It’s no secret that change is intimidating and scary. We tend to be creatures of habit who take comfort in routines and familiarity. This is not always a bad thing necessarily. However, for someone engulfed in a toxic environment, staying can prove to be extremely pernicious.
Sometimes the reason we stay is because we have this warped idea that what we currently have is the best we can ever get. We put our effort into making the best of our situation rather than moving on to something brighter. The sad reality, though, is that the longer we stay here, the worse we feel. The more we breathe in our toxic life, the sicker we get.
This is a very familiar feeling for me. There is an unexplainable feeling of unease that comes from being self-aware of our harmful environment. Eventually, staying put and avoiding the unknown can take a major toll on our mental and physical health. When the brain is sick, our body tends to follow suit.
During the most unhealthy time of my life, I was that person who wanted to push through and make the best of living a life I hated. I was prescribed the pills they said I needed. I followed the advice they were sure would “fix” me. I stayed loyal to a life that was pulling me downhill. After years of thinking this was the right way to make myself better, I was actually worse. I wanted out and I didn’t feel like this place was right for me anymore. I was tired of staying and showing alliance to all of the things that were making me more and more sick. I discovered that rock bottom was my exit door.
I finally realized that I was never going to get better because the life I was living was not designed for recovery. Yes, my world was familiar and predictable. Somehow that didn’t help any anxiety I felt, because what was familiar was not actually healthy. We get so used to the bad surrounding us that we accept it as normal, even when it’s not. I was dead set on getting better, even if that meant letting go of the only places I had ever called home.
You cannot heal where you experience trauma. You cannot heal in the places you are being abused. You cannot heal in a place that doesn’t let you grow. You cannot heal while surrounded by people who don’t want you to get better. You can waste years of your life fighting it, but the simple facts remain. Healing requires a healthy environment.
Gather up every bit of strength you have created in yourself and build a better world where you can recover. Give nothing and no one the power to chain you to the past. Step out and create a life where you can feel healthy, happy and motivated to be better. I know the pain that may come from loosening your grip on what’s familiar. You may have to give up some things or people that you never dreamed of losing. It’s okay to feel that sadness. The most important thing is to keep moving towards recovery anyways.
You are worth so much more than what your environment might trick you into thinking. You are more powerful than you’ve given yourself credit for up to this point. You are strong enough to fight for your own happiness, no matter what obstacles fall in your way.
The one thing you can rest assured of is that what is waiting for you on the other side is so much brighter than anything you will ever have to leave behind.
1. There is a difference between boundaries and walls.
Boundaries are a healthy and necessary part of life. They’re meant to give others guidelines on behavior we are and are not okay with.
Setting boundaries will leave us happier in life, and it makes our relationships more fulfilling. It’s scary in the beginning because we might wonder if the person we’re setting boundaries with will be angry with us or if they’ll be hurt. The people who are genuinely there for us will understand where we’re coming from and respect the boundaries we’ve set.
The people who may be adding toxicity to our lives will try to make us feel guilty for setting and enforcing boundaries. Boundaries are meant to let good things in and keep bad things out.
Walls are built as a response to trauma. When we build walls, we do it with the intention of protecting ourselves from experiencing that trauma again, but it ends up hurting us in the end.
Walls keep everyone and everything out. They also keep us in. They prevent growth and processing. Once a trauma is processed, it becomes easier to cope with. Building a wall around a traumatic experience doesn’t allow for the time and space needed to deal with the emotions of the experience. The longer the wall stays up, the harder it is to break down.
2. Vulnerability is not a weakness.
Vulnerability is scary because it means opening ourselves up to something that could end up hurting us. If we refuse to be vulnerable for fear of the things that could go wrong, we also prevent ourselves from potentially enjoying deeper connections and experiences.
When we are vulnerable, our lives are enriched by not only the relationships that flourish because of the vulnerability, but also by the knowledge that we are strong enough to allow vulnerability.
Even when vulnerability does lead to hurt, there is often something to be gained or a lesson to be learned from the experience. Without opening ourselves up, we never grow and learn.
When we deny vulnerability, we also rob the people who love us of the opportunity to support us. When we refuse to let people in when we’re experiencing big feelings, we are essentially telling them that we don’t trust them enough to handle our feelings with care.
It’s okay to feel however we’re feeling, and it’s okay to express those feelings to people we trust and who love us.
3. We can’t love people into loving themselves.
It’s so hard when we see people’s potential and all of their good qualities but they don’t see those things in themselves. We might wish we could make the people we love see themselves through our eyes because then they would know how valuable and worthy of love they are.
Sometimes it seems like if we love people enough, then they’ll learn to love themselves in the same way. Sadly, that is very rarely the case.
When a person is stuck in a destructive mindset, no amount of extrinsic love can pull them out of it. The only way for people to learn to love themselves is for them to work through the trauma and lies that have convinced them of their unworthiness. It’s not until they face these things head on that they will find an intrinsic love for themselves. And until they discover that self-love, it will be impossible for them to believe that anyone else could love them with no ulterior motive.
4. Regardless of how our trauma might compare to other people’s, it is all valid.
The first lesson here is that we don’t need to compare ourselves to other people. Ever. Everyone is figuring out life in the best way they know how. It’s unfair to compare people and situations when we’re all working with different backgrounds and tools.
Sometimes when we hear about someone who has been through a horrific experience, we might think our own negative experiences are trite in comparison. Maybe we think we shouldn’t be complaining about the things that have hurt us when so many other people are suffering at such a greater degree.
It doesn’t matter how our trauma compares to anyone else’s. If it hurt us, if it continues affecting our lives, it matters, and it’s valid.
When we accept the validity of our own trauma, we give ourselves the space to work through it, to understand it, and to learn how to grow around it.
5. Don’t spend too much time focusing on the bad feelings, but don’t disregard them either.
“Fake it until you make it” is something many of us have heard at some point in our lives. We’re made to believe that if we’re unhappy or upset, we should pretend the feeling isn’t there until it just magically disappears. We’re made to believe that leaning into feelings instead of brushing them off is a bad thing.
