FREE WORKSHEET DOWNLOAD! | Letting go of past-self comparison

It’s a fillable PDF so you can type right in it, or you can print it!

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“I used to be so ____” | Letting go of our past selves | Past-self comparison

Social comparison is just a thing.  Everybody does it.  And I think we’re told often to “not compare yourselves” and “recognize that everyone’s on their own journey” and “it’s only a highlights reel.”  That’s all great advice.

But who’s talking about past-self comparison?  This is a topic not often discussed so today I’m going to attempt to tackle one angle of it from a mental illness lens.

What is past-self comparison?

  • looking back at your past self, admiring (or worshipping) that person and wondering why you are no longer that way.  
  • for me, it’s thinking I used to be so “great” or hardworking or etc. and I think I’m no longer those things now.
  • Specifically related to mental illness, your past-self may be the self before you were affected by mental illness/so severely.  When you were “normal.”

My experience

In high school, for me that was 2012-2016, I was energetic, hyper-involved, got outstanding grades, literally always working, and entirely motivated.And that’s great right?  Like, cool.

The problem is the past few years I have held my past self on a pedestal and have used it to look down on my current self.  I would think Why am I not still motivated?  Or say things like Well I used to be super xxxxx — involved, energetic, always moving, positive. 

I say things like Well I used to enthusiastically get out of bed at 6:30 a.m. and I would go all day long and I could stay awake.  Not only that but I would do stuff and be “productive” and accomplish things.  And finish things on my to-do lists.  I say that stuff often.  But WHO IS IT HELPING?

It’s sad to think that my younger teenager self is better than my current self.  That I am a failure.  That something went wrong along that way.  (And technically I guess something did go wrong and that’s that my mental health declined, but I digress.)

That’s why I’m taking the time to tackle this past-self comparison topic by first noting the beauty of impermanence with a carefully thought-out metaphor, and then outlining actual things you can do to help.

Things to note

Impermanence 

The transformation of caterpillars into butterflies is a visual and physical and biological, outward-facing representation of how we change, inevitably.  A butterfly follows the typical four-stage insect life cycle.  You may remember from grade school: Egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult.

Do you think a butterfly, from one stage to another, hangs onto the previous self?  I’m guessing not and that’s because that self-comparison can hold him back from growth.

Like a butterfly, you’re going to shape and grow throughout your entire life.  That’s because there is going to be change and you will have to adapt to survive.  All of that adapting changes you.  

Just because something seems like its declining doesn’t mean its not growing.  Paths to a self that you like and aspire to be are not linear.  We’re conditioned to think that every day must be better, every project must be bigger and that “backtracking” is bad.  Backtracking itself is really a construct.  And it’s just part of the process.

Plus, the anxiety of not knowing exactly know you’re becoming or will become is part of the beauty.

Things to actually do – follow along on the worksheet!

It’s a fillable PDF so you can type right in it, or you can print!

  1. Thank that self.

Recognize that that self, or characteristics of that self, got you through a certain time — served a purpose, and were necessary at that time.  But you don’t have to maintain that self in the same way forever and ever.  Thank yourself for getting through that time as you did and with the coping mechanisms that you did.

EX: Thank you for exploring hobbies of yours, making some extra cash, building out a resume of experiences you can pull from now, forming relationships, and involving yourself in the high school experience.

Make sure to write yourself a thank you note on the worksheet!

2. Admire that self but don’t worship that self.  

Even if there are characteristics you wish you had now.  — Especially if there are characteristics you wish you had now.

If you find yourself worshipping your old self, redefine the peaks and identify their pitfalls.

Peaks: what did you “peak” in? Grades, achievement, popularity, kindness?  And at what cost?

Pitfalls: think about the dark side of that self.  Lack of sleep, irritable, spread thin, didn’t spend time doing hobbies or hanging out with friends or you never saw your family.

EX: I peaked in grades and involvement in school and clubs.  At what cost?  Lack of rest, lack of fun and time spent with girls and friends.

Make sure to fill out your Peaks and Pitfalls on the worksheet!

These are all cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tricks but here’s another one:

3. Talkbacks

I love these guys because when you actually force yourself to do them, they work — and that’s because you crafted them for yourself.

Talkbacks work for EVERYTHING.  And they work especially well if you’ve thought of them AHEAD OF the situation and have them somewhere accessible.

EX: I don’t want to hang out with my friend.  TB: No, you don’t want to get out of bed.  But that’s a means to getting good food and good company.

EX: I used to be so motivated.  TB: So What?  TB: Who cares? TB: Ok, that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t have any motivation ever again.  TB: Who says I can’t have motivation today?  TB: Who says I need to be motivated to do xx on this particular day?

Make sure to brainstorm Talkbacks on the worksheet!

Download your FREE worksheet!!!!!

It’s a fillable PDF so you can type right in it, or you can print!

Here’s to the impermanence of self. Be proud of yourself for taking the time to take ACTIONABLE steps to let go of your past self.

Thanks for joining me as always, and I’ll see you on Mondays at 10 a.m. here on the blog, as well as on YouTube (and on Instagram literally every day).

Further reading:

Letting Go Of The Person You Used To Be by Tony Fahkry: https://thoughtcatalog.com/tony-fahkry/2015/05/letting-go-of-the-person-you-used-to-be/

How to Stop Comparing Your Current Self to Your Past Self by Jessica Carson: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/you-your-ideal-past-self-the-psychology-of-past_b_59db8ca5e4b0705dc79aa9c9

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