4 Types of Emotional Baggage (And How to Pack Them Away For Good)
I’m straying away a bit from my typical business tips + tutorials to get a little vulnerable with you all and talk about a topic that’s been near to my heart for years now: emotional baggage. Emotional baggage can feel heavier around this time of the year—pink + red everything is plastered all over your favorite stores, sappy social media posts flood your feed and your once favorite 3 little words feel, well, empty.
I know that all too well, sister. Emotional baggage is real, it's raw and it's just not talked about enough. I put some serious time (and tears) into laying out 4 different types of emotional baggage that I've personally dealt with (or am still dealing with) and how I've learned to start to pack it away for good.
This kind of vulnerability is hard, friend. So remember to be kind, supportive and, if you're able, be just as vulnerable with me. If you're feeling like you've outgrown who you've been, you've come to the right place. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Lack of Self-worth
I used to pride myself on being a servant to others—if you needed me, I was there. Heck, sometimes I'd even do something for you when you wouldn't even ask because that's what a loving friend, sister, daughter, girlfriend, etc. does, right? The problem I was creating was a lack of self-worth: the more I poured into others, the less I had to pour into myself. I'd spend all of my time helping other people re-charge to be their best, all while (figuratively) slapping myself across the face and unknowingly telling myself I wasn't worthy enough for the same kind of love.
After hitting rock bottom (not an exaggeration) at the end of last year, I knew something needed to change. Instead of viewing self-love and self-worth as selfish, I reframed my mindset to understand that in order to pour love into other people's lives, I needed to pour into myself first. Self-worth isn't something to work for or towards—we were born with it. Instead, self-worth is something we need to uncover from deep within that we've buried with busing ourselves and overloading our to-do lists with tasks.
So how can you show yourself some self-love and improve how you view yourself? For me, it means shutting my computer, pulling out a new knitting project, popping some popcorn and putting on a face mask. Take some time to come up with ideas and implement one of those today.
Dealing with Infidelity
"I've been sleeping with your boyfriend since August" was what the Instagram message said to me as I read from my phone late last November, and I literally collapsed to the floor.
Infidelity is a type of emotional baggage that hits you over the head, rips your heart out and causes a cycle of "whys." It's one thing when you fall, but it's another thing when the person who was supposed to catch you was the very one who dropped you. When someone is unfaithful to you, you question everything, replay memories, dissect conversations and doubt your discernment. You cry, blame the other person, blame yourself, and then cry a heck of a lot more.
One thing I've had to repeat to myself since dealing with infidelity is that I am not the cause of it and I did not do anything to make this person act the way that they did. Lives are made up of small moments that all brought you to this (really crappy) moment, and this is just how they happened to unfold. I'm not making excuses or just saying "well it happened, so get over it" — trust me, I'm feeling your hurt, friend. I just want you to know that the best way to inch closer towards healing is to accept what happened. Acceptance is not approval. Let me say that again: acceptance is NOT approval. Acceptance is acknowledging reality and what it brought to your life, rather than setting up shop in the "this isn't happening" stage. The sooner you begin to accept your reality, the sooner you can move towards recovery.
"Trauma" is a word that has (sadly) become more common over the past few years and is typically viewed as a response to an incredibly horrific experience or event. The TRUE definition of trauma is a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. Trauma is subjective—it's different for everyone.
Trauma can take many forms, but one thing is for sure: the trauma that you’ve been through is a big deal. Don't belittle it or compare your trauma to others'—what you went through is important and valid.
For me, the trauma I've been working hard to heal is a broken engagement from a few years ago and a broken relationship from a few months ago. I've learned about myself that I thought "healing" meant to push through, to busy myself with work, other tasks and helping others. Doing this made me feel better, so it was working, right? So wrong, Megan.
While distraction may relieve your short-term pain, it's causing long-term damage. It's SO important to brave the uncomfortable and be willing to explore your emotions. Instead of ignoring or pushing emotions away, let them come and acknowledge them for what they are. It's helped me to journal through this; I feel like I'm getting them out of my head and onto something, which is a mental release in itself. This practice takes some serious strength, but trust me when I say that it's worth it. Pushing your emotions away is not doing you any good, and if you need someone to talk to, I'm just a coffee date or phone call away.
Handling Anxiety & Depression
Anxiety first hit during my freshman year of college in the form of intense worrying, rapid heartbeat, and literally pulling out my hair. Depression came along with it like an uninvited friend, making itself right at home. My mind tends to bounce between dwelling on the past and terrified about the future, never quite settling on the here and now. When you live in the past, it's easy to find yourself depressed. When you live in the future, it's easy to find yourself anxious. But when you live in the present, that's when you find peace. So how the ham do you live in the present?
In one word: Mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is being aware of what's going on around you and inside of you in the present moment. Let's take it further and talk about mindfulness of your thoughts. In one MINUTE, you have an average of 35-48 thoughts. That means in ONE DAY, your brain takes in 50,000-70,000 thoughts. So try this out: Take 5 minutes, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Let in whatever thoughts come into your mind, but instead of over-analyzing and judging them, just acknowledge them. I like to picture my thoughts as clouds in the sky. They float into view and then drift out of view. Just BEING with your thoughts instead of pushing them away will make you more mindful of them and help you begin to sort and process them.
Remember, you are NOT your thoughts and your emotions do NOT define you. Your brain has the capability to change (neuroplasticity, y’all), so put a stop to the lie that you'll always feel this way. Start with 5 minutes a day and watch your mindset begin to change.
Emotional baggage can take many shapes and forms, and these four types just skim the surface of what can be some deep pain that you may be feeling. I want to leave you with this truth: you are capable of tackling this baggage head-on, these struggles do not define you and above all, you are enough and deeply loved.
If one of these types of emotional baggages really resonated with you, I’d love for you to leave a note below so I can encourage you and send you all of the virtual hugs.