If we don’t let ourselves feel whatever we’re feeling, good or bad, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to understand the emotion and whatever led us to feeling that way.
Emotions often come in waves. If we let them wash over us when the wave swells, then we’ll be ready to continue swimming when the swell subsides. Conversely, if we fight the swell of emotion, we’ll be too exhausted to continue swimming when we come out on the other side.
We shouldn’t spend an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on these feelings, but we shouldn’t disregard or fight them. If we allow ourselves to live in the feelings while they’re overtaking us, then we’ll be able to process them and move through them.
6. The results we get are based on the work we put in.
As with many things in life, the results of therapy are directly proportionate to the work we put in. It isn’t enough to go to a session, tell our therapists what’s going on, listen to what they have to say, then go home and not think about it until the next session. That would be like going to school, sitting in class, listening to the teacher but not taking notes or studying, then expecting to do well on the exam.
If we actively practice the strategies and healthy coping skills our therapists help us develop in our everyday lives, the positive results will be exponentially greater than if we are passive participants.
7. Love is unconditional; relationships are not.
This is a tough one. As humans, we associate love with relationships. Not just romantic love, but that deep affection we feel for family and friends. We can let our love for the people in our lives be unconditional, but we do not have to keep relationships intact if they’re unhealthy.
Love, real love, should be boundless.
Relationships should not be boundless; they should be built on a foundation of trust and boundaries. When the people we enter into relationships with can’t or won’t respect our boundaries and conditions, we can continue loving them, but we can do so from afar.
8. Grief is not a linear process with a clear beginning and end.
The human brain seeks to understand. We look for patterns and processes. Human emotions do not always follow patterns and processes. This is why logic and emotion often battle against each other.
When we experience unpleasant feelings, we may want a timeline for when we may expect them to end.
Grief doesn’t work this way.
Just when we think we’re recovering, we may have days or months where we feel like we’ve regressed in the grieving process. This is not a regression, this is simply grief running its unpredictable course. The more we try to make sense of it, the more twisted it seems. As with other feelings, the best course of action is to simply let the waves overwhelm us with the understanding that it will end, even when we feel like the pain and sadness will be a visceral part of us forever.
As we work our way through the grieving process, we may begin to notice small moments of relief when we feel like we can breathe again. Then the waves will wash over us again. In those brief moments of reprieve, it’s important for us to remind ourselves that we will feel okay again one day.
After a traumatic and dis-empowering childhood, much of my life’s work has been about building a healthy and empowered sense of self. Not a narcissistic sense of self, but one that is rooted in a healthy ego and a recognition of the great possibilities that live within each of us. I believe that every one of us comes into this life with a brilliant and a unique sacred purpose, a network of gifts, callings, lessons, significant relationships, and key emotional issues that we are here to clarify, to express, to actualize, and to grow through. Our sacred purpose is our unique contribution to the world.
In order to fully embrace our purpose and make self-affirming life choices, we need an authentic sense of our own value. We need to believe that we are worthy of bringing our gifts and offerings to the world. Because so few of us were given a healthy template for self-validation, we often have to forge that template ourselves in the fires of our own determination.
Here are 3 tools that helped me to reach the stage of self-validation where I could see my purpose through in a challenging world.
Tool 1: Practice the Art of Selective Attachment.
Given that our sense of self was wounded in relationships, some part of it has to be restored through relationships. We are relational beings, after all. But relational healing can’t happen with just anyone. We have to cultivate the art of selective attachment. In other words, we have to sift everything through a self-validation filter, connecting only to those relationships that support our healthy self-development. If someone bolsters our sense of value, we invite them in. If they don’t, we turn them away. In other words, self-validators enter, lite-dimmers exit. Not from a place of contempt, but from a place of burgeoning self-love. We already have enough internalized voices telling us that we don’t have value. We don’t need any more. If they don’t help you grow, then let them go. Who you surround yourself with really matters.
Of course, we can get all the validation we want, even if it comes from someone credible, but it won’t be enough. We still have to take proactive steps to confirm our value.
Tool 2: Affirm your value.
Affirmations can be a positive step in the direction of self-empowerment. It can be encouraging to repeat self-validating affirmations throughout the day. For example, “I am enough!”, “I am worthy of a healthy relationship”, “I am worthy of self-love”, “I am brilliant.” These mantras can keep you going, particularly during challenging moments and can bolster your sense of self. But on their own, they are not enough to deeply transform you. In order to build a strong and sturdy sense of self, your words need to be coupled with self-affirming actions. In other words, you need to prove to yourself that you matter. You have to make your affirmations real. There has to be a congruency between what you are expressing and what you are living before your inner world will take notice.
By making your affirmations real, you send a message to the deep within that you are worthy enough to wage this battle for self-love. If we don’t prove to ourselves that we are willing to fight for our right to the light and our right to a healthy self-concept, who will?
This work may require that we go to the edge of our discomfort, and make empowering new choices. For example, if you are someone who has had a hard time speaking up for yourself, shift the pattern by clearly and confidently voicing your needs or desires. Or if you are someone who has resisted exploring a more gratifying career path, take one step in the direction of a new career. Even the smallest and shakiest of steps can transform your inner landscape.
To make your affirmations real: finish the things you start. Prove to yourself that you can see things through to completion. This can include important and meaningful life goals. Or practical and menial everyday tasks. It doesn’t matter if they are lofty accomplishments or simple actions. What matters is that you drown your negative self-talk in a sea of accomplishment.
Tool 3: Healing Our Core Wounds.
Fundamental to our efforts to self-validate, is the importance of going back into the past to heal our core wounds. At the heart of a diminished self-concept is invariably some combination of unresolved abuse, trauma, and unmet needs. And it’s seldom ours alone- most of these dysfunctional patterns have roots in our family lineage and ancestral patterns. In other words, we are carrying everyone’s emotional material up the rocky mountain with us.
The way we break free from dysfunctional familial patterns is not by running away from them. It’s by walking back in their direction. Not because we want to keep repeating them, but because the only way to shift these patterns is to heal them at their roots. It’s okay to run from them for a time, but not for all time. Because the flight from what lives inside of you, merely delays your arrival. You may think you are on the way to a new destination yet the plane keeps circling back to your childhood home. It can’t navigate a new flight plan, until you return back to where you came from, and heal its broken wings. With your wings strengthened, there is nowhere you can’t go.
