5 Types of Baggage You Don't Need to Carry

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You know how when you go on vacation and you somehow end up having way more stuff when you head home than you did when you left your house? Life's kinda like that, too. We tend to pick up baggage as we go through life, and, just like when you bring home random souvenirs, if you don't sort through it and get rid of what you don't really love, you end up with a bunch of junk that you'll drag around from house to house for no other reason than the fact that it's been in your closet for years and it feels easier to just pack it up than to think about whether or not you actually want it.

That attitude isn't all that problematic when it comes to souvenirs, but when it comes to emotional baggage, dragging around what doesn't add value to your life will really weigh you down. And, just like the idea of sorting through mementos, the thought of sorting through emotional baggage can feel like such a daunting task that it's sometimes easier to just put it off. But, unpleasant as the sorting might be, the longer you put it off, the more you'll have to sort through. 

Just as we've all likely accumulated a wide variety of knickknacks, we all carry a unique set of emotional luggage. Sorting through it all is an individual experience; it's something we each have to do for ourselves, in our own time. But I thought this week I'd talk a little bit about five kinds of emotional baggage many of us are carrying around — suitcases of inner burdens that make each of our paths a little bit more difficult to travel. 



The first bag we could all benefit from setting down is the past. Yes, there's value in remembering what's happened so that you can learn from it, but dragging it around with you doesn't serve much purpose. Like it or not, the past is over. What's done is done, and you cannot go back (no matter how much you might want to at times!). Recognizing this — acknowledging the past, learning what you can from it, and letting it go — is one of the best ways to lighten your emotional load. Having a hard time letting go of the past? Read this (super old!!) post, Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Past?, that I wrote when I was really struggling with letting the past go. 



The next load of luggage we need to set down is a negative attitude. For many of us (including me!) negativity feels like safety. Imaging what could go wrong (or noticing what is going wrong) can feel like a form of self-protection, a way to cope with (or potentially prevent) bad things in life. But focusing on the negative aspects of life is like lugging around a bag of rocks while trudging up a mountain — all it does is make your journey more difficult. No matter what you're experiencing in life, focusing on the negativity will always make the situation worse. Check out 5 Reasons to Nix Negativity in Your Life, and you'll realize how important it is to set that bag down. 



Want to lighten your load even more? Then it's time to let go of guilt. The concept of guilt is closely tied with the past, but it's not quite the same. Even if you've done your best to let the past go, you might still cling to guilt, feeling as if you deserve to lug around the blame for something that's happened, even when you know it cannot be undone. Guilt is a waste of time, and what is life, really, but doing what we can to make the most of the time we've been given. If you're struggling to let go of guilt (or understand why you should), read the post (with a video!) I Don't Feel Guilty (And You Shouldn't Either!).



Letting go of expectations is essential if you want to carry around less weight. Expectations (both of ourselves and of others) often lead to a lot of stress and strife, and quite frequently you don't even realize how much they weigh you down. They might seem like something beneficial — guidelines that should you what you do and don't want — but they are heavy. It's not until you begin setting them down that you realize down cumbersome they are. Struggling with the weight of expectations? You might want to read Love Without Expectation or Why You Need Lower Expectations



Finally, something many of us carry around that we really need to set down? Others' mistakes. The past of others might not seem like something you're carrying, but you're likely doing so without realizing it. Whether it's parents, siblings, colleagues, friends, or children, many of us drag around the weight of what others have done (either because we feel partly responsible for it or because we've been hurt by it), and, just as with our own pasts, the pasts of others cannot be undone. Do yourself a favor and set that extra weight down! (Not sure how to separate yourself from the baggage of others? Check out Preserving Your Perimeter: 4 Steps to Set Boundaries and Live and Let Live: How Detachment Can Improve Relationships.)


Setting down one (or all!) of these things is no easy feat, but the effort it takes is so worth it. Life is a tough climb sometimes and lugging around extra weight only makes the ascent more difficult. These five types of baggage are the first that came to my mind, but I'd love to know: what else would you like to set down? Let me know in the comments below! 



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Face the Fear: A 6-Step Plan for Dealing with Anger


I'm a lot of things, but angry is rarely one of them. (Not because I don't have things to be angry about, of course, but I don't tend dwell on anger the way I might with other emotions.) This week, however, I stumbled, a bit shocked, into some seriously angry feelings. My first reaction was the desire to run from the feeling, to push it down and away, but then I realized it's probably better if I practice what I preach. I certainly wouldn't tell any of you to push down anger and run from from it, so I decided to sit with it and try to figure it out. And now I thought I'd share what I did to cope with it, which was a whole lot of trial and error, but this seemed to be what I'd remind myself if I faced the situation again. (Isn't that what all advice is, really? Haha)



The first step of almost all good advice is pay attention, and it's for good reason. When you pause, look around, and explore what you're feeling and how you're reacting, you give yourself a chance to gather information and make more logical, sound decisions. Knowledge is power here. The more you can notice — about the situation, how you're feeling, what thoughts are running through your mind — the more you know and the more you know the more prepared you are for Step 2, which is the hardest part. 



