Evaluating the experiences and relationships that have helped shape your life is essential.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou


In fiction, the back story helps readers to understand character motivation. The same can be said of real life – our worldview is influenced by what has gone before. Our understanding of the connection between mind and body is growing; it is increasingly recognised that emotional and psychological states influence physical health. Therefore it makes sense to review your ‘back’ story because it could be affecting how you are in the present, on emotional and physical levels.

There is a fine line between leaving the past where it is and needing to assess it. Only you can decide whether or not the events that you have swept under your proverbial carpet have amalgamated into a mountain that is harder to scale than Mount Everest. If your life is not moving in a direction that pleases you, perhaps it’s time to take a look in the rear-view mirror to see what’s dragging along behind you, slowing you down.

Courage is required to take a searching, non-judgemental, non-critical inventory of your life. The objective is to identify what might be, at best, stopping you from achieving happiness and success, and at worst causing you ill health. (N.B: It is worth bearing in mind that some people need professional help to come to terms with their past. If you are one of those people, do not hesitate to seek support).

See if you can step outside of your life and look at it from the point of view of a detached observer, someone who is simply witnessing what has transpired up until now. Some questions that can help you to uncover memories include:

  • What are your earliest recollections?
  • How would you describe your family (and other) relationships as you grew up?
  • How would family members, friends, teachers etc. from your early life describe you? Are their perceptions accurate?
  • What are the times of your life that make you the most proud? Not so proud?
  • Describe the place where you grew up. What, if any, effect did your environment have on the way your life has so far turned out?
  • What world events can you recall that made an impression on your younger self?

Answering these questions honestly may make you feel uncomfortable, but unless you own what has brought you to this point you could find your wheels spinning in the same old patch of mud. As far as owning up to mistakes goes, I’m a leading contender for the award for Most Catastrophic Blunder EVER. I became spellbound by an abuser who was so dangerous he was the subject of Multi-Agency Public Protection Awareness meetings. Luckily I lived to tell the tale.

Everybody makes mistakes. I read a quote suggesting that anyone who denies this is deluding themselves – or not ‘living’ at all, merely existing. Mistakes do not define us; what we learn from them does, especially if we turn our knowledge into wisdom that we can then apply in our lives. And, of course, a life review can help you to ascertain what has worked for you, what you would like to have more of in your life.

Taking stock of your life means, too, that you can stop hiding behind ways of being that are not true for you. We often present ourselves according to how we think we ought to be, as dictated by convention, rather than how we really are. People-pleasing can be risky, as I found out to my cost. Arianna Huffington points out that, ‘Our essential self gets buried in the need for approval’; in this way, we sabotage ourselves as we’re not acting with integrity.

Melody Beattie, in The Language of Letting Go says: It is easy to be negative about past mistakes and unhappiness. But it is much more healing to look at ourselves and our past in the light of experience, acceptance and growth. Our past is a series of lessons that advance us to higher levels of living and loving.

Candidly, and objectively, appraising your life story so far, then, affords you the opportunity to make peace with your past and allows your essential self to start to shine. If you become aware of habits and influences that are unhelpful you can eliminate them and replace them with constructive practices and attitudes. Then you are making conscious choices from a place of clarity and you can start to live the story you want for yourself.

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