Extreme Esteem: Keep what feeds your soul

“What you leave behind says as much about you as what you bring along.”

— Jacquelyn Middleton, best-selling Canadian author

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked, motioning to the cardboard box in the truck bed. It was the second time my wife had asked me that same question.

The first time was when I hauled the old box out from under the stairs in our basement and suggested it was time to toss it out. The box was filled with everything from my now defunct radio career: old airchecks, reels and cassette tapes of commercial campaigns, business cards and stamp pads.

I cannot rightfully say why I felt it was time to throw it out.

We were moving to a new city. We were ruthlessly ridding ourselves of items that we no longer needed or hadn’t looked at in years.

My radio box indeed fell into that category. I had dragged it with me through countless moves and hadn’t opened it up in 10 to 15 years.

I will admit, I was probably a bit rash when throwing out the entire box.

If I had to do it again, I would open my box of radio memories and search through it, selecting and keeping a few cherished gems.

There’s nothing wrong with reminiscing and reflecting positively on aspects of the past. We run into a problem when what we keep from yesterday prevents us from embracing today.

What should you let go of? Anything that fills you with longing, fear, anger or regret. Anything that holds you back from enjoying this moment. Anything that stirs up old worries or puts you into an “if only” longing state-of-mind.

The past is the past — best left in the past. The here and the now is your only place of power and only chance for change.

As for me, every time I considered keeping the box, I debated going back to my old career in radio. Rather than happily reminiscing, I was planning my escape to something familiar, and this would have prevented me from moving forward in a new, challenging and far more lucrative vocation.

Think about what you’d like to toss — seriously think about it.

Whether it’s items from your home or issues from your past, you’re likely to regret your decision if, like me, you just start heaving. It’s easy to say, “That was an unpleasant experience,” and toss the good out with the bad. In doing so, you’ll likely toss out a valuable lesson from your “unpleasant experience.”

What old ideas or ways of thinking have you been hanging onto that are affecting your self-esteem and keeping you stuck?

Do you have a box filled with past regrets? I think we hang onto emotional “stuff” for the same reason we hang onto physical stuff — it represents an attachment to a person, place or time. It might be a romanticized attachment, or it could be thoughts and ideas that represent — at an unconscious level — a lack of worth or merit.

I’m not bashing sentimentality.

There are items I still cherish that hold tremendous sentimental value: antiques, ornaments, a VIP guest pass to Graceland, a T-Shirt from Cuba — an old Shure microphone from my early days as a small town DJ.

I have merely become selective about what I choose to carry with me — items that instil a warm and positive remembrance.

Why does it matter? Because you can’t move forward when you’ve got boxes (figuratively speaking) filled with emotional baggage.

Dragging the past along with you can dredge up and activate negative thoughts and ideas that can keep you from knowing your full potential.

“Yesterday is gone,” wrote Mother Teresa. “Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Honour yesterday, embrace today, and plan for a better tomorrow.

Keep what feeds your soul and disregard that which limits your growth and personal development. The key is recognizing the difference.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert.

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