I remember learning, long ago, that all anger comes from fear. I've used that lesson to help me be more compassionate and empathetic with those I know who tend to gravitate toward anger. When I remind myself that others' anger is really their fear, I'm able to think and react more calmly. What I hadn't realized until recently is that this truth applies to my anger as well. When I'm experiencing anger, I'm really feeling fear. The more I started thinking about things / people / situations that angered me with that perspective in mind, the more easily I could see the fear behind each and everything thing that made me angry. Realizing that anger comes from fear opens the door to the place where you can get to the heart of it and figure out what's really bothering you. 



After you've figured out where the anger is coming from and identified that underlying fear (this could happen right away or maybe it takes days to make the connection), it's time to chill out. There were moments this week where I wanted to just react, to lash out in the first act that came to mind, but (fortunately for all involved) I decided not to. I did this by reminding my angry self that I could still take the action tomorrow if I felt like it, knowing that it was likely that the urge to react angrily would probably pass. (This is hard at first because it's not until you do it that you realize how much it actually works!) Taking a time out — which sometimes might mean pausing conversations until you're calmer or actively seeking along time — will help you get some perspective.  



Speaking of perspective, another thing I did that I think really helped me understand this powerful emotion was asking myself, What do I want to happen? Rather than just doing the first thing that came to my mind, I instead pondered what the absolute best outcome would be for the situation. When I had identified the ideal outcome, I was able to work backward in my mind to figure out how I might get that result. It became instantly clear that picking up the phone, raising my voice, and releasing a rush of hurt in a frustrated tone wasn't going to lead me to the ideal outcome. It would, at best, result in things remaining the same or, at worst, make the situation worse. Once I knew what I wanted to happen, I could come up with a more productive way about getting it. 



This one might depend a lot on the situation, but if it's something you can discuss with a friend (if not, consider someone completely removed from the situation or a therapist), I highly recommend doing a little venting with someone you can trust. Sometimes it helps to have someone not in the situation offer a fresh (and must less biased) perspective. Talking with friends about my anger made it easier for me to actually identify my reasoning (and envision how it might appear from another's point of view, giving me instantly another perspective on the subject). Now, in addition to knowing what I was afraid of and identifying what I wanted the outcome to be, I now had more knowledge: my own shifted perspective and the insightful, less-biased input from friends.  



Then, with all of that knowledge — and a little bit of space from that time out I took — I was ready to take action. The choice I made ended up being very different reaction from the one I wanted to enact initially, and I got a result much closer to my "ideal" outcome than I would've likely gotten had I gone with my knee-jerk reaction. And, perhaps one of the greatest benefits of this little exercise was that I ultimately felt so much better than I would have if I'd reacted irrationally. Yes, I still feel fearful and frustrated in some ways, but I recognize the complexity of the situation and am handling it with more nuance and compassion (both for myself and others) than I otherwise would have. 


I'm not one to recommend avoiding emotions, but I personally think that, when it comes to anger, following these six steps (when possible — I know that not every situation might allow the time for this kind of reflection) will help you not only feel much more positive in the present moment, but it'll also lead to more peace in the long run. You should never bottle up emotions, but you don't have to let them explode, cork flying, spraying everywhere either. It's all about balance, and using this six-step process really helped me cultivate more emotional stability. 

Do you have any good tips for dealing with anger? If so, leave 'em in the comments section below! 


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Encouragement for New Parents

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Over the years, I've received requests to write about staying positive as a parent or about how to be a good parent, but, since I'm not a parent and never plan to be one, it's not a topic I have any business writing about. However, over the weekend, I became an aunt for the first time so now it's time for me to sharing all of my positive parenting tips! I'm kidding. I don't have a clue what it's like to be a new parent, and, even those who have been new parents don't know what it's like to be my sister and her husband, new parents to this specific new little person (who I already love so much!!). 

It seems to me having all the seasoned parents offering you, a new parent, advice would get old pretty quickly. Yes, intentions are good, and, yes, someone who has already been a parent has insights and experience, but I'd imagine that hearing, "When I had my first baby..." isn't always helpful. Plus, you can literally google anything so it's not like, as a parent, you really need the unsolicited advice of other parents. I started thinking about what I'd want if I had just had a baby, and, based on my understanding of what it's like — amazing, surreal, terrifying, exciting, overwhelming, exhausting — I thought I'd offer some encouragement rather than advice. 

