Interview with Natalie Lue on toxic relationships and more

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Natalie Lue of baggagereclaim.co.uk teaches people who are tired of emotional unavailability, toxic relationships, and feeling ‘not good enough’, how to reduce their emotional baggage so that they can reclaim themselves and make space for better relationships and opportunities.

Would you like to tell us a bit about your amazing transformation back in 2005, which also was the starting point for your blog?

That summer, my life appeared to be imploding around me.

I found myself with yet another guy who was emotionally unavailable and “not ready for a relationship”, received a damning prognosis for an illness I’d been battling for 18 months, and my family relationships felt increasingly toxic, amongst other things.

The news that there was no cure and that I’d be dead by 40 if I didn’t go on steroids for life, woke me up the realization that while pleasing others, I’d neglected myself. I refused treatment and requested three months’ grace to explore my options. At the same time, I mused out loud on my then personal blog about my relationship woes. I thought it was just me who had a penchant for emotionally unavailable men and sucky relationships but what I shared struck a chord with many readers.

So many things happened in a short period but looking back, I realize that I experienced an awakening.

I started Baggage Reclaim one month after that diagnosis with the aim of using my experiences and what I was learning to help other people just like me. There was no agenda, no plan. I started listening to myself, figuring out boundaries on the go and treating me with some basic love, care, trust and respect, all while exploring alternative options for treatment thanks to advice from readers.

Eight months later, I was in remission. I’d also, unbeknownst to me, met the man who would become my husband.

How do you recognize you’re in a toxic relationship, and how do you make the change into loving and fulfilling relationships?

A major signifier of toxic relationships is that they destabilize you. Like anything toxic, they’re corrosive and damaging to you, typically permeating other areas of your life. You behave uncharacteristically and give up many, if not all of the things that matter to you to keep the relationship in play. You fundamentally become less of who you are while accepting a relationship that is less than love, care, trust, and respect. Toxic relationships are unfulfilling, so it’s like you’re trying to get high to counteract the lows.

You can’t change something that you either don’t recognize as unhealthy or that you don’t regard as being an option for you to change. The reason why we don’t recognize a toxic relationship is that it feels like ‘home’ in some way. It’s familiar, and the toxic relationship is speaking to a part of us that has unresolved hurts and losses. We’re looking for validation, and instead, we’re compounding those old hurts and losses. We make the shift to more loving and fulfilling relationships by compassionately recognizing the baggage behind our relationship choices and taking steps to create healthier emotional, mental, physical and spiritual boundaries with ourselves — we conduct ourselves in a way that starts to acknowledge where we end and others begin.

Getting clear about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, including using recognition of your feelings, needs and, desires to guide you to matching people and situations, is critical. When you treat you with love, care, trust and, respect, you will not accept less than you can already be and do for yourself from someone else.

Read more: How to tell fake friends from good friends.

What piece of information or habit has had the most positive effect on your life socially the last years?

That we are all energy and so it’s important to be mindful of my boundaries. I sometimes found myself feeling wiped out after some social encounters. I realized that it wasn’t because I’m a “lightweight” and that it was everything to do with being mindful of my boundaries when it comes to being around negativity or even people pumping me for information.

What is some realization or understanding of social life that you wish everyone would know?

There’s a lot of misunderstanding in the world about introverts and extroverts. We assume that the person who is the “life and soul” or “hot” is super happy or that they find socializing “easy”, and many introverts assume that they’re not “fun” or “social”. I think a lot of people wear social masks and that we have to be careful of projecting our feelings about ourselves on to others and assuming that we know a lot about people based on how they present socially. Introvert or extrovert, everyone struggles in certain social situations and almost certainly, unless they’re narcissistic, has some level of insecurity about how they’re perceived.

If you could restart your life knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

While I quickly acknowledge that I wouldn’t be who I am today without my experiences, if I had my time over, I wouldn’t be so hard on my younger self. I assumed way too much responsibility as a kid. It’s like being old before your time. You see things very differently when you think that you mustn’t ask for help or have “too many” needs. Trying to be strong and good, and to in essence meet everyone’s expectations, is exhausting and futile, not least because when we examine the source of our internal pressure, it’s invariably our own, not other people’s expectations. I’ve always been a thinker, intuitive, and yes, have often “known too much” but the flip side of being a thinker is that you overthink and take on too much.

What kind of person should visit your site?

Everyone has emotional baggage so the site has broad appeal, anyone who identifies with the habits of people pleasing and perfectionism that has also struggled with their interpersonal relationships and self-confidence will gain a lot from Baggage Reclaim. It’s made for overthinkers! While people often find me due to issues with romantic relationships, it contains advice for all areas of life.

8 years ago, I committed to build my social confidence and become great at connecting with people.

Hundreds of books and thousands of interactions later, I'm ready to share with the world what I’ve learned.

The interest in my findings has been beyond my dreams. We now have 30 000 members taking our courses. Perhaps you’ve seen my writing in magazines like Business Insider and Lifehacker.

Follow me on Twitter or Read more.

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