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Embrace Your Baggage?
DON'T LET IT WEIGH YOU DOWN. USE IT AS A WAY OUT.
We all have baggage. For many of us, the older we get the heavier the baggage becomes because we’ve neglected to take inventory of the garbage we collected in our lives. Actually, some of us are hoarders when it comes to holding onto the crap we’ve crammed into our proverbial carry-on.
As a result of this accumulation, it can be easy to feel weighed down. Not only because we’re hauling it with us wherever we go but because we’re also hiding it from others. We’re afraid of what they’ll think if they knew the real you instead of the person you pretend to be publically. Both are exhausting.
A few days ago, I saw a Tweet by Lex Fridman that caught my attention which has sparked my thoughts for today. The Tweet simply said, “I try to skip generic small talk and go deep right away like the world ends in five minutes and the two of us have just that time to figure it all out.”
I’m of the same mindset. I find generic small talk to be a drain on my energy and a waste of my time—not because there’s no value in it whatsoever—because we seldom venture beyond the niceties of small talk to have real conversations with people who crave connections chitchat can’t offer.
One person responded to my retweet and said, “I think small talk is necessary to weed out who is going to suck up my energy or who is safe to go deep with.” That’s 100% opposite of my opinion, and I find their sentiment somewhat selfish because deep down each of us is seeking more, and small talk will leave us longing.
I’m talking about connections where we feel noticed, valued, listened to, and loved. “Sure nice weather we’re having.” or “How are you doing? Fine. You? Fine.” falls short of curbing those cravings. Is our culture starved for authenticity today because we’re too busy protecting ourselves or proving our point? Probably both.
The connections we seek are discovered in deep waters where risk and vulnerability are required. Unfortunately, such risks are too hard to consider for many because the pain of the past is where shame, betrayal, and neglect dwell. And those experiences comprise a large sum of the baggage we’ve complied.
The idea of embracing your baggage is an issue of ownership. Until you own, admit, acknowledge, or confess the crap you carry with you, you’ll never be able to share it. You can’t share something with others you don’t own in the first place. And that’s the paradox of the whole issue. Ownership is key.
I’m simply talking about unpacking your problems one at a time. You can’t just keep stuffing your past into convenient compartments or keep pushing it down hoping it will disappear or dissipate. You have to take it out of the bag and decide what you’re going to do with it once and for all.
My friend Monty Hipp says it something ike this, “How heavy is your bag? Because sooner or later you have to wear what is packed in it.” In other words, you’ve got to deal with it eventually. So why are we so afraid of embracing our baggage? Is it rejection we fear? Is there some level of ego? Are we embarrassed?
It’s all of the above and then some, but baggage isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Everyone has baggage. And the more willing you are to reveal your baggage the deeper your connections become. If I’ll trust you with my junk, maybe you can trust me, too. But trust is risky because we’ve all been burnt, right?
As I mentioned, we’re all craving connections. We all want deeper and more meaningful relationships. Now, if you’re thinking, “No. I don’t need anyone. I’m just fine alone.” My suspicion is that you’ve been hurt, ignored, or betrayed too many times already. And I’m sorry…but you still need relationships.
When you make yourself vulnerable, you become more approachable—even trustworthy—because people can see themselves in you. Despite your position, situation, or station in life, people will resonate with you and feel valued in their own circumstances because you are, in fact, just like them—and they are not alone.
Now, let me encourage you because it’s easy to worry that your baggage will be used against you. You might be right. There’s always an outside chance someone could leverage your life as a weapon. When I wrote, Alone Sucks, my wife had the same fear. She said, “People will crucify you for what you wrote.”
What we found out is that literally thousands of people not only saw themselves in my story, they also recognized others who needed to read my story. People have been waiting for someone they can relate to—just like your baggage has been waiting for you to embrace it. Because your baggage is actually beautiful.
