We often attribute our limitations to childhood “baggage” –– those familiar disabling habits and unresolved issues that seem to weigh us down and block us from being proactive when challenges arise. I have heard this many times from clients and have addressed it from many different perspectives.
Recently I heard a client attributing their limitations to childhood baggage, and found myself saying, “That’s not your baggage. It’s the child’s baggage.”
These problems arise when we claim the child’s baggage:
- We judge ourselves for not being good enough, worthy enough, or cowardly
- We feel ashamed of how we behaved as a child and may even resent our child self
- We feel helpless when we recall the weight of the baggage that kept us stuck in unhappy outcomes through the years
- We believe our perceived limitations are hopelessly irrevocable because they are entrenched in the “baggage”
- We don’t believe we deserve self-kindness or encouragement. Our internal dialogue is in perpetual “put down” mode
But when you think clearly about them, these problems melt away :
- You don’t judge yourself when your neighbor’s car alarm gets stuck and blares for an hour, do you? Because you’re not the one responsible for the noise. And it doesn’t make sense to judge yourself about childhood baggage, either. It’s not yours!
- At the same time, you don’t need to judge the child you once were. They’re a child! What you consider “baggage” from an adult perspective, was simply the innocent effort of that child to cope with challenges beyond their capacity. You feel compassion for the child. You offer kindness and encouragement.
- The baggage no longer seems old and ratty. You see the sweet-hearted effort in it –– the effort to preserve life and safety.
- The weight lifts as you realize you don’t have to drag that baggage around with you, allowing it to weigh you down. It’s not yours to claim. You can set it down and walk away, continuing to remember the tender child with a warm heart.
- You realize you were influenced by the baggage because you unwittingly regressed yourself into a helpless attitude –– the same attitude the child understandably formed to create the baggage in the first place. You mistakenly identified the child’s shame and defeat as your own. But not any longer!
- You wake up! You are not the child you once were. You don’t have the immature perspective of the child. You are not held back NOW as an Adult just because the Child was understandably held back THEN.
BOOM! (Mic drop) At this point, you stop feeling and acting as if you are a guilty, defeated child. Because you are a free Adult now.
The child’s guilt and shame are not yours. As you stop resenting the child, you begin to have compassion for them. The child was simply doing the best they could.
You eagerly change your attitude and response to childhood memories when they come up. With respect, love and compassion, you welcome the child who formed those attitudes, remembering the sweet heart and spirit she was forced to cover over. You send love to that child’s heart and spirit, NOW.
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