Everyone, to a certain extent, feels weighed down by the past. Maybe they have regrets. Or perhaps they were emotionally hurt by a significant other. Whatever the case, painful emotions tend to shape us and how we interact with others. This emotional baggage can prevent you from fully taking part in new situations and relationships. Do you have emotional baggage that's weighing you down? Here's a step-by-step guide to shedding it.
First, how do you spot emotional baggage?
Sometimes emotional baggage isn't always easy to identify. Here are signs that you could be carrying unnecessary emotional baggage around that's negatively affecting your life:
- Comparing yourself to others. Do you ever worry that you're not good enough? How often do you compare yourself with others? If you do these two things a lot, this could mean you have unresolved emotional baggage that's affecting your self-esteem.
- Feeling inadequate. To you tend to hone in on your faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses? This can quickly turn into a habit and spiral out of control. Feelings of inadequacy can stem from unresolved emotions you have from past relationships.
- Being in a bad mood frequently. Do you find yourself in a bad mood more often than not? Do you feel uncertain about the future and feel negative about the future? These could all indicate you have a lot of emotional baggage to sift through.
- Displacing emotions. Have you ever gotten angry at someone because of something that annoyed you, even though it was unrelated? When people feel upset about something, they may transfer their emotions to someone else.
- Afraid of being alone. Are you uncomfortable being by yourself? Do you jump from relationship to relationship or throw yourself into work because it serves as a distraction? Instead of running away from your emotional baggage, it's time to face it head-on.
Here's how to deal with it
The more you pay attention to how you react to things and why the more you'll be able to better deal with emotional baggage:
- Identify triggers. Write down everything you can think of that weighs you down. Look for similarities and patterns, paying attention to your emotions. Experts agree that emotional baggage is often a story that you tell yourself. One way to process it is to shift the narrative. The more you challenge those stories, the easier it will become to accept that you don't have to carry all that heaviness.
- Cultivate a desire to heal. One of the first, and most crucial, steps of processing emotional baggage is to consciously desire to heal and be free. Think about what it would feel like to leave your emotional baggage behind. What would your relationships with others look like? Reflect on those questions to help harness your desire for change.
- Practice forgiveness. Make it your goal to release yourself from emotional baggage by forgiving yourself and those in your past who have contributed to painful feelings.
- Reflect on the lessons you learned. Recall past experiences (even negative ones) and think about what lessons you learned from them. Try to take a positive spin on negative experiences to assist you with moving on.
Change doesn't happen overnight
Remember that the process of letting go and healing takes time. It takes a lot of dedication and courage to face painful experiences, but this will enable you to shed harmful emotional baggage.
- "5 Not-So-Easy Steps to Letting Go of Emotional Baggage," Medium, July 27, 2018.
- "Three Ways to Break Free of Your Past Relationship Baggage," Psychology Today, June 9, 2017.