A Different Kind Of Spring Clean
Have you ever noticed how your junk drawer just keeps collecting, well, junk? I recently started a purge – a spring clean that may extend into summer 😉 I started going through my whole house and discovered way more random stuff had collected than I thought.
When I started going through everything it seemed that there were 3 basic categories for this ‘stuff’:
- There was the “I need this and it’s in the right place, just jumbled up with a bunch of stuff from the other categories” stuff.
- Then there was the “I need this and how did this seem like a good place to put it?” kind of stuff that needed to get put back in the right place.
- And then the bigger and more concerning category is all that crap that just collects dust, takes up space, and is a constant low-grade energy drain; every time you see it you’re reminded that you need to do something about it but you never do. And depending on how long you put off dealing with this final category, will determine if home should be on an episode of “Hoarders: Buried Alive” or not…
While I was going through my stuff, especially that last category, it occurred to me that our emotional baggage is kinda like that too… Like we all have an emotional junk drawer and just like that useless, dust collecting, energy draining physical junk can get in the way of you feeling awesome about where you live, your emotional junk can have the same impact on how awesome you feel about yourself and your life.
Let me explain a couple of things first before get into what you can do about cleaning out your emotional junk drawer. First, how your emotional junk drawer collects junk over time…
Filling The Emotional Junk Drawer
Other times your experiences leave you feeling anything but happy, effective, or successful in your life. Those situations are hard and uncomfortable and usually we’ll do anything to avoid feeling similar things in the future.
Let me be more clear:
There you are, 7-years old and in grade two. Your teacher is at the front asking a question about the difference between “it’s” and “its”. You’re convinced you know the answer so you proudly put your hand up and give your answer… and you’re wrong. You immediately feel foolish, your face flushes, and the boy you have a crush on laughs at you – and so do his friends.
You feel everything but happy, effective, and successful. You actually feel embarrassed, scared, and maybe even a little bit ashamed… In an effort to avoid feeling like that again, a little piece of you is always on the look out for more situations where you could possibly end up feeling foolish, vigilantly helping you avoid feeling any of those things again in the future.
The first and surest way to avoid feeling like that again? Never put your hand up to answer a question in your life… As a matter of fact, you probably shouldn’t take a lot of risks to put yourself out there in the future either.
That kind of stuff happens all the time and it colours the way you see the world:
- You ask someone to dance, they say no, and you decide you’ll never do that again.
- You apply for a new job and get really excited about the possibility of it. You put everything you have into the application and interview prep, but you’re not the successful candidate and you then decide that you’ll never really get excited about anything again.
- You get married and it doesn’t work out so you decide you have a ‘relationship expiry date’ and that you’ll never have a successful long-term relationship, so from then on you’ll never really fully commit or give your heart to a partnership.
So there you are living life, never putting yourself out there, never getting really excited about anything and avoiding getting fully connected and committed to people. Sounds awesome doesn’t it???
The list of examples of how your emotional junk drawer collects is endless, and looking for all the scenarios in your life would be exhausting. That’s not really the point anyway. The point is you have emotional junk and next we need to look at the impact it’s having on your life.
Stop The Emotional Hoarding
Carrying around all those old beliefs is exhausting and it costs you the chance to feel free and alive in your life. Holding onto those old beliefs has you act from a place of fear rather than power. You take action with the intention of trying to avoid something similar from the past happening again rather than acting from a place of what might be possible in the future.
Your past is in the past – you can’t change it – and if you keep living like it might sting you again, you’ll never have the life you want!
- If you never ask anyone to dance again because you’re afraid they’ll say no, you’ll always be dancing by yourself. And truth be told you have no idea why they said no in the first place. It wasn’t about you and it certainly didn’t mean anything about your quality as a human being!!
- If you never put your all into applying for another job (or doing other things in life) you’ll never see what you’re fully capable of. What if that job would have been the worst thing that ever happened to you?
- If you never fully share yourself with another, you’ll live your entire life in an emotional silo. What if you had to go through the pain of the ending of your marriage in order to do the necessary learning and work so you could prepare for and meet the actual love of your life?
Dump The Drawer And Start Fresh
Man when I look back at my life I can see how some experiences and the ensuing beliefs and behaviours have really served me. Believing I’m smart and capable because I’ve been praised for that and had some good results has really served me. I’ve done lots of cool things in my life because of the belief that “I’m smart and capable”.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are things I learned through my experiences growing up that really haven’t served me – and it’s important to note that doesn’t mean they haven’t shaped me. They’ve actually had a deep and significant impact in my life and it wasn’t until I decided to dump out the emotional junk drawer and sort through it all that I was able to deal and set myself up for different results in my future.
As an example, I had a belief that men couldn’t be trusted and all of them were relatively heartless and only out to their own needs met. After watching 15 years of fall-out from my parent’s extremely messy divorce I had all kinds of proof and evidence to support that belief in my life. And what kind of impact do you think something like that had? Oh I don’t know, maybe something like: Don’t trust men. Period.
And how would that serve me? Well it certainly didn’t create great and trusting relationships with the men in my life that’s for sure!
Sort. Purge. Clean.
If we look at the example of my belief about men, it wasn’t until I acknowledged it and did the work that I could start having different relationships with the men in my life. I had to look at the truth about what actually happened and I also needed to look at the all the men in my life and see them for who they are instead of my made-up story about them.
Look at your life and think about where you’re getting results that aren’t what you want them to be. Consider that wherever that’s happening, you have an underlying emotional-junk-drawer type of belief in operation.
The next thing to do is suss out what that belief is (or beliefs are) that negatively affect you. This is a real challenge to do by yourself as often these beliefs live in your blindspot and you can’t see them. It’s usually WAY easier for someone else to help you shine a light on these things so you can finally be free of them. If you’re lucky a trusted friend might be able to support you in this and of course I’m always a supporter of hiring professionals to help with any situation where you might be in over your head. I’d rather pay the piper and get my emotional junk drawer cleaned out than wander through my life with a bunch of BS beliefs getting in the way of awesome.
After you’ve discovered the blindspots, it’s time to get to work. Set up a clear structure that will support you in changing that belief for yourself. That might be journaling, conscious thought, meditation, working with a professional that can guide you through a process… whatever you do though, you’re going to have to dig in and get at it.
You deserve a life that lifts you up and leaves you feeling fulfilled. Only you can do the work to get you there – no one can do your pushups for you!
How’re You Doing?
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