Have you claimed your personal baggage??

My friend and fellow entrepreneur, Zachary Fenell, was kind enough to share his experience about how he faced his fears and “claimed” his baggage.

All he wanted was to ‘blend in’, but he dared to embrace his ability to stand out!

I hope you enjoy his message as much as I did. He has been a loyal friend and is paving the way for so many of us who want to help others find the strength to begin something new.

Claim Your Baggage

A new beginning means new opportunities. Sadly these opportunities too often go unclaimed. The reason, you don’t claim your personal baggage. You know whatever situation or internal sentiments in your life which work to hold you back from living the life you want.

When your personal baggage goes unchecked, you give up control over your destiny. You empower the perceived problem. Note the word “perceived.” I say perceived because often the problem proves exactly that. Allow me to illustrate with my personal story.

This entire topic comes to my mind because last weekend marked 10 years to the date I graduated high school. Thinking back to high school I fill with what ifs and regrets. Every what if and regret remain rooted in one commonality, my personal baggage.

Now my personal baggage took form in the insecurities I felt over my cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological disability. Thanks to CP I walk with a slightly awkward gait and I deal with balance issues. Essentially I stand out in a crowd, a fact preventing me from realizing my former deep desire to simply blend in.

So I did my best to hide my cerebral palsy. Basically I avoided talking about anything related to my disability, even with friends! For instance, my freshmen and sophomore years in high school I wore brown medical tape at night to help heal a keloid scar I obtained after back surgery.

Well one time I forgot to take the tape off in the morning. Chatting with two friends before home room my friend Trip noticed the tape sticking out from my shirt and asked “What’s that?” I responded by tucking the tape into my shirt and grumbling “Nothing.” Yes, I stayed secretive about my CP to absurd levels.

Two years later at my high school graduation I experienced an epiphany. I realized by staying secretive about my CP, I robbed my peers from the chance to really get to know me. Sure CP certainly does not define who I am. Yet I empowered the condition to make me unapproachable, not a great trait to make people want to spend time around you.

Another three months later and I entered college. With a new beginning I saw the prospect for redemption. I vowed to correct my faulty ways. First though, I needed to claim my personal baggage. Pulling a complete 180, I went from secretly awkward about my cerebral palsy to finding openings to disclose my disability.

Internally I fought nerves. However, I persevered through. Giving in and resuming my old coy behavior would not do. Once I claimed my personal baggage, I began to build momentum. I developed friends whose acceptance enabled me to go from embarrassment over my disability to embracing my disability. Friends, like James, who continue to serve as incredible lifelong friends.

Today I’m a leader in the cerebral palsy community. I penned my teenage memoir Off Balanced. I’m a regular contributor to websites such as The Mobility Resource and Think Inclusive. I co-founded and co-host a live weekly cerebral palsy Twitter chat #CPChatNow. All stuff I accomplished because I first claimed my personal baggage.

Claiming your personal baggage will initially prove scary and intimidating. Go forth nonetheless. Past the uneasiness and nerves you will encounter happiness and joy. Let the positive momentum roll!