The healing can happen in many forms. Talk therapy can be an effective tool in seeing and understanding the roots of our diminished sense of self. With the right therapist, you can talk through and reclaim those parts of you that got lost along the way. You can come to terms with where the voices of self-hatred and internalized shame originated. But identifying and analyzing our wounds is not always the same as healing them. Excessive analysis can perpetuate emotional paralysis- strengthening your mental capacities while possibly delaying your deeper healing. An effective recipe for healing is to couple your talk-therapy with a body-centered psycho-therapeutic approach. Body-centered models like somatic experiencing, bio-energetics, and core energetics, engage both your mental faculties and your capacity for deep feeling, supporting a more integrated healing. Your negative self-talk may be manifest as thinking, but its roots are often in the traumas endured within the emotional and physical bodies. Our traumas were a felt experience, and if we want to transform them we have to meet them directly, within the body itself. The feel is for real.
The key to the transformation of challenging patterns and wounds is to heal them from the inside out. Not to analyze them, not to watch them like an astronomer staring at a faraway planet through a telescope, but to jump right into the heart of them, encouraging their expression and release, stitching them into new possibilities with the thread of love. You want to live a self-empowered life? Heal your heart. That’s the best affirmation of all.
CONTINUING THE WORK
Building a healthy self-concept takes more than recognizing why we don’t have one. We have to do the work to construct a new egoic foundation. That work is not merely conceptual- it is rooted in embodied, lived experience: supportive relationships, positive affirmations coupled with meaningful action, addressing our emotional wounds, and eventually healing our way home. If you can stay with these tools for long enough, the voices of internalized shame and self-hatred will grow quieter, and a voice of self-love will rise up to occupy space inside of you. Your inner narrative will shift from a tone of shame, to a tone of self-value. You will no longer make choices sourced in an over-compensatory quest for external validation, you will make choices that are rooted in self-love. Self-regard will become your natural and organic way of being, and you will become emblazoned on your path, living your life like the force of purposeful nature that you are.
We are all beautiful and brilliant beings, at heart. The trick is clearing the obstacles and doing the rewarding work to build a foundation of enduring self-regard. When we do, we stop getting in our own way, and we live the life we were born for.
To wake up and be alive is an amazing gift that we sometimes take for granted. I have noticed that at times, it’s so easy to become fixated on some of the smallest things or to become wrapped up in the messiness and dramatics of the world. Sometimes we get so lost in the hustle and bustle that we forget to really take care of ourselves mentally, physically, and spiritually.
We tend to forget the importance of voicing our needs, wants, and most importantly, taking the necessary steps to protect our energy and inner peace. We have all probably heard the saying “life is too short” a million times, and it may seem so cliché, but it’s so true. We must learn to take care of ourselves and live life to the fullest, but also live as stress-free as possible. The older I become, the more aware I am of how essential it is to start practicing and implementing these four steps in order to protect and foster inner peace.
1. Assertively State Your Wants And Needs To Others
It can be extremely difficult to express your wants and needs in an assertive way, especially if you struggle with finding the right words to say and tone to use. It can also be uncomfortable to share these things in a budding and fresh relationship or friendship, but it is crucial to do so to cut down on any confusion or misinterpretations that could possibly develop.
The beauty in assertively expressing your desires is that it allows your voice to be heard. Additionally, it allows for you to set the tone and guidelines in regards to how you would like to be treated. It can overall increase self-worth and help build mutual respect between both parties once it is clear of what your needs and concerns are.
Now, if someone does not respect your wants and needs, then this person may not be worth risking your peace. In the end, developing an assertive communication style can go a long way in promoting healthier outcomes among all parties and help maintain a stress-free atmosphere.
2. Surround Yourself With Supportive And Uplifting People
There have been times in my life where I surrounded myself with people whom I thought wanted the best for me. However, not everyone that you meet is worthy of being in your close-knit corner. I just couldn’t fathom how there were friends that stuck around for partying or drama but became silent when it came to supporting my projects or offering a listening ear during difficult times.
I didn’t notice what effect it had on me until I began to process my feelings and acknowledge that there was a lack of support. After processing my feelings, I found that removing myself from these half-assed friendships and pushing myself into a more positive environment led to meeting new people and developing more positive relationships. I cannot say this enough – surrounding yourself with supportive and uplifting people can help maintain your sanity, giving you that extra momentum to make it past a difficult situation and foster high confidence.
3. Try To Stay Positive And Optimistic
As a child, I would often hear teachers and other adults encouraging me to keep a positive attitude, but that’s easier said than done when your patience is being tested and you’re going through a very challenging time. However, choosing to see the good in things can improve your overall mood and decrease levels of stress.
Sometimes certain events happen that are out of our control, but you would be surprised at how choosing to view situations in a non pessimistic way, sheds a little light on a once completely dark place. Take a deep breath, activate your support system and positive coping skills, and try to remain optimistic during uncertain times.
4. Allow Yourself Time To Decompress From Outside Distractions
Please! Please! Please! Take a break from outside distractions and spend some quality time alone in a tranquil environment. Although there are positives to utilizing social media, there are also dangers to overusing it, just like with almost anything in life. For example, I have had to take numerous breaks from social media to clear my mind, because sometimes you can become over exposed to negative news or seeing people with fancy things that may evoke personal feelings of not making enough progress in life.
I have been guilty of this, as well as devoting too much time to social media instead of utilizing my time more wisely. Whatever the distraction may be, it is important to limit it to not only increase productivity, but to give you a mental break. Our brains seem like they are always on the go, so to be able to take some time to hit the reset button is always encouraged. Furthermore, allow yourself some time to relax, for your body and mind will appreciate you for this. You deserve it!
Overall, taking the necessary steps to protect your peace allows for a more stress-free and productive version of yourself to flourish. If you find yourself going through a turbulent period where it feels as though there is no peace, remember these four steps and evaluate how you could improve in each area. Wishing you all the best!
