When we make peace with ourselves, everything changes.
Over the years and the experiences I’ve had – particularly in my professional life – I’ve learned that writing, speaking, and coaching are relatively easy things for me to do. It’s dealing with myself that’s the hardest part.
I think this is true with most of the things we do in life – even the most challenging ones. It’s usually our own fears, doubts, insecurities, attachments, and resistance that make things difficult, not so much the things themselves.
When We Make Peace With Ourselves, Life Flows With More Ease
Regardless of the specific circumstances we’re facing or tasks in front of us, when we make peace with ourselves and what’s going on, things tend to flow with more ease, joy, and grace. When we’re not at peace with ourselves or life, it doesn’t matter how “good” or “bad” things may be circumstantially, we suffer.
So how do we make peace with ourselves and overcome our fears, doubts, and insecurities?
Making Peace with Ourselves
Here are three core lessons for how we can make peace with ourselves at a deeper level:
1. Have Compassion For Yourself
Self-compassion is one of the most important aspects of life and growth, but is often something we either overlook, think is “soft,” misunderstand, or simply don’t know how to practice.
There are three key elements to self-compassion:
- Mindfulness and awareness for how we’re treating ourselves.
- A sense of kindness and forgiveness towards ourselves
- A realization of our common humanity with others (i.e. remembering that we’re not alone in our experience).
In my life I’ve realized that when I’m able to be gentle and kind with myself and reduce my self-criticism, not only are things more fun, I’ve actually been able to achieve much more success.
2. Surrender to Life as it Actually Is
Surrendering isn’t about giving up or giving in, it’s about making peace with what is (even if we don’t like it.)
A big paradox in life is that until we can be at peace with what’s actually happening in the moment (i.e. letting go of our resistance and of our obsessive focus on how things should be), we’re not able to make the changes we want or to experience the joy we desire.
Whenever we resist, judge, or fight against what is happening in our lives, we suffer. However, when we’re able to allow things to be exactly as they are, it can be remarkable to see how easily things have flowed.
3. Take Ownership
Ownership is about taking full responsibility for our lives and for what shows up around us. This can be tricky for a few reasons.
First of all, we live in a culture that loves to blame and make excuses, so we’re swimming in that ocean all the time. Second of all, there are a lot of things that happen in and around us that we don’t have direct control over (other people, the economy, the weather, decisions, and many circumstances and situations – both personal and global).
However, we always have a choice about how we relate to what’s going on and how we interpret the things happening around us and even within us. When we take ownership we let go of blaming and excuses (or we notice as soon as we can when we’re heading down that negative road.) And, we make a commitment to ourselves that we’re going to create what we truly want – not simply react to life as if it is “happening to us.”
These are all fairly simple concepts, but like many things I write and speak about, understanding them is quite different than practicing and embodying them (i.e. they’re easier said than done.)
When we cultivate empathy and compassion for ourselves and embrace the realization that meaningful change begins with us, we gain a profound understanding that we hold the key to our own joy, pain, triumphs, and challenges.
It’s both sobering and liberating when we embrace the idea that we are the source of our own happiness or suffering. When we get this and live this way, we release ourselves from a great deal of unnecessary stress and make ourselves available to show up for others and for life in an open, authentic, and empowered way.
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This article was published in 2014 and updated for 2023.