“At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.” – Sandi Lynn

A while ago, I detailed how personal baggage stemming from my childhood affected my relationships. It wore me down emotionally, and led to a slew of dead ends on the road to love.

I didn’t trust anyone with my heart, and ultimately my insecurities led to the demise of many of my relationships. I either attracted wonderful people who were patient enough to deal with me, or those unworthy of my love and affection.

Either way, my baggage destroyed any chances of my intuition revealing the truth about the one I was dating, because I allowed fear and past hurts to control my present. Chances are, past pains and insecurities have affected you as well.

While everyone has his or her own issues to deal with, toxic behavior shouldn’t be excused, enabled or brushed aside. Here are five keys to freeing yourself from emotional baggage.

1. Define your baggage.

Baggage is often fear that is disguised as a form of “protection.” Whenever this occurs, the pain that you’ve experienced from others in the past serves as a reminder that you never want to relive that type of heartbreak and devastation again. You tell yourself that you’re being smarter, tougher and wiser, but the reality is that when you operate in fear, you’ll always be coming from a place of pain and confusion. Once you define your insecurities, you’ll be able to separate them from legitimate concerns. There’s a difference between someone who truly is toxic, and not seeing someone for who they really are for fear of them being “like the rest of them.”

2. Identify your triggers.

Whenever insecurity is jogged, our mind comes up with a justification for our actions. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not, we’ll work to rationalize it in our heads because fear must win. But when you make a commitment to unveil the mask of self-deception, you’re allowing yourself to determine if your concern is in fact legitimate. Was he really attempting to get the waitress’s phone number when you went to the ladies’ room? Or was it just friendly conversation? Is that male co-worker she’s texting a new crush? Or does simple correspondence with a cube-mate simply remind you of that time your ex cheated on you with a friend? Determining what is making you feel what you are feeling in the moment is key because you grant yourself permission to feel differently if you want to.

3. Commit to your intuition.

Many times, it’s just easier to think the worst about someone. When you choose to see the good in a person, it makes you vulnerable, and with that comes the possibility of disappointment. By committing to your intuition, fear is no longer your go-to method of defense. Your intuition, i.e. that inner voice in your psyche, becomes the pilot of your thoughts.

4. Realize that you’ll never be completely free of insecurities.

There isn’t one human being on this planet with zero insecurities. While you may rid yourself of some of your baggage, you can lighten your load. Once you accept that you very well could battle the same insecurities for the rest of your life, you’ll become better equipped at identifying, managing and silencing them before any real damage is done.

5. Accept all that you are and all that you can become.

When we ignore or become frustrated with the less flattering parts of ourselves, it’s easy to justify our behaviors. This makes changing them less likely, and will only amplify the insecurities that are already there. But those bold enough to take an honest look at the totality of their existence grant themselves the chance to experience true love.

Baggage is something that is generally accepted when it comes to dating. But holding on to it means that you are holding on to the person(s) who caused you pain. You are holding on to the mistakes, feelings and trauma that came along with each and every failed relationship that you allow to control your life.

The choice is yours. When will you leave that luggage by the door?

Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of ”Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self.