This post is Grassroots, meaning a reader posted it directly. If you see an issue with it, contact an editor.
If you’d like to post a Grassroots post, click here!

April 3, 2023

Let’s be proud of ourselves when we cringe at the past.

Mullet perm.

Turquoise earrings.

Matching turquoise plaid shirt.

Un-tweezed, triangle eyebrows.

Eighth grade.

Cringe-worthy, right?

High school and its incriminating photographic evidence, inevitably, tell the truth on us. Yes, we had those clothes. Yes, we had that hair. Past versions of ourselves rarely capture us at “our best.”

But it goes beyond high school and the merciless yearbook photos.

What about the bigger picture, “Life regrets?”

Ah, now we’re talking!

What was the line, from Steel Magnolias?”

“If you’re old enough to reach puberty, you can achieve a past.”

And, usually, there are cringes a-plenty.

Many of us spend time berating ourselves for choices and behaviors that extend beyond some questionable fashion and bad hair. Furthermore, there’s usually a lot of self-flagellations if we have come from abuse and addiction. In those instances, we are often enduring negative ramifications from those less-than-positive or wise choices.

Still, it is precisely here where we need a more accurate and realistic reality check.

“When you know better, you do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

What did you and I know at the time?

Youth, addiction, abuse, and just being an imperfect human being can impact what we knew to do “then.” What was that? Did we take up smoking, drinking, drugging? Did we behave with trainwreck stupidity in relationships? Did we self-sabotage?

Did we get that mullet perm… and think it looked attractive?

Did we think our choices and behaviors would get us what we wanted?

“When you know better, you do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

What did those results teach you?

What options did we have at our disposal? Did we think we were achieving our desired results? Did we think we were fleeing an abusive situation for good? Were we coping from a stressful situation, using substances to do so? Did we achieve a sense of belonging? Did we get ahead?

What about simply…


Were we in survival mode?

Perhaps, back then, an addiction or a relationship choice was giving us what we wanted. We felt a sense of control, of being pain-free, loved, accepted, and wanted.

For a time, it truly may have been working for us.

But what else was going on? What price were we also paying?

Were our bodies put at risk for disease? Were we flirting with criminal activity that could have easily placed us behind bars?

Were we choosing to ignore our true selves, favoring a false, seemingly, more attractive, image?

What was the price?

“When you know better, you do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

What do you and I know now?


They have a way of showing up eventually. Sometimes, with no warning, sometimes, with loud bells and flashing lights, like a DUI, when the cop pulls us over.


It’s far too easy to just berate ourselves for being stupid. True, there may have been some glaring, obvious, logical realities, informing us that this “could” happen, left unchecked.

But think “back then.”

Were we in a place to receive that wisdom and knowledge? Were we teachable? Were we capable of believing we were not invincible?

Most of us, answering those questions honestly, could probably say “no.”

It took the arrest, the diagnosis, the divorce, the bankruptcy, the public shaming, the calamity to get our attention. No wise warning got to us. Only the brick wall collapsing completely on top of us.

It took the “cringe-worthy” event to finally snap us to imperfect reality.

“When you know better, you do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

How are you and I better?

Yes, we may have lasting or, at least, long-term results from our choices, things we cannot avoid.

We grapple with a health diagnosis now. We work a 12-Step recovery program for our addiction now. We had to mourn and leave a significant relationship because it was toxic now.

We have had to start over now.

We have the expensively gained wisdom now. We are doing things differently, better now.

What does that look like?

“When you know better, you do better.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

Hindsight mean we may cringe, but with self-compassion.

“Cringing at the past just means you have improved as a person.”

Many of us have done some hard work: going into therapy, getting sober, and breaking off toxic relationships. We have looked at truths, ugly behaviors, and have committed to better, healthier choices.

And it’s on a spectrum, done imperfectly over time, yet we are choosing to work at it.

You and I need to be proud of that. It’s a lot to undertake.

Yes, we can look at our metaphorical mullets and bad fashion choices and cringe.

But where were we, way back then? What options/help were there for us? What did we need to overcome? And then, what have we been overcoming, ever since?

Compassion… for ourselves then. We have been through a lot.

In our cringing, let’s remember how far we have come.

And let’s create applause from that place.

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse


Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Sheryle Cruse  |  Contribution: 27,625