Are you bogged down by past events that have left you with a palpable sense of anger, fear, shame or lack of self-worth that prevent you from moving on to a better, happier life? Here, Keryl Pesche, author of Happy Bitch: The Girlfriend’s Straight-up Guide to Losing the Baggage and Finding the Fun, Fabulous You Inside, shares her own story of heartache and renewal, and offers some tips on how to check your emotional baggage for good.
Q: Can you tell me a little about rebounding from your own emotional baggage?
A: A number of years ago, I suffered three of the top four life stressors all in a matter of a few weeks. I changed jobs, discovered my ex’s affair and moved out. It was an absolute low point in my life. Almost overnight, everything familiar in my life no longer was. I was lost, heart-broken and scared out of my mind of what the future held.
Then my own words that I had spoken countless times to those around me came back to stare me in the face. “There are only two kinds of things in life that upset us – things you can change and things you can’t. If you can’t, you have to accept it. If you can, then do something about it.” It was my turn to do something about it. My first step was to decide what I wanted. I remember holding my hands together, palms up and telling my friends that my world was in my hands now, to shape and create exactly as I wished. No settling, no limitations, time to start dreaming. Fast forward to today, and I am remarried to an amazing guy eight years younger than me (Go me!) and happier than I’ve ever been.
Q: What kind of emotional baggage do women typically struggle with?
A: Emotional baggage consists of anger, resentment, regret, and beating ourselves up. All of these hold us back from living our happiest life. You want to live a happier life and think it serves you to hang on to anger and resentment over people or past events? Not even close. If it’s a person who wronged you, you’re giving power over your emotions away to someone who likely doesn’t deserve it. Forgiveness is for your benefit, not necessarily the benefit of someone else. It gives you control over your emotions and ultimately your life. Let it go.
In my book, I have an exercise I suggest. Write down every event or the actions of others you are still angry with on separate pieces of paper. Then find at least one benefit you realized as a result and write that down. Then burn, crumple up, flush, whatever floats your boat, the actions that made you angry and be done with it. Focus on what you got out of it. There is always something. I took the worst time in my life and not only turned it into something positive, I’m turning it into a brand (book, wine, radio show and more to come) that empowers women.
Here’s the key message: It’s not what happens to us that matters. It’s what we DO with what happens to us. We all have the power to chose our responses and direct the course of our lives. Stop asking “Why me?” and start asking “What’s next?” You get to choose whether you curl up and feel sorry for yourself or put on your big-girl panties and say “What do I want, and what do I need to do to get it?”
Q: What’s the first step in letting go of baggage?
A: Stop judging yourself. I find often the root of pain, anger, etc. is [there] because we don’t feel good about ourselves. If you did something in the past you feel you should have done differently, own it. Be done with it. Learn from it and move on. If there are apologies to be made that can be made, go for it.
I talk to women who tell me how they feel then tell me they feel like s–t for feeling that way. I tell them to let the feelings be there. Whatever you feel is real to you and therefore normal. Stop judging yourself for how you feel. Just this one step can alleviate a tremendous burden. From there, you need to begin thinking and acting in terms of what you want, not what you don’t want. They are worlds apart. My first step in building the life I now live was focusing on where I wanted to go and be, not where I’d been.
Start paying attention to the constant internal dialogue in your head. If you put yourself down, knock it off. It’s funny. We talk to ourselves inside our minds way worse than we ever would to those we love the most. Each time you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself, other people, or circumstances, stop. Turn your thoughts around. You’ll be amazed once you start paying attention how much negative thinking you do. At first it takes effort. Then it just becomes who you are, your natural way of thinking.
Q: What advice do you have for any woman who wants to be happier?
A: Believe you deserve it, because you do. We’ve ALL made mistakes. Welcome to the club.
Make your own happiness a higher priority. Too often women become martyrs. They think that sacrificing everything for those around them is some sort of twisted badge of honor. Do we want to do for those we love? Absolutely. But not to the point it drains us. It should fill us up with more joy. And if you’ve ever wondered why those around you don’t make your happiness more important, here’s a clue. How important do you make it? Quit feeling guilty about being happy. It’s the smartest move you can make. Bottom line, the happier you are, the more you can give to those you love and the happier everyone will be.