Are You Still Shaped by Your Past?

Everyone one has a past… literally. If you have been on this earth for any length of time, you will have a past. We live in a linear way so that as time progresses, it leaves a trail that we call the past. When we typically speak about someone having a “past,” however, we are speaking about key life events that have occurred.

We’re referring to personal relationships they had, occupations they engaged in, or traumatic events they experienced. Of course, sometimes we also use the term to refer to life’s successes and accomplishments. The importance of the past is that the events of our past shape us. They influence who we are today.


This process of shaping is meant to be dynamic, continuous, and always evolving. Life is not a one-time process where you “set it and forget it.”  We should resemble clay that is moldable and pliable. We should remain always open to the new experiences that can shape us. 

Unfortunately, people often allow the past to permanently shape them. Their past experiences cause them to harden, creating a lasting effect on their lives. Instead of becoming an influence on their life, such moments become the influence. Such events become immovable objects that everything else in their life must move around.

This isn’t to minimize any of your past experiences. Some experiences will necessarily have a larger influence on the shaping process than others. But if an experience has created a rigidness in your present life, that may not be the healthiest form it should take.

You may be asking “So, how do you not allow yourself to still be shaped by your past?”  Well, thankfully, there are several helpful tips you can implement to prevent yourself from being shaped by your past, and they may be a lot simpler than you imagined.

Be Grateful for the Past

Be grateful for the past and how it has shaped you. This can be a lot easier said than done!  This can also be a very sensitive topic to even contemplate--especially if your past involves very hurtful, traumatic, and damaging events. 

The idea is not that you should be pleased or happy that a negative experience occurred. This also doesn’t excuse the wrong that has happened. But the idea is to find some gratitude for how such experiences shaped you.

For example, maybe your past shaped you to be more empathetic towards others. Or maybe it has given you a desire to fight injustice. Maybe your past experience has given you a better understanding of who the people are who truly love and care for you.

Whatever your past contains, it has molded you into the person that you are now. When you’re able to show gratitude for that influence—not necessarily the event—you can let the past shape what it is supposed to shape and move on. If you’re not able to have gratitude for the influence of past, it will have a hardening effect on your life.

Keep Your Hands on the Clay

A potter needs to continue to shape and mold the clay she works with. A potter constantly keeps her hands on the clay, making small adjustments here and there to achieve the desired shape. If a potter removes her hands, the clay can harden in that position.

The same is true for us.  We need to continue to allow life experiences to constantly shape and mold us.  We need to let events round our edges, smooth out our surfaces, and shape us into the people we are meant to be.  But when we take our hands away from the clay, it hardens. 

Be Water, My Friend

Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist, once said, “Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water.  Put water into a cup, it becomes a cup. Put water into a teapot, it becomes a teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Bruce Lee understood the idea of not letting the past continue to shape your present and your future.  Past events are like containers. You might have formed yourself to them at one point in time, but you should be like water and not be permanently influenced by the shape of the container. The past had its purpose, its necessity. Find gratitude for the shape it provided at the time and move into your new position in life.

Be water, my friend.