Keep going, even when you doubt whether you have what it takes to make it through another day. You’ve had that thought before and you were wrong. You proved you were capable of making it through the unimaginable. You surprised yourself then, and you’re going to surprise yourself again. You’re going to keep moving forward, one small step at a time.
Keep going, even when you’ve screwed up. Don’t waste too much time feeling sorry for yourself. As long as you grow from the experience and try your best to do better in the future, then you should be proud of yourself. You’re only human. You’re not always going to say the right thing at the right time. You’re bound to fumble and fall. What matters most is how you bounce back from those setbacks.
Keep going, even if you feel completely alone. There are more people in this world who care about you than you realize. Even if you’ve lost a few along the way, there will be more waiting around the corner. Remember, you are worthy of attention and affection and undying love. You are going to find your people eventually. They’re out there, and they’re probably feeling as lost as you are right now — but once you come together, everything will feel right.
Keep going, even when you feel hopeless. Don’t give up on yourself because you are overflowing with potential. You are destined for beautiful things, but you need to stick around long enough to experience them. Even though it’s tempting to give up, you owe it to yourself to keep trying. It might be hard today, and it might be even harder tomorrow, but eventually making it through the day won’t be a struggle anymore. Eventually, you’ll discover the happiness you’ve deserved all along.
Keep going, even when times are hard. Life isn’t always going to be fun and exciting. There are going to be road bumps and obstacles along your journey. You’re going to have moments when you feel like everything is coming together and moments when it feels like everything is falling apart. This is normal. This is what it means to be human.
Keep going, even when you aren’t sure what you want out of this world. Even when you feel like there’s nothing out there that could possibly make you happy. Remember, the way you’re feeling right now is temporary. You’re not going to feel so uncomfortable forever. But you need to make the choice to take care of yourself. You need to put effort into feeling better because you deserve to be okay.
Keep going, even when you’re exhausted. Remember, strength doesn’t mean putting on a fake smile and accomplishing everything on your to-do list. Sometimes, strength is simply getting out of bed in the morning and making yourself your favorite breakfast. Sometimes, strength is stepping into a cold shower when all you want to do is sleep. If you can’t do anything big, start with the small things. And if you can’t do the small things, that’s okay too. Sometimes, you need a second. Rest isn’t the enemy. You need to recharge. But you also need to have faith in yourself. You need to pick yourself up and keep going.
Life is not just about love and happiness. Pretty flowers, sunny days, and colorful rainbows are not the only things we get to see in our lives. Work pressure, stress, anxiety, heartrending situations, gruesome injuries, and suffocating, depressive emotional traumas are as much a part of life, as are the enchanting smiles and the joyous laughter. But knowing this does not make facing these situations any easier.
One wouldn’t be wrong to say that life’s not about roses and lilies. It’s got thorns and stones, with occasional fireballs thrown in too. But, again, life is not about jumping over those thorns and dodging those fireballs. It’s about getting pricked, hurt, and burned and still looking for those roses and lilies.
Seems impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. To get past the hurt we face in our life journeys, we need to come to terms with a few life truths.
At some point or another in our lives, we all get hurt. A dear one might say to us things that tear us apart, a loved one might do something that breaks our heart, or some other beloved might depart from our lives, leaving us hollow and sad. These instances happen in all our lives, irrespective of where we live and what our backgrounds are. Such situations don’t come our way because we are weak or fall short of some ideal. These hurts and heartbreaks aren’t our weaknesses; rather, they prove that we are human.
The first step to healing is to acknowledge that you are not alone in this world with your wounds. There are millions of others around the world who are facing similar wounds and defeating them day after day, night after night. Acknowledging this first fact of life will teach you to stay away from self-pity. Falling into the trap of self-pity is detrimental in two ways. One, you alienate yourself from your loved ones because you always see yourself through the victim glass. And two, you never get over the hurt caused to you. In short, you never heal.
Self-pity and constantly viewing yourself as the victim will glue you down more firmly to whatever caused you pain in the first place. Acknowledging that you are not alone and there are many others who are battling similar situations—or even worse—can set you free from the victim whirlpool.
The second most important step towards healing is to accept that your hurt is real, and it is normal and human to feel hurt. Many people tend to deny the feelings of hurt and instead lock their emotions away. These locked emotions fester in our minds at the subconscious level and affect our day-to-day dealings in life and our relationships with people around us. What we need is a way to let our emotions out of our system.
Letting go of hurtful and sad feelings is a two-step process. First, you need to accept that it is alright to be sad; it is human to be angry, hurt, frustrated, or depressed. These are natural human emotions. So you must learn to accept that it is fine to be vulnerable at times, it is only human. Second, you need to find a tangible, physical way to let go of these emotions. Suppressing and bottling up your sadness, your anger, or your depression will only lead to further heartache. When you push your emotions to the back of your mind, they do not wander away and disappear from your life. In fact, they are just incubating in your brain cells for a suitable time to jump back at you with full force.
Ignoring your emotions is not the solution. And neither is psychoanalyzing them to great detail. Thinking them over again and again only makes you relive the hurtful experience every single time. You run your emotions around in a vicious circle with no way to let them out. These feelings of sadness, grief, or even anger grow exponentially to alarming levels when you put them in these repeat cycles. Then one day, when you are least expecting it, they burst forth from your heart and potentially hurt you further and also those around you.
Instead, give them a way to get out of your system. We have established that there is no escapism when it comes to emotions. So think of ways to let them out. Keep a journal, a diary, or even a kind of vision board. These can give you real, concrete ways to express your emotions safely. Write or express your emotions in as much detail as possible. This is decidedly not going to be easy. Writing your feelings down or sticking them up on a vision board can seem to make you relive the experience and turn you miserable. But remember, it is important to channel your feelings out through some kind of medium, otherwise you will be reliving those horrors for the rest of your life.
All the emotions we feel, big or small, happy or sad, are all stored in the emotional control center of our brains. When an emotion or a thought finishes, it is supposedly removed from the cell storing it. The memory of the incident might remain, but the feeling associated with it is rubbed off. It is this finishing that we must aim for through our above-mentioned activities.