Baggage shows the wear and tear in your life. It reveals the experiences you’ve had. At the same time, baggage can also be painful. Simultaneously, the polar opposites work together like building blocks. When embraced, baggage builds character. When you claim it, own it, and share it, 99% of people will thank you.
Now, you can embrace your baggage and expose yourself to others without airing all your dirty laundry. In Alone Sucks, I shared about 20% of my story—what I call the necessary parts. There was much more drama and detail I chose to keep private because those are sacred experiences I hold dear. And you should, too.
When it comes to embracing and sharing baggage, I’m talking about those experiences that have broken you, shaped you, and transformed you into the person you are now. Embracing your baggage also means releasing it or letting it out. If you don’t release baggage, it becomes a poison that’s toxic to your life.
That’s why we love spending time with close friends. We don’t have to pretend. Besides my immediate family, I have friends who allow me to feel and share regardless of what I expose. And it feels right. We have that relationship because at one point, one of us broke the ice and got completely vulnerable with the other.
I try to do the same thing in this blog and on my podcast. It’s why I started both. I knew there were people in my audience who need to hear they aren’t the only ones carrying around baggage that has become burdensome. Could it come back to bite me? Probably. Do I care? Clearly not. People are worth the risk.
That’s why I prefer deep conversation over small talk and chitchat. I might only have a few minutes with the person in front of me. And I don’t want to miss an opportunity for them to feel noticed. For me, small talk is artificial flavoring and filler that is a barrier to healthy ingredients people need for emotional nourishment.
Embracing your baggage is a good step forward on the path toward living with authenticity. And when I use the word authenticity, I specifically mean living with the freedom to just be. Imagine how it would feel if you felt free to be yourself all the time. Imagine a world where no one felt forced to wear a mask.
Imagine being able to share vulnerabilities as easily as sharing victories. Imagine a planet where people didn’t hide what was going on inside their heads and hearts. Sounds good, right? It can happen when a few people take a risk and go first. And here’s what would begin to happen in your life—you’d feel a lot lighter.
Not only would you feel lighter because you’re not weighed down by your past, pain, and problems, but you’d feel more fulfilled, connected, and seen. And this experience of expressing yourself freely would not only benefit you as a person but the world as well. I’m convinced you could become contagious.
Seriously. Imagine if everyone was free to be vulnerable. Not only would you as an individual feel better but everyone around you would cultivate deeper relationships and a deeper understanding of one another. After all, conflict—which our world is full of today—comes from not understanding the person next to us.
So how do you begin? Well, start by avoiding small talk. It’s not a warm-up to real conversation anyway. You’ve never walked away from chitchat and felt fulfilled. When someone says, “How are you?” Tell them the truth. Dive deep. If that’s too much for them to handle, maybe someone else needs your investment.
When you’re willing to get real and embrace your baggage, you’ll soon discover that it is less scary than you imagined. You’ll also discover that people have the same baggage as you. It might come in different shapes, sizes, and colors with different labels, but it’s baggage nonetheless.
And when you decide to break free from the status quo to go beneath the surface, you instantly cut through the insecurities that accompany the baggage you’ve been dragging around for all these years. Maybe it’s just time to realize that on the inside we’re all the same. Fundamentally, flawed. Ultimately, human.
As I’ve written before, I realize more than ever that life is short. Every day is a gift. And while I’m breathing, I want to influence as many people as possible in this world. I want the message I teach to be infectious which necessitates me letting my guard down and letting others see my imperfections.
Sound odd? Hard? Difficult? It might be at first. But it gets easier and easier. I love being a square peg in a round hole. I love not feeling the need to fit into the mold others have created. I know standing out, standing up, and standing apart from the crowd makes me a more influential person who is able to help others.
And that’s my hope for you, too.
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Disclosure: Many thoughts for today’s blog are inspired by or borrowed directly from Jessica Zweig because she’s a brilliant mind—and 90% of her ideas happen to coincide with mine 😂. If you need a personal branding expert, you should take a look at her agency, Simply.Be.