How to Lighten Your Invisible Backpack
By Arlene Harder, MA, MFT
Are you weighed down with the “shoulds,” “ought-tos,” and “musts” that you were told are necessary for a successful life, but notice they aren’t working for you? Do old mistakes and regrets keep you from moving toward your goals?
It may be time to take a look inside the heavy backpack you are carrying. But first, let’s look at some of the things that will impact your success in this endeavor.
How Old You Are Will Affect the Exploration of Your Backpack
If you are just starting out on your journey in life, you will be attracted to different topics than those that older people are more interested in. And if you are well past the age of deciding what you want to do in life, it is still important to recognize that the last stage of growth is, in large part, a time to evaluate decisions you’ve made.
When you do this, you may come to accept that you’ve done the best you could with what you knew at the time—even though you are sure to wish you hadn’t made so many mistakes.
Your Ego May Make It Difficult to Remove Some Things From Your Backpack
Unfortunately, your ego, whose job it is to protect your sense of self, has bought into the concept that the contents of your backpack determine your identity. Thus, the ego makes certain that pronouns of “me,” “mine,” and “I” are sprinkled liberally throughout your conversations.
Also, the ego keeps a list of every possession you bought or were given, especially those that demonstrate the importance of your power and your position in the world, the relationships you’ve developed, the wrongs others have done to you, etc.
It will take some effort to set your ego aside and be honest about what you want to keep as your identity today, and what you are ready to discard. There are several ways you can begin to examine who you really are at your core and what your ego thinks you need to do or have in order for you to feel successful.
Suggestions for Digging Deeper Into the Content in Your Backpack
—and Choosing What You Want to Keep and What You Want to Change or Discard
There is no one right way to explore who you are and who you want to be. The following are some ideas you might want to try.
First, I suggest you read the following, and as you do, notice what strikes you as important for you at this time and jot it down or simply remember what it was in the days ahead.
- The Content of Your Backpack
- What Influences Shaped Your Life?
- What Are Your Values?
- Who Are You Today?
Find some place you can be quiet and think about what you want to know about yourself. Keep reminding your ego that it is not in charge. You are the expert of who you are and what you want to be.
Even though you may be determined to make major changes in how you live your life, I suggest you not attempt a major re-vamping of your entire personality. Just a few percentage points of improvement can go a long way to helping you feel better about yourself. Also, the simple attempt to dig a little into understanding yourself can give you the confidence to continue the process in the future.
You may also find these two articles useful:
Incidentally, if you belong to a group that might be interested in discussing these ideas, you are free to share the material with others since it is not copyrighted, although attribution is welcome.