
6. How often do you find yourself dwelling on the past, reliving pain someone has caused you or thinking about something someone has said about your physical appearance? Write it down, if you know, to the times/day and days/week.
7. How do you see yourself physically? Do you see yourself as someone described by someone else who has hurt you from your past? For example, someone from high school made fun of me and said I had a big nose. To this day, I still struggle with thinking that there is something wrong with my nose. Before that point, I thought my nose was just fine. Write down any negative ways you see yourself because of someone else’s hurtful words.
8. Do you see yourself as less than (beauty, talent, smarts) others? In what ways?
Okay, now that you have identified some things from your past write down anything else that may be hindering you from seeing yourself in a positive light.
Now, I want to share a story of a woman that who inspired me a few months back. I was having one of those days where nothing looked right, felt right, fit right. I was sinking, and fast, into the thoughts that align with thinking I am not good enough.
I opened up Facebook and caught sight of a video with the headline “She Was Named the Ugliest Woman Alive.” I was immediately overcome with so many feelings that I can’t even begin to describe. This woman was born with a rare condition that keeps her from gaining weight, no matter how much she eats. It causes her to look different from the “norm,” and why she was named the ugliest woman alive. Her parents instilled in her a belief that she was perfect and there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. She believed it until she was met with relentless bullying of others at school. Today she is known for her optimism when staring cruelty in the face and has become a motivational speaker and advocate for anti-bullying. Her book, Lizzie Beautiful: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, as well as a few others, tell her story and how her faith has brought her through to where she is today. I encourage you to search for her on YouTube and watch what she has to say.
This is a strong woman, and in the direst of circumstances, she has decided to believe what God thinks about her is true, instead of what the world does. She is a beautiful example of what it means to live a full and joyous life, in spite of your circumstances and someone we can all learn from. Her past does not define her. Hurtful words do not define her. She is defined by her identity in her creator, because in his eyes she is perfect. In his eyes, you are perfect, just the way you are. Your flaws, your mistakes you’ve made, your past, present, and future. In his eyes, nothing will change the way he thinks about you. Isn’t that incredible?
My belief in God has a lot to do with the next steps of healing from your past. Look at these steps however you would like, and apply them how you see fit. If you’re wanting to know more about God and his love for you, email me privately and I would love to try and answer any questions you might have.
Wouldn’t it be great to be free of our insecurity, fear, and everything that stems from that? I believe you can. It’s probably nothing that will ever go away completely, but you can do what it takes to take those feelings and filter them healthily so that you are no longer shackled by them.
So how do we begin to believe that for ourselves? How do we heal from our past to live in the present and trust God for our future (mother's wisdom)? Let's take a look at what you’ve written down and see if we can work through some of those things that are holding you back.
Healing from your past through forgiveness
Take those questions you answered earlier. Now make another list and start with number one again.
1. Whatever you wrote down, it’s time to try and forgive. Forgive the person who has hurt you. Say it out loud or write it down. Who they are, what they have done, even if they never asked for forgiveness, and choose to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice that is sometimes accompanied by "feeling like it," but most likely you won’t feel like doing it. With time those feelings will start to align with that very conscious choice. It will no longer have power over you. If you are living in unforgiveness of someone, you give them the upper hand. It is hurting you more than anyone else.
2. If you have written something here, I believe this is one of the most important steps. If you have tried to live your life trying to be someone you aren’t, or trying to please your parents, siblings, or friends, then this could be a huge step in overcoming insecurity as it is deep-rooted and practiced since childhood. Someone I know has been very damaged by his relationship with his father. He always lived to please his dad, but in return, he never received approval for those things from him. This had left him scarred and insecure, not sure of who he is until he was able to FORGIVE and let that hold on him go. After forgiving his father, he was able to live in freedom, knowing he wasn’t accomplishing something just to please his dad. Forgiveness is again a vital part of healing and it is also important to see that what you do, you do it for the right reasons. For me, this is striving to live my life to glorify God and no one else. When I look at my life this way, it takes the pressure off to just be myself and live to please God. Not in a condemning be perfect kind of way, but because He loves me so much, I desire to love Him back. I know that even if I screw up, he will still love me and be pleased with me. In many cases, our desire to please our parents is the same, but our parents aren’t able to be perfect either. In essence, you are placing too much weight on yourself and your parent/s, or anyone else, to make you feel worthy. This can go for a husband/wife relationship as well.
