We’ve all got baggage, things we feel insecure about, or past trauma that we just can’t seem to shake. Even if our baggage is easier to handle, some people have more than others and how we’re affected by it differs from person to person. How much our baggage weighs us down even differs from day to day. Maybe you’re lucky, and you don’t have to think about your baggage very much, maybe you’re not so lucky and every day is a struggle.
All that baggage we collect throughout our lives can leave lasting effects. The most important thing to remember is that getting through each day is entirely up to you. It’s also up to you to decide when you’re in a healthy place to start a relationship. It’s never a good idea to have unresolved baggage and trying to get into a serious relationship.
Understand that everyone is different
If 100 people all experience the same thing, you’ll have 100 different impressions. Whether the experience is good or bad, people just don’t experience things the same way. What hurts you may not even phase someone else and vice versa. Those experiences weigh on us in different ways, too, sometimes even literally.
Each experience we go through, each relationship we have adds a different weight to us mentally and physically. We all know that some people are stronger than others physically. Bodybuilders have competitions to lift freaking refrigerators while I struggle to lift anything, even close to 60lbs. The same is true of emotional weight; some people can just carry more than others. Part of that strength comes from practice, and some of it comes from who we are. Some people can handle a lot, and others will need to learn that their limits are a lot smaller and figure out how to handle letting go of all that baggage.
Baggage comes in lots of different forms but the hardest to deal with is the painful or traumatic stuff. Keep in mind that measuring someone else’s pain against your own isn’t constructive or helpful since, after all, you aren’t them, and they aren’t you. For example, if someone insults your intelligence, it hits a little bit differently if you struggle in school versus if you have a 4.0 GPA, right? Personal trauma and other issues aren’t a competition. Don’t try to play the Pain Olympics; there won’t be any winners. Focus on yourself and give yourself the time you need to resolve your baggage.
Processing baggage takes time
It can be a frustrating process to get rid of all that baggage. Sometimes you think you’ve thrown everything out only to find something has snuck its way back into your head at the most inconvenient time. Thinking you’re over something just to realize that you still actually care about it a lot… sucks. Maybe someone humiliated you in front of a crowd, and you thought you were over it until a friend makes a joke that hits a nerve you didn’t realize you still had. Or someone makes an offhand comment that feels like a really cutting personal judgment.
Don’t lose hope just because it’s taking longer to get over something than you want it to. Let go at your own pace. As long as you keep working on lightening your load, you’ll eventually get there.
It can be hard to keep working on the things that bother you. It’s definitely a lot easier to avoid the tough stuff. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away, though.
Brianna Steinhilber references a study in her article for NBC News on emotional baggage holding you back. The study analyzed the real physical impacts on people with heavy baggage who didn’t let go. They had a harder time in relationships, a harder time achieving their goals, and even a harder time breaking bad habits.
What I’m trying to really hammer home here is that processing all that baggage takes time, even if it takes longer than you think it should as long as you’re trying, you really are making progress.
Lightening your load
Sometimes it can help if you open up about the things that bother you; having an outside opinion can be a big help in coming to a decision or changing your perspective. Having a fresh pair of eyes may help you understand a better way to tackle an insecurity or concern. Remember, though, that there is a difference between opening up and pushing your problems onto someone else. Don’t expect anyone to take your baggage for you; those are your burdens to bear and work through.
Baggage sucks, so remember to cut yourself some slack as you process it. It won’t be instantaneous, and it may not be pretty, but you’ll be happier for it in the long run if you don’t avoid your problems or push them onto someone else.
The ability to work through your baggage will make every relationship down the road a lot healthier because you won’t be waiting around for someone to fix your problems for you. Every challenge you face will help you face the next one and make you stronger. The baggage that used to feel too heavy will start to get lighter and lighter until you can let it go entirely and move forward confidently.
(For help identifying your baggage, read last week’s blog)