Everyone has emotional baggage – it’s the stuff of living that we carry around with us, like our beliefs about ourselves after we fuck something up. If a relationship ends badly, we often take the things our partner said or did to us as the ‘real’ truth about who we are, and we carry those beliefs forward as the actual truth about who we must be and what we must deserve. If someone else can see us so clearly, they must know more about us than we do, right? (Spoiler alert – wrong.)
This is what emotional baggage is made of – buying into those ideas about us that hurt our self esteem, make us feel like victims, or lead us to believe we’re unworthy of love. We lug it around with us and over time, we close our eyes to it, so it becomes a blind spot – something that hurts too much to see or that we just don’t want to look at any more. Unpacking this baggage takes the willingness to see that there’s a problem and being brave enough to face it.
Your baggage might be made up of perceived unworthiness – giving up on a venture or relationship at the first sign of failure because you’re not good enough anyway. Facing that unworthiness means digging into the why of the feeling or belief. When you can get to the underlying reason, like, ‘I’m not good enough because I was a shit in my last relationship,’ you can start doing the real thought work to feel better.
But feeling better is about more than knowing the why behind the baggage – it’s about self-compassion and forgiveness. Even if we did something to hurt our partner, we’re human, and we can learn from our mistakes and change. Self-compassion comes from cutting ourselves some slack, even if we don’t think we deserve it. It’s the heart of becoming your own best friend. It’s telling yourself, “I know you tried and it didn’t work out, but keep going, I believe in you,” even when your inner critic tells you you’re a failure. It’s adding in a voice of love, understanding, and forgiveness in the face of our hardest times and worst emotional spin cycles.
Forgiving ourselves for our mistakes and behavior is critical too. Forgiving others for theirs is pure freedom. As Mark Hansen said, “Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self-sabotaging behavior.” So forgive yourself for fucking up. Forgive yourself for leaving. Forgive yourself for that thing you said – it’s not who you are. Forgive yourself for being a dick to yourself. Forgive others for what they’ve done and said to you. Forgive yourself for believing their behavior said anything about you. Sit in meditation and just forgive.
You are human. You will fuck up. Everyone does. It’s how you handle and transcend the fuck ups that makes all the difference.
(For more information on self-compassion and forgiveness, please visit Self-Compassion Dr. Kristin Neff for amazing resources and exercises.)