On the radio show I Iisten to every morning, they have a “Brain Strain”. It’s a question that listeners call in to guess the answer to. Recently they had a question for single men about why they left the last girl they were dating. The resounding answer, over 50%, said “too much baggage.”
Now, most of us don’t want to carry someone else’s baggage. I travel quite a bit, and hauling my own luggage is bad enough! But is there anyone who doesn’t have some sort of baggage from this trip through life? All of us had had experiences of some sort or another that have impacted us in some way.
I thought back to my childhood and the friends I envied because they seemed to have “perfect lives” and “perfect parents.” From the outside looking in, they seemed to have it all. And, yet in every single case my friends wound up with “baggage” of varying degrees or another. In adulthood, one of the families close to my own family of origin, with wonderful people and successful lives, tragically had to deal with the suicide of one of their teenage children.
“Baggage” is the human condition. The question is how we deal with our baggage. Do we embrace it and learn from it? Or are we buried under by it, unable to carry it, and then resorting to ineffective coping behaviors that continue to hurt us?
While beating up on ourselves for our foibles and lack of resiliency is useless, understanding our baggage and how it impacts us, and others, is very important. If we are going to be in healthy relationships, we can’t ask other people to continually carry our bags. Relationships should be a place where we can share the carrying, of course, but the healthier we can become on our own, the healthier our relationships will be.
- Become aware of the negative emotions that may visit you. Things like guilt, blame, shame and resentment are very powerful emotions that can consume us, and others, but have no real purpose. Examine your guilt or shame, and learn from it, but then let it go. Instead of resenting or blaming others, see where you need to change something in your life or within yourself. These emotions are good indicators that something is hurting inside of you that needs to be brought to the surface and examined, but they shouldn’t consume you and run your life.
- Examine your life. Are you accomplishing what you should be? Are you as peaceful and content as you want to be? Are you satisfied with where you are? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, do something about it. Focus on what you do want, where you want to go and how you would like your life to be. Set a desired outcome and work toward that. Don’t waste time fretting over the things you don’t have; instead, move toward the things you need.
- Learn to see obstacles as something to be overcome. Many people look at the “problems” in their life as things that prevent them from doing what they really want: “I don’t have enough money,” or “I don’t know enough people,” or “I have no network or contacts,” etc. Instead of being defeated by the things that stand in your way, understand them. What can you control? What can you influence? How can you approach the obstacles differently so they no longer deter you, but rather you can work around them?
- Be careful the company you keep. Surround yourself with people who are mentally healthy and living happy lives. Don’t get sucked in by the naysayers who think nothing is right, or who perpetuate hate and negativity. The more you spend time with those that can lift you up and support your efforts to shed your “baggage”, the easier it will be.
Acquiring the baggage we have takes years and years of experiences. Everything that happens to us impacts us in some way, and before we know it we are carrying a very heavy load. Shedding the baggage will take a long time, too. Don’t give up. Keep focused on the kind of person you want to be, and the kind of life you want to lead. Most people don’t enjoy being around someone with “baggage;” shed yours and find people who are living free of it.