Actor Kerry Washington, who recently released her memoir, Thicker Than Water, has said this in the past about finding inner peace:
“I try to put myself first,” she says. “If I don’t put my own physical and emotional health first, then I’m not really useful to any movement, to any work of art, to any creative endeavor.”
“I have to be aware—not selfish and self-absorbed and self-obsessed—but I have to be self-aware of what my needs are and be willing to take care of my own needs.”
I think this is an apt definition of finding inner peace. We have to be self-aware of what we need and be willing to give that to ourselves.
Only then will we be truly content.
We can feel an inner sense of profound calm no matter what is going on outside of us. This is because we have the emotional tools to create that peace for ourselves no matter what the circumstances.
If you are able to tap into these seven feelings, then congratulations, you’re truly at peace with yourself.
1) You are compassionate towards yourself
I did something completely out of character the other day. I put the wrong name on an article pitch to an editor at my dream publication.
I don’t know how I did it. Maybe I was multi-tasking or got sidetracked. Maybe it was a moment of brain fog. I was feeling a bit under the weather, I remember. Sometimes I can also be too efficient for my own good. I should have slowed down, taken a beat, and looked it over before I hit “send”.
The editor wrote back to say that while she liked the pitch, that she had to pass because of the careless mistake. I was mortified—but only for a moment.
The old me would have beat myself up about it for days…and days. I’m happy to say I got over it pretty quickly. I had compassion towards myself, reminded myself to be more careful next time, and simply moved on.
I even decided to put a different spin on it. I told myself that one day I would get into this publication and that the faux-pas was a reminder that it would happen (my reasoning was that the editor could have easily not even bothered responding at all), and that I should pitch the editors of this world-class media outlet more often—although just not this same editor anytime soon, ha ha.
We are often our own worst critics. “It’s easy to be tough on yourself—we tend to do it much, much more than we realize. But what if there was a better way?” asks psychologist Catherine Moore.
“When we forgive ourselves, accept our perceived flaws, and show ourselves kindness, we practice self-compassion,” says Moore. “It’s often a lot harder than it sounds, but with the right techniques, we can learn to make it a habit that sticks.”
Self-acceptance is at the center and so is practicing mindfulness, she says. Try not to judge yourself too quickly and let go of the need for outside validation.
Treat yourself to the same compassion you would to a dear friend. That’s what I did.
2) You have forgiven yourself for the past
Forgiving ourselves for mistakes of the past is one of the most difficult things to do in life.
But it can be the most freeing thing in the world and help your life move forward.
Maaria Mahmood and Hadil Noor from Good Thinking stress the importance of the “4 R’s” when it comes to forgiveness.
The first is responsibility. “Accept what has happened and show yourself compassion,” they say.
Then, it’s a good thing to feel remorse. “Use guilt and remorse as a gateway to positive behavior change.”
Restoration means to make amends with whoever you are forgiving, even if it’s yourself.
Finally there’s renewal. “Learn from the experience and grow as a person.”
3) You feel your feelings
When you’re at peace with yourself it doesn’t mean that you’re always living on cloud nine and that you don’t have any uncomfortable or negative emotions.
What it does mean is that you don’t run away from your feelings and you don’t make yourself numb to them.
“It takes a lot of courage to notice what’s going on inside of your body when difficult feelings arise, but give yourself loving permission to feel whatever is happening,” says therapist Regina Kendall from Sanvello Health.
Kendall says that an important aspect of being able to notice and experience your feelings is mindfulness. She recommends something called a body scan meditation.
“Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head,” adds Elizabeth Scott, PhD from Very Well Mind.
By mentally scanning yourself, you bring awareness to every single part of your body, so you notice anything from aches and pains, tension, and general discomfort, says Scott.
4) Your energy is at ease
When most people get to a certain age, they tend to stop caring about what other people think of them.
“Being comfortable with yourself means not comparing yourself to others, and feeling OK with whatever choices you make in life,” says Caroline Steber at Bustle.
This can be anything from accepting how you look and how much you weigh, having healthy self-esteem, and just being great with wherever you’re at in life, adds Steber.
You’re following your own bliss and that’s all that matters. You’re only competition is yourself.
Striving to be the best version of yourself is the most satisfying thing you can do.
5) Drama does nothing for you
If you’ve committed to leading a peaceful life, you have probably let go of a couple of toxic people.
These are the people who create unnecessary stress in your life, and distract you from your path.
Self-described drama queen Lori Deschene says she used to be attracted to drama like moth to a flame.
“I didn’t feel comfortable unless I was fighting someone, or at the very least, fighting myself,” she says. The men she dated brought drama to her life as did toxic friendships. Of course, she was the common drama-filled denominator.
Deschene began to recognize when she was the one creating the drama. She also changed her perspective: she started appreciating the little things in life.
She took an inventory of the people who brought stress like a storm into her life and started distancing herself from them. She began to see herself as a powerful person who could remove the chaos.
6) You won’t waste time worrying
No doubt worrying is the thief of peace.
People who have worked on attaining peace in their lives know that they can’t control what happens, they can only control their reaction to what happens.
And usually we worry about a worst-case scenario that won’t even happen.
But life is certainly unpredictable and there will be unexpected challenges that come at us from time to time.
“It’s entirely natural to worry about a parent’s illness, or feel dismayed and angry by your recent job loss. But when you fixate on those feelings, they can eventually take over, disturbing your peace of mind and making it more difficult to cope,” says Crystal Raypole from Psych Central.
We’re not saying to ignore those feelings because suppressing worries will only intensify them.
Acceptance, though, is the way through the worry. Raypole says that we can banish worry by using the following reminders:
- “What’s happening right now won’t last forever. In the meantime, I’m doing my best.”
- “This is a tough situation, but I can get through it.”
- “I feel miserable right now, but I won’t always feel like this.”
I would add: “It’s out of my hands, so why bother worrying?”
7) You’re happy with who you are and you’re happy with what you have
You’re at a point in your life where you’re focused on the amazing things happening in your life.
You’ve also let go of other’s expectations of you and you’re committed to living a life that resonates with you first and foremost.
I love this quote by Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock:
“I think most of us are raised with preconceived notions of the choices we’re supposed to make. We waste so much time make decisions based on someone else’s idea of our happiness—what will make you a good citizen or a good wife or daughter or actress? Nobody says, ‘Just be happy, go be a cobbler or go live with goats.”
We like the idea of living with goats.