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7 Powerful Realizations That Will Help You Suffer Less


“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity.” ~Francois Gautier

Pain was my norm; not physical pain, but emotional pain compounded with mental self-torture. I was an introvert without introspection, painfully shy and unable to make eye contact. I caved to all manners of peer pressure.

I was a doormat and didn’t stand up for myself, although I would fight tooth and nail for someone else. It seemed like others often took advantage of my kindness. I took everything personally and cried a lot. Thoughts of suicide lasted for years.

After more than a decade of misery, I decided something had to change and was guided to self-acceptance work. 

Gaining self-acceptance was the best thing I’ve ever done. It opened me up to a new perception of myself and to understanding what I did in the past that contributed to my pain.

In understanding myself and the motivations behind my behavior, I was more clearly able to understand other people’s behavior.

What I learned (and wish I knew then):

1. Our behaviors are driven by our needs.

Regarding: My kindness was often taken advantage of. I caved to all manners of peer pressure.

Was it actually kindness? Maybe it was weakness. Or was it people pleasing for the purpose of gaining approval? I came to believe it was the latter.

Everything I did—whether it was in my best interest or not, whether I wanted to do it or not—I did because it provided me with something I believed I needed. 

Behaviors deemed as “people pleasing” are often driven by:

  • need to be liked
  • The need for acceptance; a need to fit in or belong
  • Fear of being disliked or having people mad at you
  • The need for approval
  • The need to be needed; to feel useful
  • Fear of being alone (“I’ll lose friends if I don’t.”)

By determining my needs, I could better understand my behavior. With that I became more aware and could then look at other people’s behavior and try to determine what it was telling me about what they needed.

2. We teach others how to treat us.

Regarding: I was a doormat and didn’t stand up for myself.

The only possible reason I would choose not to stand up for myself was because I believed I deserved it—because I didn’t feel worthy. Since I thought I was “less than,” why shouldn’t I be treated that way?

One day, I heard Dr. Phil say, “We teach other people how to treat us.” This got me thinking: Was all the mistreatment I experienced a result of how I was treating myself? The answer was yes.

Our behavior toward ourselves is the model we present to others as how to treat us. The things we believe and think about ourselves come out in our behavior and other people pick up on it.

If we are self-critical and self-abusive to ourselves, unevolved people (the majority) will follow our lead.

If people are treating you “badly,” investigate how you treat yourself, and treat yourself better. Others will follow your lead this way too.

Recognizing this for yourself will help you ignore the cues others are modeling so you can treat them better than they treat themselves.

3. There is such a serious lack of unconditional love and acceptance in the world because so few of us have unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves.

What we withhold from ourselves, we withhold from others.

(In retrospect, I recognized I didn’t give or receive complements, and the reason was because I did not accept or approve of myself.)

The other side of this coin is: What we give to ourselves, we extend to others. 

We cannot give from an empty cup. We cannot give what we don’t have and what we don’t know how to receive. What we think about and how we treat ourselves are reflected in how we think about and treat others.

When we love ourselves unconditionally, we can love others unconditionally. When we accept ourselves unconditionally, we can accept others unconditionally.

On the negative side, when we judge ourselves harshly, we judge others harshly. When we criticize ourselves harshly, we criticize others harshly.

So the goal for peaceful existence and coexistence with others is to treat ourselves with respect, compassion, and love so we may treat others the same.

After gaining self-acceptance, I was able to perceive others differently and became more accepting and compassionate with even the most difficult people.

So, here are some more of the really important things I’ve learned: the mantras that changed my perception. They are now part of my consciousness and are reflected in all my dealings with myself and others. May they do the same for you!

4. Everyone is doing the best they can with the tools, knowledge, and presence of mind they have at any given moment.

This is a wonderful mantra I used when faced with difficult people. Understanding and embracing this will give you patience and compassion while  lessening frustration, anger, and hurt. It will make you more responsive and less reactive.