A feeling that stays in our mind stays in our body. That is to say, it begins to affect the functioning of our body in one way or the other. Our body’s biological functions, the organ systems, all get affected simply because we have let our feelings remain within us. After a time, our bodies will be under the control of these very emotions that are nothing but distressing and painful. Giving them a channel to move out now becomes even more essential.
Some might argue that thinking about these feelings, the incidents that led to the hurt, so on and so exhaustingly forth, will give you valuable wisdom. This wisdom is what will enable you to overcome or avoid similar scenarios in the future. And this is indeed true. But, excessive reflections will make letting go of the past that much harder. We need a way to stitch up our wounds and make the pain go away. What we do not need is to deepen the scars or numb the pain.
Hurtful, painful situations, both physical and emotional, will leave their scars. This is a reality. There can never be a scar-free existence. A life without troubles and its accompanying scars would mean one is as inanimate an object, like a piece of wood or a stone. This is unrealistic. An impossibility. The existence of these scars is proof of us being human. Learn to accept that your scars are a part of you. In a way, let your scars define you. Not because of the way they make you and the people around you feel, but as a testament to the fact that you went through something life-changingly traumatic and yet came out the other end, stronger and more resilient than before. Be proud of your scars, for they are proof of what life has taught you. Do not shun or shy away from the feelings of hurt within your heart. Instead of feeling embarrassed of your scars, embrace them and feel the difference. Remember, each scar you receive is like a jewel in your crown of life experiences. You are wiser, more mature, and more capable of handling things only because you experienced those very scars, however painful they might have been.
I express my emotions through art. After a painful experience, my journal pages resemble a mishmash of colors and words. But not everyone wants to turn to art or writing to handle their emotions. For those of you who find writing things out difficult or unhelpful, simply talking things over with a professional or even a trusted friend can be a huge help. The base motive is the same. Give your body ways to let go of the past and concentrate on the present. In our struggle to learn from past experiences so we do not repeat the same in the future, we ruminate on our emotions and let them grow instead of letting them go.
A wise man once said that hurt and anger stem from the past. Fear and worry are for the unseen future. When we let these emotions take control of our lives, we entangle our hearts and minds in a past that we can never change and in a future that we are not sure will arrive. And in all the jumbled mess, we miss out on experiencing the joys in the present.
Let us pause here for a moment and ponder how truly profound that is. Letting go of past wounds and not worrying about the future are two of the most difficult tasks a person can undertake, but reminding ourselves that it is our present that needs our attention can be the key to real peace. What we need is not an erasure of our feelings but a closure to our emotions. And it is indeed true that the more we avoid addressing our emotions and taking charge of them, the scarier it becomes. Each passing day that we ignore addressing our feelings and instead choose to immerse ourselves in self-pity and depression is like adding a step to heights we need to scale to overcome those emotions. The more we avoid them, the higher the ladder goes. Just thinking about our past experiences will not make them go away, unless and until we take practical, concrete steps to ensure they are truly out of our system.
Suppressing or distracting yourself with food, shopping, or movies will not work in the long run. They might help you disengage from your feelings and get your attention elsewhere for some time, but that is exactly how they help—for just some time. If you cannot face your feelings, you can never truly heal.
Get to know your feelings, immerse yourself in the experience, and come out wiser and stronger. This is true in the physical world too. Have you ever seen or read about an old-fashioned chimney sweep? Or the drain cleaner? Can you imagine their work getting done without them getting dirty?
Emotions are no different. If you wish to heal, then however unpleasant, you will have to plunge and lean into your emotions to clear them out of your system. Again, make use of tangible, real, and safe ways to let them out. This will help you grow and learn from your experiences and make you more resilient.
Once you have conquered your feelings and let go of emotions that trouble you, find your purpose. In every instance in our lives, even in the curveballs that life often throws at us, there is always a positive, a benefit, a silver lining to look for. Look for something—anything—positive that you can infer from a situation. However tiny the benefit, let your heart concentrate on that one positive that is going to come out of it. This is not you ignoring the hurt, instead it’s you looking for ways to make that hurt your own. After you have let your feelings out, immerse yourself in whatever goodness the situation gives you.
This is the power that tangible release of emotions can give us. And never forget to look for your very own silver lining. That one positive can become your motivation to look ahead into a brighter future and help you truly enjoy the here and the now.
You have experienced and handled your emotions, taken the first step to heal your wounds, and searched for the motivation for a happier future. Now is the time to forgive. Forgiveness is the key to finally closing the chapter and shutting the door. And this one step is the hardest of all.
Do not let the act of forgiving become a validation of the action that led to your hurt, or some form of disrespect to the experiences you have had. No, instead let forgiveness become your own gift for yourself. Forgive the person or people who have hurt you—not for their sakes, but for your own. When the person hurting us is a dear friend, a close family member, or anyone we hold dear, then feelings of “how could you do this to me? I will never forgive you!” are a common occurrence. But once you have crossed the aforementioned first, second, and third steps, forgiveness becomes a tad easier.
Many people make the mistake of making forgiveness the first step. When you haven’t dealt with your own feelings of hurt and betrayal, anger and sadness, there is hardly a way you will successfully and truly be able to forgive the person who caused it in the first place. It is impractical and impossible to accomplish. But once you have accepted your feelings, given them a way out, and looked for positivity in the situation, you will be in a far better situation to forgive the person and move on. Forgiveness will allow you to finally heal and embrace your hurt in the truest sense.
As humans, we are innately programmed to run from situations that give us pain, wound us, and give us grief. Running away and burying our heads in the sand will not solve the problems, nor will it allow us to heal. If we run away from one issue, we’ll run away from many more in the future. That is what will come to define us. Experiencing pain and grief is not our weakness; rather, running away is. Truly acknowledging our feelings might make us feel vulnerable, but we mustn’t overlook the fact that through it all, we are working to be stronger and more irrepressible by our emotions. Our inclination or inborn trait to feel hurt stems from our very human need to love ourselves more.
Healing from your wounds is not a thing to be ashamed of. It is not something to hide. It is what gives you leave to love yourself and take pride in your experiences. With each healed scar in your life, you are indeed adding a feather of wisdom to your repertoire.
