“Numb the dark and you numb the light.” Brene Brown
In the midst of new surroundings, schedules, jobs, and relationships, the topic of “new starts” is popular. Perhaps because it’s a new school year, and I live in a college town, I feel like I’m hearing hopeful sentiments for new starts all around me. If these sentiments are expressed the way I’ve expressed this desire, it’s usually with the imagined hope of being this brand-spankin’ new person who does all the things they didn’t before, who never falls behind, who suddenly makes better decisions, and all the troubles and habits and issues from the past are mysteriously gone from the present. I’ve done this. I still do this.
A desire to “start over” shows there’s awareness of things not serving our best selves and purposes. And that’s noble. But to shove those parts of ourselves and our lives into our past and bury them there, indulging in the shame we carry over these things, that’s not moving forward. That is not growth. In fact, it’s hiding. Its numbing ourselves from the discomfort we’d feel if we really face these things head-on. Ultimately, it diverts us from the work that needs to be done to become these “best selves” that we’re imagining we’re going to be. When we get that desire to “start over” in our lives, and I’m looking at myself here too, we need to ask why.
Why do you feel the need to “start over”? What about your experiences and life causes you so much guilt, shame, or fear that you feel like it can’t be any part of this new self you’re creating? Letting things die, part of ourselves, experiences, is an important part of growing. But we must face our shame, feel it, and choose to give ourselves grace and love despite failings, imperfections, and discomfort; that’s where healing and real growth, real change, begins. This is not to suggest that we’ll then tote our pains with us through life. Everywhere you’ve been, people you’ve known, things you’ve done, they’ll be with you forever; BUT you get to choose at what capacity they affect, if at all, your life.
Every part of our lives has value even if looking back over it makes you cringe. Accepting the cringe-worthy, a vital part of self-acceptance, allows us to put those events, habits, and relationships aside. We can leave them in the past with a sense of peace because we know that they are not shameful or embarrassing; they’re a vital part of who we are now. For myself and others who seek to “start over” when life isn’t looking the way we want, who sometimes want to hide away who and how we’ve been, I challenge you to not. Instead of “starting over,” offer up a hefty dose of grace and self-love, feel what you feel, and simply move forward with what you are, how you are, who you are right now.