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Ask Dr. Zoe – I’ve Grown Up, Should I Apologize for My Immature Past?

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‘Annie’ Asked:

Hi Dr. Zoe,

In the process of healing from my childhood trauma, I’m learning how disordered my actions were and how unhealthy my attachments were when I was in my late teens/early 20’s. I can see now more clearly where my behaviors came from but I can’t help but feel so ashamed of how I acted in my relationships with friends during that time. These people are no longer close friends but are still acquaintances via social media. There is a part of me that always wants to share with them how I’m sorry how I acted during that time and how I recognize ways where I was overly clingy or if I acted inappropriately, but I also don’t know if it’s just too much information and it would be taken the wrong way. I just hate thinking that they still see me as who I was then and I’m a different person now. Some of the ways I acted led to friendships ending, drama, etc., and I just want them to know I’ve changed. I feel conflicted between letting it go since they’re no longer close, or to make an effort to heal the shame I carry from how I acted at that time. And to give more of an explanation to why I acted the way that I did.

Thank you!

Dr. Zoe Answered:

What a great question. I had a classmate from 25 years ago contact me on Facebook and apologize for something that I hadn’t remembered until that moment. I’m convinced that if she had never mentioned it, I would have gone to my grave having never thought about it.

I was struck by how little it meant to me at the time, yet she had carried it for 25 years. Her apology made an impression on me about the burdens we carry unnecessarily.

I shared that story with you because unless you know that you have violated or somehow significantly hurt someone there is no reason to go back and apologize for the person you were at the time. It sounds to me like you were clingy and maybe inappropriate, but you didn’t cause any true damage.

It seems that the deeper motives you have for confessing and apologizing to them may actually be repeating the very patterns from which you feel you have grown away. Any apologizing is more about your own validation and need for them to see you a certain way. It isn’t about them and they will sense this.

And it would back fire anyway. Most people don’t believe someone who tells them they’ve changed. You have to demonstrate changed behavior in order to be trusted.

So, come to terms with your past self and who you are now. Let her go because they probably haven’t given it a second thought. You don’t need to prove a thing to them. Live your life in such a way that it demonstrates who you are now and leave the rest in the past where it belongs.

You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.

Listen now!

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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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