Accept Your Past While Embracing the Present You: 12 Self-Talk Exchanges

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness

(c)2013 Nancy Virden

“She carries that baby everywhere,” the old woman complained. “She’s spoiling him.”

My friend stood up for me by responding, “Isn’t it nice she has the time to do that?”

At the time, my baby was less than a year-old. The woman’s son and daughter were in their forties and fifties. It appeared to me it would be difficult for a mother to look back and admit that a modern way of raising babies might be as acceptable as or even an improvement over what she did long ago. Conceding that I was doing alright by my child could mean regretting her stricter ideas.

Regret. Ouch.

Anytime we approach a new idea, buying it means letting go of an old one. Sometimes those beliefs that have been around awhile need to be challenged and perhaps replaced. This might stir up sorrow over opportunities lost and relationships soured due to past decisions that were based on shaky premises. Regret at having spent so many years hindered by the past is what many of us may face.

“The reason it is easy for me [to not hold the past against you] is because the Nancy I know is someone who wants to change those negative thoughts and behaviors, who wants to make a difference in this world, and is learning that she already has. That is the Nancy I embrace.”  These words from my therapist will not be forgotten.

They challenge me to give more weight to present positive experiences than to past negatives ones. I’ve learned we can choose to focus on what was or to look at the hope we have today. Here are some of those options.

(1)I have made mistakes – I am learning from my mistakes

(2)People have hurt me – I do not hurt myself

(3)I have hurt others – I make amends when I can

(4)I failed to be who I wanted to be – I am able to make better decisions now   

(5)There has been great pain in my heart – I am allowing myself to move forward

(6)I have felt worthless – I can be proud of my efforts        

(7)I have believed negative messages – I am challenging false beliefs 

(8)I was not safe from others – I am safe for others

(9)Relationships never worked – I am changing me           

(10)I have blamed externals for who I am – I hold the power to be who I want to be

(11)I did not want to live – Now I seek to make life meaningful

(12)My life has been hard – I am strong to have made it!


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or if you are concerned about someone who is,  please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*photo from



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