How To Let Go Of The Past and Move Forward

I laid on the bathroom floor, my body limp and spent. Dried tears streaked down my face and animalistic whimpers would escape every so often between hiccuped breathing as I tried to soothe myself on the cold hard linoleum of the bathroom floor. No matter how hard I had kicked the door and screamed, no one came to rescue me or comfort me. What seemed like hours, the door finally opened, but the weight of my loss hung heavily on my shoulders for a very long time.

This moment in my life happened 37 years ago, and still, as I write this, I have a catch in my chest and tears in my eyes for that heartbroken little girl in the bathroom. I was two or three years old and visiting my grandparents. My great-great aunt was there and for a reason unbeknownst to me, she got very angry seeing how attached I was to my blankie. She yanked it out of my hands and threw it away. Unsurprisingly, I threw a massive fit so she locked me in the bathroom.

When my mom found out what happened, she got extremely angry and took me home immediately, but it was too late. My beloved blanket was gone forever. I don’t know how long I mourned that blanket, but clearly, that moment had a profound impact on my life. It’s the earliest childhood memory I can recall, and I can picture (and feel it) like it happened yesterday.

What We Cling To As Adults

For some reason, that memory popped vividly into my head recently. It got me thinking about security and the things we hold onto that make us feel safe. As adults, many times, we find our security in attachments that don’t really serve us, such as:

  • Resentment, anger, and bitterness
  • A relationship that no longer serves us
  • A job we hate but provides a steady paycheck
  • Our beliefs about religion, politics, life, and love
  • Guilt and shame

We cling tightly to our negative “blankies” because they’re comfortable, they’re familiar, and without that security, whatever it may be, we’d have to figure out how to face the issue and work through it, which is scary and difficult. Let’s take anger as an example. Anger is easy and it feels safe to hold onto our anger toward a person who has wronged us. We nurture that anger, it burns brightly in our souls when we think about the injustice that has befallen us and when it is presented to us that we should let go of that anger, the inner child in us refuses. We think that by letting go of that anger, the person who did us wrong would no longer suffer and justice would not be served. The irony is that the only person that anger is affecting, is the person holding onto that anger – YOU.

Learning to Let Go

The irony of it all is that holding onto these bits of security is making us miserable and stealing our peace. And as we allow our security blankets to weigh us down, year after year, it begins to affect every aspect of our lives – our relationships, our attitudes, and even our physical health. We all know that prolonged stress puts you at risk for all kinds of health problems and disease. Plus, who really wants to be around someone who is bitter and resentful all the time? I was that person once (or twice) and trust me, I didn’t even want to be around myself!

[RELATED POST: When YOU’RE The Toxic Person In Your Life…(And How To Change It)]

I wish letting go was as easy as clicking your heels three times, and singing “Let it goooooo, let it goooo, can’t hold it back anymore,” while twirling around a castle you just created out of ice with your frozen heart, but unless you’re a Disney character, you’re pretty much out of luck. If you want to let go, you first need to DECIDE TO LET GO. The battle many times goes uphill from there, I’m afraid. Sorry to be the bearer of news you probably already know, but letting go (especially if it’s letting go of anger, resentment or bitterness) is a battle between you and your ego and your ego is a strong motherf*er.

If what you need to let go is a physical relationship, a lame job that makes you miserable or some other situation that is requiring you to put your foot down and walk out that door, your first step is also to DECIDE TO LET GO. You’ll need to figure out some of the details while you make an exit strategy, but I have found that sometimes the most effective way to let go of a relationship not serving you (that includes the relationship with your soul-sucking job), is to rip the band-aid off quickly and build a net on the way down (wait, did I just mix two idioms? Oh well, you know what I mean). Can’t rip off the band-aid quite so quickly? I get it. Sometimes, circumstances prevent you from an “eff it” exit (like putting food on the table), then there is one thing you ALWAYS have control of and that is YOUR ATTITUDE. Decide to change your attitude while you are planning your next steps and you’d be surprised at what happens. Just don’t use that as an excuse to not do anything to move toward your glorious exit.

In either case, letting go involves ACTION. And trust me, it’s much better for you to have the control and to take action instead of someone or something forcing your hand. When you have the control, you get to set your own terms and boundaries. For example, say you decide to stay in a bad relationship where he continues to cheat on you, but for you, the security of being with him is better than the fear of being alone until one day he decides to leave you for the other woman. How much time did you waste being with him? That time could’ve been spent building a better life and better self. Would you rather cling to your guilt and shame and live in brokenness and pain or would you prefer to face the guilt, forgive yourself, and happily and positively impact the world?

Letting go means you get to become the happy and unencumbered person that attracts amazing people and opportunities into your life. Doesn’t that sound better than holding onto that heavy burden you’ve been lugging around with you all these years?

[RELATED POST: ‘I’m Not Good Enough’ and Other Limiting Beliefs That Hold Us Back]

Today, think about what is holding you back, the things you might be clutching that are weighing you down, and make the choice to take control of your life. Decide to let go of the negative things that you’re clinging onto so tightly before your mean great-aunt comes and rip that security blanket out of your hands (so to speak). I no longer remember that blanket what it looks or feels like, but I mourn for the little girl who didn’t understand why her beloved blankie was taken from her. But clearly, I survived and thrived without it. And you can, too.

