I’ve recently entered a new relationship and am feeling really hopeful about it.
There are things I’ve done in my past, however, that I’m not totally proud of. Should I share or just move on and hope that none of it comes back to haunt me?
~ Romantic with a past
There is a question I pose to my clients to point out how painful secrets can be: “What is the greatest secret in life?”
The answer is that there is no secret, because secrets bind us to shame and shame lowers our self-esteem. You are not the first person to question your worthiness because of what you’ve done in your past.
It is important to process these secrets with a certified professional who can hold a neutral space for you, free of judgment and harsh criticisms. In collaboration with that individual, you can determine what needs to be shared with your new partner and what is irrelevant to your current situation.
You will feel a sense of relief and freedom by sharing with a therapist, which will help you move forward with a clearer conscience.
Personally speaking, as a child of an alcoholic, I developed a habit of lying and keeping secrets as a coping mechanism to deal with my shame. In therapy as a young adult, I was advised to express my truth to people in my life. So off I went, determined to be myself and clean the slate. I quickly realized this landslide of truth-telling actually brought more turmoil into my life than good because I had swung the pendulum so far in the other direction.
My therapist helped me moderate my sharing so I revealed the important stuff without bombarding my inner circle with unnecessary and potentially harmful details.
We all have a past, which does not have to determine who we are today. I believe that the fewer secrets we have, the richer our relationships will be.
There is a great quote from Zig Ziglar: “Don’t judge me by my past, I don’t live there anymore.”
In every moment, we’re all doing the best we can with the skills and awareness we have at the time. As time goes on and we inevitably change, so does our perspective. With that different perspective, we have two options:
We can look back on our life choices with regret and hurt ourselves with our judgments, or we can view our past as an essential part of our growth and maturity and use it as fertile soil for our future dreams.
It’s pretty obvious which is the healthiest choice, but it’s not always easy to cut ourselves the slack we need to move on with self-respect.
So many of us mistakenly believe we need to be perfect in life, the whole way through. This is impossible.
The reality is that we’ve all made unhealthy choices at some point in our lives, and woken up the next day (or whenever it is that awareness strikes) asking ourselves, “What the heck was I thinking?” I bet that your new partner has some skeletons in their closet they’re afraid to share with you.
In my early years of teaching school and then yoga, I would often overwhelm myself with expectations of who I thought I should be in leadership roles. This Oscar Wilde quote reassured my inner voice of doubt and enabled me to serve my people: “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
Please remember, dear one, that everyone indeed has a past, and everyone, including you, has a bright future, so long as you frame your past in the right way. Use your past to inform your life, not limit your life.
Blair Abbass and Jenny Kierstead are certified therapists, award-winning educators and partners in life and business. They are the co-founders of Breathing Space Yoga Studio/Teacher Training, Yoga in Schools and Girl on Fire. They have been married for 17 years, but who’s counting?