Are you carrying around years of baggage that prevents you from personal growth?
Even at my age of 71, I still carry the scars from child abuse. I have harbored my insecurities as a teen and a young adult when I felt vulnerable. I have been angry with my parents for their estrangement because they could not accept me as a gay man. This fueled the self-doubt and the low self-esteem I had to conquer.
For years, I did not realize this baggage strangled me in interpersonal relationships. At work, if criticized by my boss, I took it personal. He doesn’t like me. He thinks I’m stupid and I can’t do the job. He is trying to get rid of me.
Actually, he was giving me constructive criticism. He wanted me to make corrections that I had overlooked. He might been attempting to expand my horizon and for me to take on additional responsibility. At the time, I didn’t see it that way.
Early years when dating, I didn’t trust anyone and I thought most people were insensitive. If they exhibited interest in me, I got defensive. I cannot let him/her see who I really am. When I got married at twenty-two, I didn’t know how to accept the love my wife was offering. She’s just like Mother, she wants to control me. I felt self-conscience and inadequate when it came to intimacy with her.
After I finally accepted that I was a homosexual, I sought and found that person who accepted me. For the first time in my life, I found a person who accepted and validated me as good and loving person. Yet, I didn’t know how to receive his personification. I thought I had to please him to feel self-happiness. If he really knew who I am, he wouldn’t want anything to do with me. I didn’t know how to return his love.
I found it difficult to make and maintain friendships. I didn’t trust anyone and I automatically thought if I trusted them, I would get hurt. Instead of accepting their friendship, I held them at arm length. I wouldn’t initiate contact and I waited for them to call.
All the time I was harboring the insecurities and low self-esteem, I also carried self-anger. The results were extended periods of depression. Finally, when I was in my forties, I got tired of feeling low. I can’t take this crap anymore. I can’t stand always feeling unhappy. What is wrong with me?
I entered an extended period of counseling with a beautiful hearted woman who opened a new world to me. She helped me see it wasn’t my fault. She allowed me to acknowledge my fears and understand the anger. She showed me to be able to love someone else you needed to love yourself. She taught me self-help techniques to handle the depressions.
Even after leaving counseling, I had to fight the cognitive distortion of negativity. It was a constant battle to avoid slipping back into the old ways. With each skirmish to drop the baggage of the past, it became easier. I began to feel that my friends were my peers and I didn’t need to distrust or to compete with them. I was able to let go of the need to please my parents. I realized it was my parents’ problem they couldn’t accept me. I moved on with my life without them.
The one true treasure has been the thing I wanted the most—acceptance. I had the love of my life who accepted me; he accepted me as is. Yet, I had through the years almost self-destroyed our relationship. When I finally learned to love myself, I learned to love him. It was seeing a rainbow when walking out of a storm. My eyes opened to see a man who had stood by my side all these years. My perspective of him changed from dependence to life partner.
We walk this life interacting with many individuals, some more so than others. I believe we are in this life alone. We come into this world and leave this world alone. If we cannot look ourselves in the mirror without contempt, it is our fault. We should challenge ourselves to overcome this self-hatred. If we cannot accept ourselves and feel displeasure, we are losing in life. It is our responsibility, not anyone else, to make the change.
There is so much love and happiness awaiting us if we will only reach out for it. We don’t have to carry the baggage from the past. There is a pathway to self-happiness and I found it. I checked my baggage at the station and caught that train to self-happiness. Will you join me?