I drew the illustration above (also available in the shop if you know any new parents who might need it!) awhile back in preparation of the arrival of my little nephew, but here's a more in-depth take on what I was thinking while brainstorming some of these little bits of encouragement... (And, to be honest, most of us, parents or not, could use these reminders!)



Parenting looks incredibly hard, and it seems to me that, no matter how much research you do, no matter how many parenting books you read or courses you take, a lot of the time you're going to have to just learn it as you're experiencing it. It seems like one of those things that, no matter how much you prepare, you're still going to be learning all the time. As a new parent, I'd imagine that this is important to remember because it probably seems, at times, like you don't know what you're doing. But, just like any other super important job, no matter how prepared you are, you're still going to learn as you go along because you're dealing with a brand new, unique little person. 



There is no perfect parent. There is no perfect parenting technique. Every parent is unique, every family dynamic is unique, and every baby is unique, so, while there are tons of great ideas and tips for being a good parent, there's no one-size-fits-all, "perfect" way to do it. Plus, parenting is a full-time, 24/7 job. If you're doing something literally all of the time, it's impossible to do it flawlessly. Being a parent is like being a person. You do the best you can with whatever skills and knowledge you have and you usually keep getting better and better at it. Parenthood (and personhood) is a crazy concoction of success and slip-ups, of trying your best and trying to figure out what the heck is going on. No one is doing it perfectly and that's perfectly okay. 



Even if you know that perfection is a myth, it's probably pretty tough to be a parent and see all of the "perfect" representations of parenthood online. All of the mommy bloggers and the Instagram celebrities showing off their post-baby bodies, their perfectly lit little bundles of joy, their immaculate nurseries. I'm obviously not a parent, but even get envious when I see how neat and tidy and perfect those lives look online. But none of that is real life. There is a behind-the-scenes to every perfect image shared online — the baby's post-photoshoot meltdown, the messy side of the room not shown in the photo, the not-Instagrammable emotional highs and lows of caring for a newborn. Parenting looks like the hardest thing ever and I bet there is no one, no matter how gorgeous their online presence looks, that isn't having a tough time with it. 



To be honest, this probably falls more in the "advice" category instead of "encouragement," but it seems like something that would be important as a new parent. Obviously, the baby is going to get a ton of attention and focus, but the parents deserve to get some alone time, to have a break, to relax (or at least try to) for a little bit. It's probably not an easy thing to do (and greatly depends on the situation and how much help the parents have available), but it seems like a good thing to at least strive for when becoming a new parent. Because, just like any relationship, the more you take care of yourself, the easier it is to take care of others. (That being said, new parents shouldn't beat themselves up if they can't find time for, or don't want, "me time." Everyone and every situation is different and new parents should do what's best for themselves and their baby.)



Considering what a massive and new undertaking parenting is, I bet most new parents feel some level of unpreparedness when they're given that adorable little swaddled baby. I'm guessing most parents feel they're lacking in something because being completely responsible for another human being is pretty much the most important job, and how in the world do you accurately prepare for such a thing?! But, when it comes down to it, if they've got love and are doing the best they can, parents have what they need. Just think of all the people who are, or have been, parents. Sure, some of them are terrible at it, but tons of them have done an amazing job. Babies mostly need love and food and if you can provide those things, you've got what you need to get started making an awesome human being. 



When making the illustration, this one was the most important for me to include. From what I understand about parenting, it's both incredibly amazing and terrifyingly overwhelming, particularly the first time you do it. And it seems to me that one of the toughest things about it is being expected to feel a certain way about it. Everyone around you is so happy and excited about your new baby, but they all get to go home and go back to their normal lives, while you, as new parents, continue to have your life completely changed forever. (Not to be dramatic or anything, haha.) I'm guessing that a really tough part about being a new parent is feeling a crazy range of emotions, while also feeling that you should just be overjoyed and grateful. So it seems to me that one of the best bits of encouragement for a new parent would be a reminder that they should just feel how they feel (and a reminder that you can feel conflicting emotions at the same time and still be a wonderful, loving parent). Change, even when positive, is a lot to deal with and new parents should be allowed to literally feel all the feels. 


I couldn't be more thrilled to be an aunt for the first time! If you're an aunt or an uncle, I'd love to know if you have any tips or advice. Also, if you're a new parent, congratulations! :) If you — or any of the more experienced parents— have any additional bits of encouragement for me to pass along to my little sis, let me know in the comments below! 





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