Lately, I’ve become a sort of inner traveler. I find that I’m constantly exploring my own thought processes and checking in with my own feelings.
As I travel inward, I’m finding that there is baggage still to be unpacked. I will find old wounds, unhealed, or echoes of negative self-talk that I still haven’t managed to banish from my inner life.
I’m finding baggage given to me that I never wanted to carry. I find myself examining how these thoughts and feelings came to be and trying to find a way to leave them behind.
So how do we leave behind the burdens that have been given to us to carry?
One such piece of baggage I was carrying was a heavy feeling of unworthiness. I recently wrote about how I often self-sabotage relationships, and while I was uncovering this, I found layer upon layer of unworthy feelings. Perhaps we can attribute this to middle child syndrome or to having my longest relationship weighted with neglect or even to a string of lovers who never saw my worth.
We can take a look at the negative messages I’ve received from people close to me who cannot accept me at face value, or we can delve deeper into past platonic relationships that created trust issues. Like I said: I found layers. But what’s important is that I recognize that it’s baggage that has been given to me by others and that I have voluntarily (however unknowingly) carried. And now I want to lay it down and walk away.
When we discover baggage that we haven’t unpacked, it becomes our work to do so. And not just to unpack it and find a handy shelf in our lives to put it on. Instead, we have to unpack it all, figure out where it came from and come up with a plan to not carry it any longer. We may have to get creative with how we do this because we’ve been carrying it around so long that it feels like our identity rather than a burden we were never truly meant to bear.
Depending on the type of baggage, we may need to rely on experts and professionals to help us out. Whether we struggle with addiction or body image or trust, we may need counseling, medical advice, rehabilitation or even medication. We have to be strong enough to acknowledge that there are some issues that we just can’t handle alone.
And for the ones that we are competent to handle ourselves, we have to prepare for the gritty, difficult work of change. This could mean coming face to face with truths about our own behaviors that we may not like. It could also mean having to make amends or apologize to others. It could mean that we have to choose to end certain relationships in our lives or enforce new, uncomfortable boundaries in them to maintain them in the future. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fun. But it will set us free from those burdens when we put the work into it.
I had to get truly creative with my plan for change. Here are a few techniques that I am utilizing that could be applied to a variety of issues:
- Thought Stopping: When those negative thoughts arise and I begin to feel that sense of unworthiness, I have to stop those thoughts. I cannot allow them to continue. Once I’ve stopped them from going further and inflicting more damage, I can move to the next step.
- Positive Self Talk: Once I’ve stopped the spiraling negative thoughts, I can introduce some kinder thoughts. This isn’t the time to lie to ourselves. It’s a time to examine reality and tell ourselves the truth. For instance, I’m not unworthy. I’m a wonderful person, a loyal friend. I have many good qualities that I can remind myself of when I get those unworthy feelings.
- A Visual Reminder of My Support: When I was in high school, I used to make collages of my friends on bulletin boards. I would display it prominently and would also post up movie tickets and other souvenirs of my time with them. I’ve decided that I still need this. I think it’s a great reminder that my support system is actually larger than I sometimes realize, and having a visual reminder can help keep us on track. I also have a vision board that I use to display the type of life I want to have, and it helps motivate me to achieve that life.
- Awareness of My Patterns: I’m paying attention to my behaviors. I’m looking for actions that highlight the negative baggage I’ve carried, and I’m changing them. I listen to my own thoughts, and I allow myself to check in often with how I’m feeling.
- Self-Care: I cannot say enough about the importance of taking good care of ourselves when we’re struggling. We have to make time for this, even if it’s just a few minutes. We’ve heard the expression, You can’t pour from an empty cup. This is so true! We have to take the time to replenish our own stores of energy and vitality so that we’re able to do the hard work of change.
- Unlimited Dreaming: This is my most difficult assignment. I’ve given myself the task of allowing myself to dream without limits for a few minutes every day. To imagine success in the kick starter I’m running for my children’s book. To imagine a love that can match mine and won’t leave. To imagine anything and everything and not to put limits on those dreams because of a deep-seated feeling that I’m not worthy of those dreams.
I wish I could tell you that this list is all you need, but all of our needs are different. We may each have a different plan to execute the change we need, and that’s okay. What’s important isn’t how we proceed but that we proceed at all. Because we need to put down the baggage we’ve been carrying so that we can live full, beautiful, extraordinary lives. We need to stop weighting ourselves down with all of the negativity we’ve absorbed and to recognize that some of what we’re carrying really is other people’s garbage that they gave to us to try to make themselves feel lighter (and it didn’t work). Once we see that, we can begin to unpack. And to move on.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Flickr/Eos Maia Reichow
Editor: Travis May