If you can read this, you probably have some of what we collectively call baggage. You know, the things in our past that shape our current thoughts and behaviors. Everything from how you were raised to what you ate for lunch could count as baggage depending upon your perspective. Many people feel the word only applies to “negative” things that they remember. I feel it applies to everything we’ve experienced in our lives.
Sure, some of the baggage is olive drab in it’s packaging…things that just are. Like eating a tuna sandwich for lunch. Other baggage is sparkly neon purple for all the things we consider wonderful in our lives. And still more is basic black, only trotted out on special occasions.
Let’s talk about those occasions. You may have heard the phrase “it’s ok to “go there,” just don’t unpack.” That’s what basic black is all about. It is the really high and really low points of our lives. The things we are most proud of, and sometimes most ashamed of, that we keep sacred until a trusted person or two gets us talking about our memories. We can put on our basic black in a formal fashion, tux or long dress. We can choose to wear all black clothing to suit our mood. The color does tend to create a certain mindset of those around us when we wear casual black colored clothing.
Enough allegory. We’ve all got things we’re proud of and things we’re ashamed about. Just read social media to find out what people are proud of in their lives. It’s chock full of goofy pictures, witty sayings and happy status updates. Sometimes, someone posts a “downer.” I’m never sure how to respond to those, mainly because I have a hard time determining depth of feeling. There are posts about things I can’t relate to as I have never experienced that particular situation. All I have to offer to the poster is a cyberhug.
Then there are the people who post about things I am very familiar with. I’ve got four decades of baggage to comb through to find the situation that fits. That’s a lot of situations. And…my track record for surviving is still 100%! Yet, when I offer information, be it condolences, or advice, I get smacked. Hard. At least 95% of the time.
Why are people so unwilling to listen to others? Seriously, I can think of several of my social media friends right now that if I say anything about their status, they will lash out at me. Even if I offer praise, I get smacked. I’m left with two options: let it roll or move them to the unfriend zone.
What bothers me the most is when I find my relevant piece of information, and I don’t share anymore unless I’m sure it’s relevant, I am ignored, unfriended or otherwise dismissed. Did I mention the four decades of experience I possess? Yeah, I actually do have valid insight to many situations. They’re not exact, because we view everything through our own lens. But, they are pretty damn close.
I want to be supportive. I really, really do. But, I can’t. If you are not willing to let go of your experience as the only valid experience, you can never gain insight from others. Listening to other people can save you grief, time, money and many other tangible/intangible things. When you choose to ignore it, or you smack someone for trying to help you, eventually people stop helping you.
Which is where I’m at right now. I tried to help someone. I tried to be supportive and demonstrate I believed in them. Instead, I’m being kicked, repeatedly, up side the head. I think I know why (did I mention four decades of experience).The individual has an inflated sense of self. They have been hurt many times and don’t want to be hurt again. They perceive they are knowledgeable. They don’t want to be publicly embarrassed (who does?). A feeling of shame pervades their life and advice is viewed as an attack.
Let. It. Go. The only thing keeping you from moving forward is you. Every person I know has had feelings of shame and inadequacy. Guess what? They have a 100% survival rate so far too. The only thing that is shaming is how you continue to treat other people poorly. It is a reflection of your inability to let go of the past. If you want lashing out to be your legacy, carry on.
Or, choose to allow a little bit of other people into your life. Choose to learn from others. Choose to rejoin the community. Choose to listen, watch and reflect on what people are offering you. You don’t have to take the advice, but if you consider the way it was offered, you might just discover your true self again. Because I don’t want to believe that anger and emotional reactions are really what you want to feel.