Imagine you are sitting by a beach shore. There is a perfectly beautiful sunset in front of you. A beautiful painting of the sun and the clouds dancing together as the day ends. You’re there witnessing it all, and you feel at peace. You feel complete. You feel calm. You are aligned with yourself and that scene right in front of your eyes. You are home within yourself and the universe.
Isn’t that something we all crave a glimpse of? The feeling of being truly satisfied, truly peaceful with our humanness. The feeling of being at peace with our choices and how we lead our everyday lives and not just fooling ourselves that we do.
Every day is a day that culminates in us walking towards our truest selves or away from it. Every day is either choosing peace or having some dust accumulate on your chest. Every day, we feel a certain way. Every day we can sleep knowing that we stood by our beliefs, by the deepest desires of our hearts despite any obstacles and disappointments but still feel at peace knowing we were real and we tried. Or we can sleep knowing we’ve fooled ourselves, we’re walking in the wrong direction, we’re fighting the world and ourselves, and we sleep with this lingering pain.
You either make yourself a comfortable home to think and live in or you become an unbearable company for yourself. You make homes away from your soul, but no home fits you, and you keep hopping from one to the other, inner peace destroyed.
The shape of your heart starts changing. What was a potential home becomes a pile of blocks, and this becomes a pattern. You need to come home to yourself. You need to find your true home, and that answer is only within you no matter how far you travel or who you meet. Your shelter was always there all along, and it’s you. You need to look into it.
It might feel like a deserted island in the beginning with no clear features, but as you ask, a voice will whisper back to you, surely but slowly. After all, you need to build trust with that soul you’ve been neglecting. When the day comes, ask yourself the simple questions, the hard questions, the funny questions, and look, wait, and be patient. You need to be able to handle honesty. You need to accept what will be thrown at you. That’s the first step to building that beautiful home within yourself. Whatever the answers will be, please try to understand them. Try to nourish the desires that this voice will whisper to you. If you love dancing, dance. If you love drawing, draw. If you love books, read. If you love solving mathematical problems, solve them. Make that home warm, make it enjoyable, build it brick by brick.
When that voice whispers to you its pain and sorrows, its traumas and secrets, be kind. Don’t neglect them. Work on treating and healing them. Work on understanding them. If you continue to do so, soon this home will have a garden full of blooming sunflowers. If you continue to work on being close to yourself, accepting yourself, being a comfortable body and mind to live in, the sunflowers will multiply. Please don’t ever forget to listen to that voice and work with it gently so that most of your days can be as beautiful as watching the sun set with nothing but peace in your heart.
Inner peace is the state of being connected to the deep internal knowing that everything is okay, and always will be. The concept of finding one’s “inner peace” has been part of spiritual and metaphysical practices for centuries, and has just recently become more mainstream with the development of popular psychology.
Albert Camus once said: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” That sums up the entirety of what inner peace really is: the understanding that no matter what is happening around you, there is a place of total knowing and calmness within you. Not only are you capable of returning to that place when you need to, but it’s possible to live your entire life from there. The challenge is learning how to connect with it in the first place and learn to rewire how you respond to your monkey mind, which is always jumping from one worst case scenario to the next.
You know when people reference knowing something “deep down?” They say things like: “I’m worried, but deep down, I know it’s going to be okay.” Or, “I’m angry at him, but deep down, I know he loves me.” What do you think they are referencing? Where is deep down? They’re talking about the place within them that has an infinite wisdom, a better understanding, and a more insightful perspective of what’s going on. It isn’t shaken by the stressors or fears that the mind wants to offer.
So much of the process of finding inner peace is being able to get to that “deep down” place where you know and feel, that ultimately, everything will be okay.
There’s another metaphor in meditation in which calmness is compared to steadying a lake or a large body of water. Your thoughts and actions are like stones in the water: they create a ripple effect. The point of meditation is to make yourself quiet enough so that the water comes back to its natural stillness. You don’t have to force the water to be still. It does it on its own when you stop interrupting it.
The same goes for finding inner peace. It’s not so much something you have to create as it is something you have to return to.
The goal isn’t happiness.
One of the most important parts of discovering your inner peace is that you trade in your desire for “happiness.”
Unfortunately, happiness is fickle. It can lead you to being unhealthily attached to certain achievements, belongings, or specific circumstances. It can lead you to become dependent on other people’s opinions, or life unfolding in a particular way. When your goal is happiness, you will always find just behind it a lingering sense of unhappiness – that’s how balance and duality works. Inner peace, however? That’s the state in between the scales. When it’s your goal, there’s no way to lose.
This is difficult for most people, and often, people will continue to create stress, problems, and drama for themselves because their egos are still very much attached to thinking they need some kind of external thing to make them feel good. This is the quintessential sign of someone who has not yet found their inner peace: they are searching, often rapidly, for a sense of satisfaction, belonging or worthiness outside of themselves.
So really, it’s not that happiness isn’t a virtuous thing to which you should aspire, or that happiness isn’t something you’re ever allowed to feel. The reality is that inner peace is the true happiness, and everything else is just a false means of trying to convince yourself that you are “okay.”
Think about it this way: What do you typically imagine will bring you happiness? Money, a relationship, a promotion? What happens when you achieve those things? Consistently, throughout all of humankind, the answer is the same: you return to your baseline. This is because this kind of happiness is not real. It is only being completely at peace with wherever you are in any given day that you will find a genuine sense of wonder, presence, and joy.
What drives us away from inner peace in the first place?
With all this talk of how we have to “come back” to our place of inner peace, it brings up the question of why we ever got disconnected from it in the first place. This is important because understanding why we lose it is fundamental in finding it again.
When we grow up, we adapt to our environments. We adopt the beliefs and ideas of those around us. We alter our personalities so that we become safer, people we believe can’t be hurt by the world. When we are children, we are more vulnerable than ever, and it’s in this time that we pick up what can easily become lifelong coping mechanisms.
If we are not instructed from a young age to connect with our inner sense of peace, we will instinctively begin to trust the voice in our head. This is where we really get lost, because the thoughts that we have on any given day are largely the product of what the Buddhists would call the “monkey mind,” or as a neurologist could explain it, the process of different receptors firing off and making associations with things, that may or may not have anything to do with reality.
