One common piece of advice I’ve heard and seen from many sources is to let go of the past. Stop letting it affect you and define you, and move beyond it.
I completely agree with that, but I believe that before you can let it go, you need to accept that it happened. That doesn’t mean being okay with everything, and it definitely doesn’t mean liking everything that’s happened to you. It means simply saying, for example, “Okay, that did happen. It sucked, and it caused me harm, but it happened.”
Your past doesn’t define you, but things that occurred, and more importantly how you handled them, does contribute to who you are, in both positive and negative ways. We build strength by living through and living beyond certain things. We might have gained compassion for others who are in similar situations. Everything that happens in your life, whether good or bad or somewhere in between, adds to the person you are.
If you try to let go of your past by pretending it didn’t happen, as some people seem to do, you’re not only rejecting the events. You’re rejecting a part of yourself. The part that went through those events and rose from them.
You can definitely learn how to stop being affected and defined by your past. It’s desirable to do so, because you are the person you are today, not the one you were then. But there’s a difference between not being affected and defined by your past, or denying it altogether. Part of accepting yourself, even when it’s painful, is accepting the negatives of your life.