You’re More Than What Happened to You

For anyone who’s had it rough

One day, something just clicked in me. I realized what I was doing — blaming everything bad in my life on someone who’d hurt me a long time ago. It was holding me back.

So I decided to stop.

Your troubled past only matters so much. You could have the greatest reasons in the world for winding up broke, alone, and miserable. What matters is whether you can do something about it. Only you know that. Only you know how you get through the pain and live your life.

You’re more than what happened to you.

Your history makes you, but…

We love the idea of self-determination and free will. But to get there, you have to accept the opposite premise. We’re influenced by all kinds of things beyond our control — even beyond our awareness.

You’re the product of everything that’s happened to you, including bad experiences. Trauma shapes your habits and expectations.

And abuse can lead to toxic ones.

If you had a deadbeat dad or a borderline mom, you’re going to keep seeking out those relationships. You’re going to keep letting in the wrong types of people. If you grew up in an angry household, that probably explains why you keep losing your temper so easily.

You can live a long, decent life as a functional victim. You can drag through decades expecting slightly less, assuming you’re just not meant for certain things like love and fulfillment. Or you can dive into your personal tragedy and all the self-deceptions it bred.

You can be so much more

The memories of your pain aren’t for anyone else but you. The point of telling your story isn’t to wrack up sympathy points.

Your story is how you get stronger.

Let’s say you got yelled at every time you asked for something growing up. Maybe your parents used you to keep secrets from each other. Maybe they called you names and made fun of you.

That kind of pain doesn’t just fade.

It burrows. It makes you feel unworthy of everything, like you don’t deserve to be paid well for hard work, or listened to at meetings, or treated well by your friends — or anyone else. When you ignore your past, that’s how much power you’re giving it.

You have to read your sad story, and write a different one. Become someone who does speak up at meetings, someone who demands their value, someone who ends toxic relationships. You’re not the one who was robbed of their future. You’re the one who climbed out of their own wreckage, and did something nobody expected.

Your past is your codex

You think memories float up randomly. But there’s always a reason. Your brain is reminding you why you are a certain way.

Your past is your codex.

You shouldn’t want to forget your pain, or get rid of it. Erasing those memories won’t do you any good. Take it from anyone who hid from their past and tricked themselves into thinking they were all better. You’ll keep making the same mistakes, you just won’t know why.

Stop giving power to your ghosts

Someone who hurts you doesn’t have to die to become a ghost. They just have to leave. What they did to you remains.

Blaming them doesn’t help. It makes them stronger.

A good excuse is still just that — an excuse.

An excuse is a reason not to do something. It’s a reason to stay the same, and avoid your problems. Every time you blame your mediocre life on someone, you’re helping them and hurting yourself.

You’re turning a ghost into a god.

The pain you lived through might make you act a certain way or believe a certain set of lies about your potential. You don’t have to accept that version of yourself. You can choose to act differently.

You can call yourself out.

A simple strategy to expel your ghosts

This one involves a journal, or at least a notepad.

  1. Write down something you want (to do).
  2. Write down what’s stopping you.
  3. Trace the cause as far back as you can.
  4. Ask what’s stopping you now.
  5. Decide to act differently.

It’s going to be hard. You’ll get scared and triggered. You’ll want to give up. But you’ll figure things out. You’ll achieve what you want, despite having great reasons not to.

Let them go for good

Odds are, the person who hurt you has forgotten what they did. Or they’ll trivialize your trauma and call it “tough love.” Family members and friends might even defend them.

You know better.

They’re not worth your time. Don’t waste your life waiting for an apology that’s never going to happen.

You’d be shocked at how worthless an apology is. Sometimes the apology does them a lot more good than you.

You don’t need to forgive them or have some cathartic conversation. Just leave them alone and focus on what you want now. If you’re free of them, remember that. Don’t give them power over you by keeping yourself small. Go out and breathe into your life. It’s right there.

Your past never goes away

You can journal about it. You can write about, talk about it, sing about it, paint about it. And you should. Art helps you express what’s on the inside, what’s so hard to get out in the open.

Once it’s out there, you can see it. You can deal with it.

But dealing with it doesn’t make it go away. There’s still lots of pain ahead. But feeling pain is good for you.

Burying your pain, or hiding from it, that’s a bad idea. When you do that, you’re not confronting all the problems it caused.

The big secret to overcoming

Look at all those happy, well-adjusted people out in the world. They make it look so easy. It doesn’t seem fair.

That’s not a reason to give up.

It’s just an excuse.

You’ll meet people who never faced any real hardship in life. It’s a mistake to look at that as an advantage. You see, there’s a big secret. Everyone wants to think they overcame something to get where they are. You’ll have the inner satisfaction of knowing you actually did.

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