Emotional baggage is a term used to describe a phenomenon whereby one carries past trauma, negative experiences, and feelings through their life. This can negatively affect you as you move through careers, relationships, and general life decisions. It’s like a plague of “trapped” feelings that always seem to weigh you down. So you must let go to lead a purposeful life.
This is a result of unprocessed emotions that get stuck in your brain. If you’ve never dealt with those feelings, they have no way of getting resolved. Worse still, they’ll go on to dictate your behavior, health, resilience, self-esteem, and everything else! That’s just how it is with traumatic stress – it stays with you, and it plagues and clouds everything you do.
To an extent, emotional baggage is a protective mechanism. The human brain naturally wants to learn from its past experiences and apply that knowledge as you live on. This is healthy in some measure, but human development requires further reflection. Learning to consider, process, and manage perceptions allows you to strengthen yourself instead of being weighed down by your trauma and pain.
It’s hard to find fulfillment when you’re living in the past due to emotional baggage. People often believe that they can ignore baggage to make it go away, but it has to be willingly unpacked. It can rob your life of meaning and leave you with so many regrets if not dealt with. Here are four ways emotional baggage can prevent you from living a purposeful life.
1. Denial Prevents You From Having a Purposeful Life
Lots of people are in denial about their emotional baggage. It’s hard to face the realities of those backpacks and what’s in them. This is especially true when that baggage involves severely traumatic situations.
It’s reasonable to be afraid of revisiting the negative roots of your trauma, but this holds you back. This is especially true if you’re trying to live a purposeful life. You need to confront reality if you want to enjoy a meaningful existence, so you can’t hide from the past or pack it away. Denial stifles your growth towards purpose because:
· It Takes Away From What Matters
A purposeful life is all about focusing on the things that truly matter. Your focus is on the heart of meaning and isn’t clouded by any external factors. When you’re in denial, that can’t happen. You become so stuck in what you refuse to see that everything is fogged by that negativity. In essence, you lose the forest for the trees. You act based on subconscious pushes from your emotional baggage and allow it to control you. If you would stop denying those emotions, you’d finally be able to set them aside. Studies say this can even improve your decision-making skills.
· It Makes Emotions Worse
If emotional baggage is bad for purpose, denial increases the negativity exponentially! Research has shown that when you’re capable of naming and acknowledging emotions, you can also reduce their severity. The same goes for the opposite: if you don’t name your feelings and deny them, they worsen over time. That’s not going to help you much in your quest for purpose!
· It Adds Stress To Your Life
There’s no such thing as a genuinely stress-free life. But when you’re gunning for the fulfillment you seek, you’ll want to manage stress well. You need to be able to use your energy on positivity instead of losing it to excess pressure. Denying your emotions by leaving emotional baggage tightly sealed keeps you living in past trauma. Your brain can’t register that you’re safe because you’re actively keeping it in fight-or-flight!
· It Stifles Your Growth
To learn from the past, one must confront and acknowledge it. When you have emotional baggage that you refuse to unpack, you stay in denial of those lessons. Instead of learning and growing accordingly towards a purposeful life, you repeat the same mistakes repeatedly. This burden leaves you stuck and stagnant.
2. Lacking Confidence Holds You Back From A Purposeful Life
A lack of confidence can stifle you as you try to live a purposeful life. You need to trust yourself to feel comfortable with the discomfort of leaving your comfort zone to achieve goals. You need to be okay with the concept of failure and recognize that “failing” doesn’t define your worth.
But emotional baggage ruins any confidence you have. It keeps you living in the past that isn’t the current reality. In that past, you were hiding, victimized, and hurt. You don’t blossom, and you don’t even believe that you can. Here are some ways that a lack of confidence sets difficult hurdles in your desire for purpose:
Fear can hold you back significantly in life. Fear dictates your anxieties and can even make you paranoid. You’ve been hurt before. So you think about how you could be hurt again. You also don’t trust your capabilities in reaching new goals, nor do you trust yourself to handle future issues if they arise. You refuse to let go of your baggage as it reminds you constantly that you need to stay protected by playing it as safe as possible. As such, you never grow, never experience new things, and never leave your comfort zone. How can anyone enjoy a purpose-driven life like that?
Regret and guilt can cause you to stumble in life. While it’s good to learn from the past, dwelling on shame will ruin your emotional wellbeing. Your self-worth will begin to hinge on all your past mistakes. When you live a life directed by guilt, you decide that your regrets define you. This damages your self-esteem and confidence.
Emotional baggage can make you question your abilities. This causes you to lose interest in things that should be driving your purpose forward. You don’t believe you’re capable of achieving anything, so you don’t bother. This self-imposed negativity is among the saddest effects of emotional baggage. It allows those who have harmed you to be a critical voice in your head continually.
3. Let Go Of Past Relationships For A More Purposeful Life
Not everyone necessarily has relationships at the center of their goals for a purposeful life. But, all the same, social health is typically a necessary part of a positively lived life. Humans are social creatures by nature, and there’s a lot of value in community and support systems. Without a good circle of support, it’s tough to get to the purpose you desire, especially since it’ll be tough to find like-minded people.
Emotional baggage is a huge factor in maintaining poor relationships. When you’re led by all this past trauma, you bring those feelings and insecurities with you into various interactions. You continue to live like the people in your life today will treat you the same way as those who contributed to your baggage. This is extremely unfair to those around you now and can drive people away.
Emotional baggage further affects relationships because it makes you:
- Fear closeness due to commitment issues or a fear that others can hurt you if they know you well.
- Become overly sensitive to the actions of others, causing you to take things personally and lash out easily.
- Compares yourself to everyone around you, leading to toxic envy and further lack of confidence.
- Need constant reassurance from others, bordering on codependent clinginess or neediness.
- Have trouble opening up to new people.
- Seek out relationships that repeat toxic patterns you haven’t unpacked from your baggage.
- Project your insecurities and unresolved baggage onto others.
4. Unwillingness to Change Prevents You From Living a Purposeful Life
To live a purposeful life, you must often engage in various lifestyle changes. After all, many people seek purpose through meaningful improvement or facilitate their personal growth to achieve their goals. If you have emotional baggage, this can be a significant barrier to those necessary changes.