Peace is the antidote to anxiety. Peace is freedom from a state of agitation, fretting, and worry. It is freedom from the fear of not measuring up.
Even the most confident people I know experience anxiety, pain, or fear. Sometimes weeks disappear from memory because of it.
But there’s a problem in our methods to achieving peace. Peace is weakened if we define success as objects, image and accomplishment. I’m not saying outer success and accomplishment are bad. I’m suggesting we alter where we place emphasis. Let’s see outside success and accomplishment as a sign of a healthy inside. In other words, outer success is a reflection of internal freedom from anxiety.
The reflection of success
When you look into a mirror, your real self is standing in front. You are complete. The reflection is an image of you. Visualise the reflection in the mirror as your outward image, achievements and material success. That image is reflected by your real self.
Imagine standing in front of that mirror with happy eyes. You are looking at a person you take care of. You like who you are and the reflection of outer success is an extra benefit.
But this reflection is not your true self. You are the one standing looking at your outer accomplishments. Let’s look to the you standing there.
Your Innate worth determines your outer success
Your internal peace matters. But I don’t mean just speaking in a nice voice and avoiding conflict. I want to define peace as how you see yourself. How do you see yourself?
In an article published on Huff Post  the author looked at 12 habits of calm and happy people. They attribute calm, or let’s say peace, to happiness and the author lists 12 things to focus on for calm happy living such as; exercise, mindfulness, honesty and congruency, expressing emotions, being grateful and looking for opportunities in the messes of life.
I agree with these principles and I wanted to add something to this. How you see yourself, your innate self-esteem, impacts on your ability to use these habits. If we are depressed based on an unhealthy relationship with ourselves, it’s going to be harder to express emotions safely, or go for a run.
The ingredient we need to be peaceful and live well
I found a research paper this week from the University of Salzburg, Austria in 2014 . The researchers looked at self-esteem and the association of high self-esteem on grey matter density in various parts of the brain. They called this the “self-liking brain”. They differentiated between two types of self-esteem:
- Actual self-esteem: “I am good”
- Ideal Self-esteem: “I want to be good”
The researchers found, if you are depressed, there is a bigger gap between actual self-esteem and ideal self-esteem. In other words, how you feel about your innate worth as a human doesn’t measure up to how you want to be.
If you want to be less depressed, actual self-esteem is important.
They also found that people with high self-esteem had greater density of grey matter in regions of the brain that help us to regulate our emotions. Regulating our emotions helps us to stay peaceful and there’s a greater chance our families will like us more.
So what can we do to build actual self esteem, which will help us pursue our ideal self and stay happy?
How to like yourself better and build peaceful habits to grow your best life
- Bring your view of who you actually are close to who you want to be. What I don’t mean is to drag out the bar of idealistic perfectionism that you can’t reach. This will widen the gap between who you are and who you want to be. What if instead we all pulled the “I am good no matter what I achieve or do” closer to “this is who I want to be”? In other words, start your aspirations from a place of “I have worth” while you pursue your goals.
- Write out a “strengths inventory”. What is good about you even if you never accomplished anything the world calls important? For example, “When i’m stressed, I am still kind to people”.
- Try cognitive reappraisal during a stressful event. For example, a colleague at work is rude to you as you arrive to work. Instead of getting depressed (inward anger and blaming yourself) or yelling at them (outward anger), consider possible causes. Are they stressed? Maybe they hate themselves or the world? Maybe they’re just mean. This isn’t to say their actions are right, but by evaluating the situation, you are freeing yourself from their junk.
- Consider innate worth as a universal truth. Many counselling theories believe all people have value and are experts in their own lives. This arose from humanistic psychology and helps people to learn they have value and are able to solve their own problems. This belief is empowering. Make a decision that you have worth.
- Start a habit of self-compassion. When you make mistakes, you are part of humanity. People will relate to your vulnerability. Research shows when people make mistakes and respond with self-compassion towards their flaws, they are physically and mentally healthier .
To sum up, the view you have of yourself impacts on the habits you choose and the outcomes of your life. When you choose to believe “I am good”, you are building your innate self worth, sometimes called trait self esteem. When you go for goals and achievements, the gap between where you are now and where you want to be will be closer together. Then you can enjoy your life now as you work towards your future.
Journal exercise to try
- Write the heading “I am good”. below this, write 5 things that are innately good about you. Not based on achievement. For example “I am here therefore I have value and importance”, or “I am calm and kind even when people irritate me”
- Write down 5 life goals. Next to each goal write the benefits of achieving that goal starting with the words “When I achieve [goal], this will [benefits]”. Now imagine someone you love wrote those goals for themselves and were feeling discouraged for not achieving them yet. Write a short compassionate letter to that person encouraging them. Finally, change the name of your loved one to your own name and read the letter to yourself. This is self compassion.
 Agroskin D, Klackl J, Jonas E (2014) The Self-Liking Brain: A VBM Study on the Structural Substrate of Self-Esteem. PLoS ONE 9(1): e86430. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086430