3. It's the best idea to seek professional help on this one if it's something you have been through. A woman I know was molested when she was young. She didn’t find out that it had happened until later in her life because of those memories surfacing. The process of healing was her being able to forgive the person that did that to her. Once again here, forgiveness is a big step to healing from even the most grievous of circumstances. Most likely your abuser will have never asked for forgiveness, but it will release you from your anger when you make that choice to forgive. Say it out loud or write it down. It is helpful in those moments when you feel that hurt rise up again.
4. This is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in marriage, and it is also wise to seek counsel from an outside source, if not for both of you, then just for you. Many of you are still enduring it and are reminded of it day after day. If your spouse has had an affair, emotional or physical, it can be a detrimental blow to your confidence. Now that you have written those wounds down, forgiveness will play a huge role here as well. The most important step in overcoming your insecurity in this realm is to forgive. It will most likely come up again in feelings you can’t control which cause you to sink, but with time healing will begin and those moments will become less and less. Now, I want you to look at what you have written for this number, and put a big x through it. Next to it write, “Forgiven.” Leave the past in the past, and forgive even if not asked, because ultimately you are hurting yourself if you don’t. There is something about seeing that big X through it that will remind you that this person no longer has a grip on you. When those thoughts come up in your mind that you weren’t enough, practice turning those thoughts into ones that are true. Now I want you to make a list of all of the things you love about yourself. If you can’t think of anything because you are so hurt, then ask a friend or family member you trust to help you see those things and write them out. You can also look at these scripture verses that help you see yourself the way God see’s you. 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:24, Ephesians 2:8, Matthew 5:14, Phillippians 2:15, Matthew 5:13, Romans 8:37, 1 Peter 2:9, John 15:16, Proverbs 18:21., and all of Psalm 139.
5. Whatever you wrote here is probably the biggest reason as to why you are insecure. If you pray, then pray about it. Ask God to release you from this bondage and begin to understand why you think and feel the way you do. It was never his intention for you to feel this way. Ask him to help you see yourself the way that he sees you.
6. This question will reveal to you just how much time it is you think about your insecurity. Try and tally that number up to know how many hours in a week you spend thinking about it. Sometimes becoming aware of how much time is spent dwelling on these things, you will become aware of the damage it can do, not only to your family who needs you but also to yourself. Don’t let this make you feel guilty or shamed. You are human and it’s completely normal. Just be aware and use it to help you make a change in your thought processes. I wrote an article about what negative thoughts do to the physical makeup of our brains. I referred to a woman, Dr. Caroline Leaf, who wrote a book called Switch on Your Brain. The more negative thoughts we have, the more we damage our brain and the harder it is to come back from it. Positive thoughts heal your brain and you can actually reverse the damage done. I don’t agree with everything she says, but it’s very informative and helpful to know that when you think a negative thought you are ultimately damaging your brain.
7. So now you have dug a little deeper into how you think about yourself. Now, lets try and change that. From all of the things you have learned here, make a list. Name it “I am no longer a slave to insecurity and self doubt.” In this list I want you to include the names of the people you have forgiven and the ones you aren't able to yet. Write them down and if you have forgiven that person, write “forgiven” next to their name. Now write down from what you have discovered here all of the things you love about yourself. Your qualities, how God sees you, and who you want to become. Be specific. Write down your physical qualities that you love, your character qualities, your talents, your ambitions and passions. It is all apart of you, and it’s important to be aware of your beauty and the things you have to offer this world.
8. If you compare yourself to others, then you are a part of 95% of the population. Most people do it, but that still doesn’t make it right. It only fuels that self doubt. So instead of comparing yourself, start thanking God. When a thought like that pops up, replace it with one that is true. For example, you have a thought like, ‘I wish my hair were as thick and long as hers.’ Replace it with. ‘Thank you, God, that you have made me beautiful just the way I am.’
Whenever we are putting off bad habits, thoughts, beliefs about ourselves, we then need something to replace it with. It’s not completing the whole task when we just try and forget something and put it in the past; we need to take another step in forgiveness and then put on truth, leaving the past in the past for good. Now that you have your plan written out, you can refer back to it. On the days you are feeling defeated, unworthy and insecure, go back to this list and remember who you are. The past is behind you and it will do you no good in reliving it. I guarantee, it will come up in your mind again, but now that you have some guidelines and truths written out, you can, with practice, begin to heal and put your past where it belongs. I am still on this journey, but I am living proof that the more you apply these things to your life, the more success you will have in healing. If you do nothing, you will be stuck in a reality that once was, and it’s possible that bitterness and resentment will rule your life. It's never too late to heal from your past.