Books I’m Reading

  1. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  2. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  3. Reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert for the second time

*These books are affiliate linked, which means if you click on them, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link 

12 thoughts on “How To Let Go Of The Past and Move Forward

  1. Bravo to open up and be vulnerable
    You are an amazing lady and an inspiration
    Beautiful words coming from your heart
    Thank You so much for sharing

  2. What if, what I need to give up are my spouse and my 18/20 year old kids and they are all I’ve ever had, the abandonment of my mother/sister’s, no father figure, and I am disabled?
    I have been told I have a huge heart by practically everyone, my whole life, yet I was treated as the toxic child/adult.
    I married someone depressive and abusive 25 years ago and now my adult sons have been severely affected by all this toxicity. I have tried to save them from our circumstances. I did my best, I gave my all. I feel like The Giving Tree, Shel Siverstein. I raised them alone in my “marriage”. I have been faithful, dedicated, and always tried to put a smile on and bring joy to our lives. I’ve won some battles, but I seem to have lost the war. My white flag of surrender is flying high. People just walk away. No one wants to “help”, no one has an answer of how I can make it right except to keep persevering. I am continually trying to be whole but with the worsening health I have become truly toxic now, or was it always me? It’s funny. I finally enjoy being alone because I no longer have tolerance for being treated like crap and yet I hate the loneliness and I now finally feel like a true failure . I have tried my whole life. Gone to counseling my whole life, started by my mother who thought I was toxic. My counsellors always always seem to be at a loss themselves. I do the work that I am able. I am not perfect, but I give 100%. I ask for help but it falls on deaf ears. I am surrounded by toxic. I am now toxic for sure.
    I used to like me despite all those problems. I talked, I shared, I grieved and grieved and grieved, it just won’t heal. I used to think I was good and kind but scared, now I am in horrible pain, and over the past 10 years have gradually become more and more bitter, resentful and oh so tired.
    Ive been told, my greatest gift has always been perseverance, but I just can’t handle anything any more. My fuse is so short.
    I am a person of great faith and always had hope but things have become hopeless. I want to give up but I know I will just atrophied physically if I do. Spiritually I believe God is strong when I am weak and weary, but where is He? Why am I still here? My “spouse” tells me I am a burden and he “hates” me. He is not an evil person but he has his own lifelong pain and prefers solitude, I dragged him into this mess and tried to love him. He doesn’t love himself and he doesn’t care about anyone or anything. He is not well himself. Meanwhile, How can I leave when I have no one and no where to go? I have no one left to love but my pets. They are the only ones that give back.

    (Oh and I have many passions… my pets, nature, jewelry I don’t wear but wish I could pull off, shoes hope to wear again someday, too much clothing, I drown in piles of paper and things to do and things that do not have a place. (This makes it sound like I am a diva, but truly no way, more of a jock/need, lol.), furniture, trying to make home pretty and comfortable, but it is now overcrowded and I can’t mentally pull it off, much less physically.
    I can’t stand the mess but I can’t fix it either. I was making a huge dent but when I got sick again it took away my mobility and it has been 10 years, since I have been even remotely able bodied. I have had chronic hip pain since I was 13., 1983.
    I need a lifeline here.

    1. Hi Renee,

      I’m so sorry you are suffering and that you are in despair. I hear your pain and struggle in your words. I cannot begin to even understand living in chronic pain, but I do understand being the toxic one (I actually wrote a post on what to do if you’re the toxic person in your life) and knowing that you are the toxic one.

      I am by no means an expert so please take what I say with a grain of salt. You don’t have to be or feel toxic. You can change your mindset and decide not to be toxic (whether you truly are or are not) anymore. You mentioned that you have no one left to love but your pets. This is not true, my friend. I think the person you need to love the most and haven’t is yourself. It sounds like you’ve allowed so many people to tell you that you’re toxic, so you started to believe it. Well, you don’t have to be. You can decide right this minute to no longer be toxic and begin the journey to truly love yourself. It’s not easy and with chronic physical pain, even more so, but trust me when I say that it’s worth it. Don’t let your current physical limitations, limit you mentally.

      Here are three life lessons that helped me:
      1. Take 100% responsibility for your life (Great book: The Success Principles by Jack Canfield)
      2. You don’t have to be the victim (who cares what your mom thought, what your husband thinks or what the counselors seem to lack, you can decide today that today is the day that you will not be anyone’s victim).
      3. What you believe and think about, you will attract.

      Changing a mindset is as easy and as hard as deciding to change it. I began the practice of writing down 3 things I was grateful for each day. That was the start of helping me move to a place where I was less toxic and more appreciative of even the smallest things in my life. Then I began reading voraciously and started meditating with the Headspace app. Slowly but surely, I was able to change and grow. Those around me who was not on board, was not my concern.

      You haven’t lost the war, my friend. Your biggest battle is within yourself. You are worth the fight and I am cheering you on. Please let me know how I can help you.

      A few books that came to mind when I read your comment:
      1. 29 gifts by Cami Walker (She was diagnosed with MS and one piece of advice that she followed changed her life).
      2. The Success Principles (as mentioned above)
      3. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

      I thank you for sharing and I hope my ramblings make some sense to you. I’m here to listen if you need it. I believe you in you and that you truly are a good person that cares for others. Don’t give up.

  3. Thank you so much for your blog . I find it really helpful … your right the only way to change your life is yourself no one else . If you hate your life change it . If you had bad mistakes , hurt others in the past or whatever change and work on you . I feel the more you try and keep working on yourself the more your mind opens up and you aren’t stuck. I feel like people stay stuck . I do not want to be stuck anymore . Let go of the things you can not change . It’s easier said than done but reading , self improvement and everything helps you more and more . Thank you for this .. I am only 19 but i found this more impactful than any other thing i tried to read .

    1. Hi Nayla,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and to comment! It truly makes my day to know that my musings help people. You are very wise already for being only 19. Kepp picking up the truths to continue to improve and develop. It’s totally worth the work to get un-stuck.


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