When we begin to trust our thoughts, we let them inform our feelings. This becomes a cycle, and ultimately traps most people who aren’t aware that it’s happening. They have a weird or scary thought, have a subsequent strong feeling, and the combination of the two makes the situation feel real when it’s actually just a misunderstanding of your neurological process.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that our thoughts are useless. It just means that they are not always reflective of reality, and should be used as more of suggestions than anything else.
Why can’t people find their inner peace easily?
The answer is that they can, most people just aren’t instructed on how to. But beyond that, most people are actually too scared to go into their own feeling states, because their inner child is too traumatized.
Everyone has an inner child, it is the part of you that is most innocent and pure, and it never goes away. Over time, it is your responsibility for you to learn how to parent this inner child, who will honestly be the one to push you away from your inner peace. They will be the one to throw a tantrum and tell you that everything is falling apart and that you’re going to die and that you should just give up.
In the same way that you wouldn’t let a child run your waking life now, you can’t always believe what your inner child is afraid of. You can, however, learn to work with them, heal them, and make them feel safe… in the way any good parent would.
Dr. Stephen Diamond explains it like this: “To begin with, the inner child is real. Not literally. Nor physically. But figuratively, metaphorically real. It is, like complexesin general, a psychological or phenomenological reality, and an extraordinarily powerful one at that.” He argues that mental disorders and destructive behavior patterns are usually more or less related to unconscious parts of ourselves, and were most often adopted in early life.
Finding your inner peace is finding your inner warrior.
Finding inner peace isn’t always so much about just sitting in the lotus position until wisdom becomes you, it’s about making the uncomfortable decision to stay with your discomfort, and to choose differently regardless.
As Gail Brenner explains: “The inner war is perpetuated by resistance – that is, not wanting to feel the way we feel, not wanting people to do what they are doing, not wanting events to occur as they are occurring. Resistance wants to rewrite our personal histories and ensure that our plans materialize.” She argues that inner peace is the only kind that exists because nothing else is in our control:
“There is only one kind of peace, which is inner peace. Why? There is no “outer peace” because we are not in charge of the circumstances of our lives. We cannot design the world to our liking or even control our own thoughts and feelings. Peace is not to be found in any temporary arising; that is, anything that comes and goes, which includes events, people, objects, thoughts, emotions, etc. If we stake our happiness on things that are temporary, what happens when they appear or disappear? There goes our happiness. This truth begs the essential question: Do you want passing happiness or enduring peace?”
Another really amazing way to find your inner peace is to consistently remind yourself that your worries are a fabrication of your mind’s need to identify potential threats to survival, and your true happiness is being here, in the moment. If that’s hard to believe, make a list of the following:
– Everything you have intensely worried about in your life. Go back as many years as you can, and be as detailed as you can.
– Every difficult situation you swore you would never get through, or never get over.
– Every time you have genuinely felt happy and at peace.
Guaranteed, your responses to the first will bring a smile to your face in that they will remind you that you have worried constantly in your life, and yet they were all unfounded. Often, the things you worried about most were actually the things that were going to turn out the best. By the nature of duality, the very virtue of experiencing fear of them means you also experienced love from them.
Your response to the second will also be relieving, because it will show you just how much pain you thought was insurmountable in your life, and how, in retrospect, you don’t really ever think about those things anymore. Finally, your answers to the last question will remind you that your happiness has never come from things being perfect on the outside, but from you being present and open and connected to yourself, and to the moment.
Worrying is an addiction.
In the same way that it’s easy to become addicted to substances or behaviors that allow us to avoid the present moment, worrying is chief among the coping mechanisms people use to distract themselves from what really matters.
Over time, you have begun to convince yourself that worrying = being safe. You think that by running worst case scenarios through your head again and again, you will be better prepared for them. This is completely false. Not only are you draining your energy imagining situations that 99.9% of the time are completely manufactured, but when you are already hypersensitive to any one of these fears or ideas, you will actually create those circumstances simply out of your avoidance or over-responsiveness to them.
You have to remember that among all the things to know about the monkey mind, your head wants to constantly seek out situations and experiences that will affirm itself. If you believe something will be good, it will be. It might not look exactly how you imagined, but the outcome will be exactly what you expect.
Finding your inner peace is just connecting to your deepest wisdom. It’s not something you have to create, justify, imagine, or reach for. It’s always within you, it’s always an option, and it’s constantly a choice. You just have to make it.
Your feelings are not always facts.
The most challenging part of all of this is arriving at a place where you can discern between which feelings are instinctive and informative, and which are rooted in fear and ego.
In a world that constantly tells you that your gut knows everything, and that your feelings are real, and that, hell, if you reach in deep enough, you’ll uncover a well of wisdom that can guide you… it can be really easy to assume that every feeling and idea we have is not only real but is somehow forecasting what’s going to happen in the future.
Your feelings aren’t predictions. They are not fortune-telling mechanisms. They are only reflecting back to you what your current state of mind is. It’s like having a nightmare: the monsters aren’t real, but they could be metaphors for something you’re worried about in your waking life.
What holds so many people back from finding their inner peace is the fact that they can’t tell the difference between whether their fear is correct, or their peaceful feeling is correct.
Remember this: The feeling of peace is the one telling you the truth.
Your feelings aren’t here to tell you what’s going to happen. They’re only here to inform you of where you are at energetically and mentally, and how you should respond to what happens around you. Fear is trying to scare you into staying small and keeping safe. It is a mortal, limited thing. The feeling of peace is trying to remind you that everything will be okay because it always is… and always will be, no matter what.
What if you could create a totally new way of being with your body, a way of communing and caring for it with kindness and ease? And what if, in turn, your body became healthier and had more energy and zest than ever before?
I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we all have the ability to create and nourish a two-way relationship with our bodies. It begins when we open a line of communication by asking questions and truly listening to what our bodies have to say.
