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Compassion for my past selves

I had a good imaginary meeting with a much younger version of myself. It was an emotional deep dive. My inner child needs protection and understanding. The ripple effect of this imaginary encounter has stayed with me. It’s dawning on me to look at all versions of my past self with more loving kindness. The familiar pattern is look back at pretty much everything through a lens of embarrassment, regret and shame. Ugh what a dummy. What an idiot. You brat. You loser. I want growth, I want betterment. But at what cost?

I saw this pattern from a new perspective. If I’m more prone to deriding my past selves for my flaws than choosing to remember and hold onto the good things I've done, what am I subconsciously feeding my present self? I'm fostering the comfortable living conditions for an ever-present future self bitterly looking down at me.

I have imagined meeting a kind, content and wise Riley from the future. What if I allowed him to encourage, protect and guide me? How might I free my present self from little flashes of painful memories? If I could form a constructive habit out of looking back with kindness, I imagine it could become easier to look forward with hope.

How could my inner child thrive if I afforded him this freedom? It’s not too late to drop an obsolete survival technique and embrace the parts of me calling for peace. I want the colder, harder version of myself that assumed authority to know he's on notice. This regretful disciplinarian who doles out punishment by leveraging my memories against me, for things I had no way of knowing back then. I'm training his replacement.

The cycle that I was taught in my environment, I learned to carry out internally. I can end it peacefully and grow something new in its place.

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