Are You Carrying Extra Baggage?

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Is your self-doubt getting in the way of you achieving personal success?

Recently, I got an email, asking me to undertake some work which took me a bit out of my comfort zone. It was something I hadn’t done before, and I felt my hands reach over to the keyboard in front of me to write back immediately with a “thanks, but no thanks” response. I will admit, I felt a bit anxious even considering the prospect and how I would even unpack how to start.

But instead of typing an immediate response, I sat back in my chair and reflected on my gut reaction and my “baggage” getting in the way of me accepting this challenge. 

If we are going to develop Mental Toughness and especially our Control C involving our emotional regulation and self-control, our Confidence C involving our personal and interpersonal confidence and the Challenge C allowing us to take risks and view challenges as opportunities and not threats, we find ourselves having to question what “baggage” we carry around with us on a daily basis.

•      Do you have self-doubt?

•      Are you carrying blame?

•      Are you worrying about all the things you can’t control?

•      Do you feel like an imposter?

•      Do you see challenges as threats?

•      Are your ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) crawling all over you?

Or does your luggage allow easy accessibility to your values, strengths, and skills?

Do you recognise the mindset you have and consider embracing a growth mindset? Do you:

•      Stop before you react?

•      Understand what’s in your way?

•      Consider what you are saying to yourself that’s getting in your way?

•      Consider what others are saying to you that gets in your way?

•      Recognise what you can and can’t control?

•      Consider what you are afraid of and how you could combat the fear?


So when considering your personal baggage or the interference you have getting in the way of emotional control, interpersonal confidence, and the ability to accept a challenge, consider some opportunities to move forward.

1)   Recognise your emotional response.

“If you name it, you can tame it”. One of the best opportunities to manage our emotional responses, is to first identify what we are actually experiencing and why. Try considering what it is you are actually feeling and what is the thought you have that is fuelling that emotional response.

2)   Recognise when your ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) are crawling all over you.

When it comes to situations we find intimidating, we often have gut reactions and a specific automatic thought fuelling this reaction. Some examples of ANTs might include:

Over Generalising

Draw conclusions on limited evidence and make sweeping negative conclusions that go way beyond the current situation. “Nothing good ever happens to me”, “nothing ever works”

All or Nothing Thinking

You view situations in only two categories instead of on a continuum, often called “black and white” thinking. “If I’m not a total success, then I must be a failure”, “either I do it right, or not at all”


You predict the future negatively without considering more likely outcomes “I’ll be so upset, I won’t be able to function at all”.

Disqualifying the Positive

Discounting the good things that happen or that you have done for some other reason, “that doesn’t count”, “I was just lucky”.

Mind Reading

You believe you know what others are thinking, failing to consider other possible scenarios, “he’s thinking I don’t know the first thing about this project”.

“Should and Must” Statements

You have a precise, fixed idea of how you or others should behave and overestimate how bad it is that these expectations are not met, “it’s terrible that I made that mistake, I should always produce the best work”.

So how can you consider turning your ANTs into PETs (Performance Enhancing Thoughts)?

3)   Reframing

Often, we can be “below the line”. We can engage in negative thinking, we get defensive, we use negative language and over time this can drag us down.

Reframing is a powerful, yet simple technique to move ourselves from below the line to above the line in our thinking, our language, our attitude and our behaviour.

It involves taking a negative statement and reframing it in a positive question to self to prompt a change in thinking.


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Consider the steps:

1.   Identify the negative word in the statement. Eg, “hard”

2.   Think about the opposite (positive) word. Eg, “Easy”

3.   Now frame this positive or opposite word into a question with how, who, what, when or where (never use why – it just encourages more below the line thinking)

Once you master reframing, it can become part of your normal questioning of self to manage your personal baggage.

4)   Consider Your Values and Strengths

Based on your Values and your strengths, could you consider what actions you could take? Have you tapped into your strengths and values to recognise what you could do to take just one step forward? What are your options? What resources have you got? How could you use one of your strengths to compensate for any perceived weakness?

5)   Adopt a growth mindset.

Staying in your comfort zone will never result in any personal growth. You have to push yourself to step into a state of complexity to ever have new experiences and new growth opportunities. This obviously takes effort. But remember…… what dictates the size of a goldfish? The answer?....... the size of the bowl!!

Want to know more about developing your mental toughness and addressing your “baggage”? Send me an email at to enquire about coaching and training.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Wellbeing Strategist, Leadership and Wellbeing Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness Practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or