Here’s the thing: Your body knows what it requires to be happy, healthy, and radiant. The problem is, we live in a world which prizes the mind and intellect, a world which barely acknowledges the energetic language and potency that our bodies use. As a result, even those among us who have appreciation for our bodies can still become cut off from the connection that’s available to us when we simply pause … and pay attention.
I call this Body Whispering, a way of reawakening the energy healing capacities many of us harbor. That journey begins by being open to a new way of being with our own bodies, and that’s what I’d like to invite you to try today.
Let’s look at how we can begin this process.
Recognize that energy is your body’s first language — and it’s yours too.
The language of energy is quick, instant, and natural. It also takes a little practice to tune in to, in the same way it would if you were suddenly exposed to a new spoken language you’ve never heard before. The difference here is that you already know the language of energy—it is our first language, the one we used before we had words. Once you start to recognize it, your understanding accelerates.
How you ‘hear’ information from your body is an individual thing, so I can’t tell you exactly what to expect. Notice I said hear; a more accurate term might be receive or perceive. The trick is to not overthink it. Be curious, be open, and practice tuning into this inner awareness you instinctively have.
Begin by asking your body a question.
Your body has a point of view about everything that concerns it, including the food it eats, the clothes it wears, the way it moves, and who it’s intimate with. So it makes sense to ask for its input, don’t you agree?
To begin experimenting with this concept, the next time you sense hunger, ask, Body, what would you like to eat right now? You can ask this out loud or to yourself; your body will hear you either way. Then take a second and see what response you perceive. Be as open as possible and do your best to keep your opinions out of it! Because you WILL have an opinion on this — and a ton of judgments and ideas about what’s right or wrong for your body to eat. Simply trust and allow your body to choose. It knows exactly what it requires to be nourished and satisfied.
Here’s another fun way to practice listening to your body: When you’re picking out what to wear in the morning, ask, Body, what would you like to wear today? Then look in your closet and let your body choose. When you first start playing with this, you might be surprised by your body’s choices. You also might not agree with your body’s choices! Again, it’s a matter of trust.
Understand that your choices about what to eat or wear are based on judgments and ideas about what’s right, wrong, good, or bad for your body. They’re the product of a lifetime of being told which foods are healthy and what kind of clothes you’re permitted to wear for your body shape.
Your body might not agree with you!
The challenge: Try both of these experiments for the next three days. When you sense hunger, ask your body what it would like to eat. When you’re getting dressed for the day, ask your body what it would like to wear. Also, ask what it would like to wear at the end of the day as well!
When you start making choices based on what your body actually feels good in, you’ll notice a difference in energy levels, health, and just the general ease and flow of life.
Expand it with gratitude.
It’s well documented that gratitude has the ability to enhance every area of our lives. When we show gratitude to our loved ones, they love us more freely. When we slow down and appreciate the world around us, we see more and more beauty. It’s the same with our bodies: every time you perceive information from your body, show your gratitude. Say, Thank you so much, dear body, for sharing that with me. Thank the connection you’re building. And thank yourself — for being so open-minded and treading a new path!
Maintain your new connection.
The more you practice, the more you’ll pick up on what your body requires. Please know there are no right or wrongs here — only interesting choices. Listen with openness. Don’t assume. Never judge. Stay open and aware.
Expect to be surprised. Expect to be delighted. Expect insights that go beyond the thinking mind. You’re reawakening a connection — and once that channel is reopened, you’ll find life and living flows more easily. Your body will thank you for this, I promise.
We all have a story, with chapters we are proud of and moments in our lives we have felt at our best and most happy—the parts we enjoy reading back with a smile.
And we all have chapters we do not like to recall, experiences that have hurt and brought us pain beyond measure, challenges that have not been so easily overcome.
Perhaps there are difficult chapters we are currently living in now, the words not easy to find in times of anguish and heartbreak, struggle, and doubt.
It might seem easier to skip over these chapters, but for the story to make sense, every line has to be read, despite the difficulty in doing so.
The truth is that we hide ourselves and our emotions from the world when we are suffering, as if the only way to manage the pain is to give in to the silence of it and let it engulf us.
We become lost in the darkness of our thoughts and feelings and we isolate ourselves from others, as if pouring our pain out will make us even weaker than we already feel.
Sometimes, the most painful chapters of our lives are the ones we need to share with the world. We need to let people know when it hurts, that the weight of our thoughts and emotions we carry is too heavy to do alone.
We need to share our truth with those who love and care for us, those who can support us, to let it propel us forward into gaining clarity and peace, instead of living with the shame or guilt of something we believe is holding us back.
When we are hiding ourselves, wearing a mask to the world that we think would be better than the truth we carry underneath, we are not being true to ourselves or others around us. When we try to push away our fear or anxieties, low mood or previous trauma, we are fooling ourselves that this negative energy will pass on its own. When we think we can carry the weight of it alone, we often find it overwhelms us.
Often, we cling to pain and suffering because it feels familiar, like a shadow following us despite the sunshine. We often do not believe that by letting it go, we could achieve real happiness, as if we need to hold on to it as a reminder of all we have been through. We need to acknowledge that these chapters do not define our story but instead add depth to our character and the places we have found ourselves on our written journey.
True healing starts from within. It is accepting our present circumstances and our past experiences, everything that has brought us to this point in our story, and to acknowledge that these are only parts of our plot-line.
To heal, we have to accept where we find ourselves now so we can change where we want to go next.
We need to be kind and understanding to ourselves on our journey as we navigate through each page of the process, to feel every emotion we encounter, no matter how much it might hurt us, or to say the words we have been too afraid to admit aloud, even to ourselves. It is important not to hide who we are but to embrace ourselves fully, with all of our pieces, and let our real selves be present.
We need to be brave and let go of what keeps us from moving forward in our life story, to stand tall in moments we feel like we are shrinking, and to communicate what we need to say, even if it is only a whisper. Because we owe ourselves healing and happiness. We deserve to be heard in the silence of our suffering. We do not have to fight our pain alone.
Every chapter we have already lived through has taught us we have the strength to keep going until we find the solace we seek.
And one day soon, we will be able to tell our story without it hurting. We are the authors of our own destiny, and we owe it to ourselves to make our next chapter the best one yet.