When you wake up in the morning, is your mind racing? Do you fret about what other people think of you? Do you feel anxious, no matter how hard you try to stay calm?
Are you impatient with your impatience?
Luckily, the idea that you should always feel a sense of well-being and inner peace is a misconception. Life happens. Your spouse works late. Children get sick. You get a flat tire on your way to work. A friend hurts your feelings. You lose a pet or a loved one.
Feeling peaceful or having emotional well being has nothing to do with what happens to us; it’s about learning the art of self-acceptance and mindfulness.
Why Inner Peace Is Hard to Achieve
In our Western culture, academic success, business savvy, and making it big in sports rank much higher than having an inner sense of well-being. Most of us were not taught at home or in school what emotions are, how to regulate them, or how to calm ourselves. Instead, especially in childhood, we are pushed to excel and punished when we act out emotionally.
We were not shown how to achieve mindfulness. And when we add on massive digital stimulation and smartphone or social media addictions, we end up with an epidemic of disconnected people. We are disconnected from ourselves and each other.
So, even if you long for inner peace, you may be plagued with anxiety and depression instead. You may feel haunted with low but constant uneasiness or a wildly out-of-control inner critic. What went wrong?
To understand how to achieve inner peace, let’s first explore how we lost our way.
Much of what we think we know about emotions was handed down from our parents, which was often well-intended but inadequate at best. Even though emotions are a natural part of the human experience, they are misunderstood, so generations after generations have avoided, judged, and often blocked or shut down what they feel.
Do you recognize any of these common myths from your childhood experience?
- Myth #1: Negative emotions are “bad” or “wrong.”
- Myth #2: Another person can “make” us feel an emotion.
- Myth #3: Freedom of expression permits us to “let it rip!” no matter who we affect or hurt.
- Myth #4: Emotions get in the way of good decision making.
- Myth #5: I’m too emotional, and there's nothing I can do about it.
Of course, this list isn’t all-inclusive. There are many more myths that people have accepted and swallowed whole. All of us have received at least some incongruent or shaming messages about emotions while growing up. And they can limit us as adults—unless and until we understand what emotions are and how to express them in healthy ways. Learning and practicing emotional intelligence is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity!
How Myths About Emotions Are Created
How do these myths start in the first place? Let’s explore some of the seemingly innocent responses parents may say to their children and possible emotional myths that can be formed.
- What’s said: "Don't say you hate your brother; it’s not nice!”
Possible myth formed: I must deny my feelings; it's not okay to be angry.
- What’s said: “Say you're sorry.”
Possible myth formed: I'm incapable of feeling remorse or taking responsibility when I hurt someone. (Forced apologies don’t add up to sincerity, nor do they teach a child to take accountability for their actions.)
- What’s said: “Stop acting like a clown!”
Possible myth formed: Having fun and feeling cheerful is less important than what my parent wants.
- What’s said: “You make me so mad!”
Possible myth formed: My parent’s angry feelings are my fault.
- What’s said: “Stop being so selfish.”
Possible myth formed: My desires for pleasure, fulfillment, or adventure are selfish, and selfishness is bad.
Of course, these are just a few possibilities that I've heard in my own life or from clients. Regardless of how well-intended a parent might be, children can easily draw incomplete and inaccurate conclusions that result in feelings of shame, false beliefs, lowered self-esteem, and the need to repress emotions.
Emotions are already tricky to understand, decipher, and navigate without being shamed or made wrong. Is it any wonder people tell white lies to avoid hurting other people’s feelings? Isn’t it understandable that people push away and repress their feelings altogether?
However, there's another downside whenever we stop an emotion (ours or our children’s); we freeze energy that we no longer have access to, and we limit our full potential. We limit our connection with ourselves and each other. When feelings are not fully experienced, we stop listening to them and miss out on their wisdom. Emotions help us interpret and process our experiences. Why would we want to censor and deny such important information?
Helpful self-soothing strategies to explore: “8 Ways to Calm Anxiety and Stress”
A Return to Serenity and Inner Peace
So, how do we get back to a sense of inner peace?
Positive emotions signal our truth; they show us what feeds our spirit. Our joy and well-being will be equivalent to how well we care for ourselves. Negative emotions signal our unmet needs, a lack of safety, or they highlight areas where we need to grow. They show us when we are moving in a direction away from our truth. Listen to their wisdom.
Related reading: “Find Inner Peace and Unwrap Your Best Self”
Below are simple steps to return to serenity and regain the inner peace of a toddler exploring a beautiful garden.
Step 1: Give Yourself Permission to Feel.
Every time you want to squelch your feelings, choose to allow them instead. Say to yourself, “I give myself permission to feel.” As children, when we felt big emotions, the experience was often overwhelming, especially if we didn’t have a loving adult to empathize with us. However, as an adult, we can handle whatever emotion we may feel. Breathe. Believe in yourself. Allow.
Step 2: Identify Which Emotion(s) You’re Feeling.
Just by naming an emotion, you’ll already feel better. When we acknowledge an emotion, it dissipates. Welcome every emotion as you would greet a good friend.
Step 3: Listen to What Your Emotions Are Telling You.
If you’re afraid, practice taking baby steps toward your fear. The more you prove to yourself that you’re capable of handling the discomfort, the more confidence grows. If you’re feeling hurt, perhaps you need to talk to your spouse or a friend and let them know how they hurt you. If you’re angry, look for ways you may be giving up yourself or need to set better boundaries. Each emotion has a purpose. Every feeling you have is guiding you back to your True North of Inner Peace.
Step 4: Care for yourself. Be Your Own Advocate.
Each emotion will guide you to an action that increases a sense of well-being. Act on what you sense; listen to your gut—even if the action, such as breathing through an emotion, causes only a small shift, you’ll feel better. Every time we act on our own behalf, we gain self-love. Each time we accept our experience and emotions with curiosity and openness, we grow in inner peace.
Related reading: "How to Find Inner Peace by Resolving Conflicting Feelings"
As you grow a more mindful relationship with your emotions, you flex the muscles of emotional fitness. You’ll wonder why you waited so long to embrace your emotions. The more self-awareness you cultivate, the easier it is to self-calm. Whenever you feel and accept an emotion, the more you’ll experience inner peace.
When we connect to our true self while experiencing and expressing our emotions, we cultivate inner peace. Choose to feel.
If you’d like to understand your emotions better and reach for emotional well being, listen to our free webinar.
For those ready for a bigger step toward transformation and change, try our EQ online course to develop greater peace and emotional intelligence.
For an expert guide on the journey to owning your voice and regaining your true self, call Heartmanity at 406-577-2100.
And if you’re mega serious about a life transformation in the shortest amount of time, consider our One Year Makeover.
Whatever is best for you, we’re here to support you on the path of self-discovery and mastery.