By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
My niece had a beautiful wedding ceremony recently; exchanging vows before family and friends with the love of her life. Our daughter was a bridesmaid and my wife and I were there in our aunt and uncle roles; our family was honored to both witness and participate. Before we arrived I started thinking about how I would be in the company of some family members I hadn’t seen or communicated with in quite some time. I looked forward to being engaged with some of them, not so much for others. This realization made me look in the mirror to see just how big my head was. Boy, there was a lot of baggage stored inside! I felt like I was looking at the luggage holding room at the Hilton!
Refusing to interact with someone that you attach negative emotion to or not bringing up a difficult topic can be detrimental to your health. Studies have shown a link between symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other negative implications to your health when you avoid difficult situations that create stress. For example, oftentimes when a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, some family members refuse to talk about it. Numerous studies indicate that cancer patients often get sicker when family members avoid discussing the fact that they have cancer. For the most part, discussing a difficult topic or situation often yields better results than you might think.
This concept becomes even more potent when the difficulty is internal. If you find yourself obsessing over a difficult situation inside your head that involves only you, you have a potential double-whammy! For example, if you are overweight, you know you need to lose those extra pounds. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last fifty years, you know that being overweight causes negative consequences to your health. If you do not deal with this internal situation you have the double impact of the negative repercussions of stress the situation is causing and the negative implications to your health and well-being that all of those extra pounds are causing. You cannot afford NOT to deal with your own internal baggage. You cannot afford to NOT deal with your internal conflict. Putting off facing unresolved situations “until tomorrow” just puts more obstacles in the path to becoming the person that you really want to be.
Likewise, at my niece’s wedding, I engaged with family members that I had not spoken with for a long time. While I had anxiety going into the weekend, I was able to push past it, interact with those family members in a positive way, and leave feeling refreshed. Pushing past the anxiety of dealing with the issue NOW is the first step in overcoming this internal baggage.
Effective leadership begins with YOU. Effective leaders deal with internal conflict. Effective leaders unpack the baggage stored inside their heads and sort through the dirty laundry. Effective leaders deal with those difficult internal struggles which frees them up to handle difficult situations with others. Leadership begins with YOU!
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