There is so much pain and fear in the world, which motivate most of the unpleasant behavior. Other people’s behavior is not about you. If you can perceive “bad” behavior as a call for love and compassion, you will see life differently and respond with kindness.

5. We are all a work in progress.

We are all on the same journey to evolve our spirit, but we are all at different points on the path. Combine this with #4 and you will be able to be gentle with yourself and others.

As you accept this concept about yourself you will be able to observe it in others.

6. There are only two pure emotions: love and fear.

Anger is a secondary emotion and is an outward expression of pain, fear, and/or frustration. Anger has become a more acceptable emotion than the expression of pain or fear.

Many of us were trained to believe that expressing pain or fear is a sign of weakness, so you may have learned to use anger instead. Uncover the primary emotion producing the anger in you and others, and attend to the real source with love, gentleness, and compassion.

7. Forgiveness liberates us.

When I hold anger and resentment toward others, I am tethered to them. They control my thoughts and feelings. They have power over me.

Resentment lodges itself in the body and causes dis-order and dis-ease. Forgiveness frees the heart, the body, the mind, and the spirit.

Forgiving myself is equally important; it means that I accept myself as a work in progress and recognize I was doing the best I could.

When you can accept and forgive yourself, you will be better able to accept and forgive others.

When dealing with applicable issues, repeat these silently or aloud. Do it frequently and they will become your new beliefs. They are all productive, healthy, and highly beneficial to your health, your peace, and your relationships.

May your perception shift and allow you to see yourself and others with love and compassion.

Photo by ZeePack

Avatar of Michele Goldstein

About Michele Goldstein

Michele Goldstein is a Spiritual-Interfaith Minister, life counselor, former teacher, writer, gratitude-junkie, and founder of Return Love. Her mission is to share her unique message of healing, evolving perception, and the end of suffering derived from her own personal growth journey.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • MMM

    Great post, honestly just what I needed for the day. I too have just began to accept myself after years of having so much underlying self hate and ironically have no clue. Thank you!

  • esdea

    Beautifully written. Thanks! I really need this right now :)

  • Julie Lombardo

    this needs to be posted where i can see it everyday till it sinks in.

  • Karen

    Michele, thank you so much for writing this. It reached me in a dark time and is helping me through.

  • Barbie


    I printed out our blog messege this morning. I felt you were speaking to me.
    I have the same emotions you wrote about. I cry a lot, I cannot confront and feel like a doormat. I want to change, but its scary to speak my truth. What is my payoff for this behavior? You have helped me. I am very thankful and grateful.

  • bb

    I’ve realised so many of these, they are so true. I let go of them again but I have that memory of what I’m capable of and how it feels so I will become it again. So unbelievably liberating. It takes courage to love, those who are not violent and hateful are so much stronger. Forget connotations, free yourself from societal boundaries and social fears, smile at people you walk past, life is a gift when you find deep joy.

  • Michele

    Hi Esdea,
    Thank you for your kind words. I am so grateful you found what you needed.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Michele

    Hi Barbie,

    I know it’s scary but what is your payoff in staying stuck where you are? Your current payoff, as it was for me, may be confirmation of the negative beliefs you have about yourself; about not being worthy or deserving of something better.
    Please check out the self-acceptance exercise on my site and get started on the life you deserve.
    I am so grateful to be able to help you and you can contact me through my site for any additional assistance you may need.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Michele

    Hi MMM,

    Thank you for your kind words. I’m grateful you found what you needed today and I hope you always do.

    I am so grateful that you have started on the path to gaining self-acceptance. I believe it is the most important thing you can do for yourself.

    I’m not sure what you “have not clue” about, but if you need help with gaining self-acceptance, check out the self-acceptance exercise on my site If it is something else, let me know.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Michele

    That sounds like a great idea, Julie. You could also repeat them out loud so you memorize them and then you can use them as mantras when appropriate situations arise.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Michele

    Hi Karen,

    I am so grateful to be able to help. I believe that everything happens for a reason and also with right-timing. May your light shine through.

    May peace and love be with you always,


  • Monica Mendoza

    This is the article I’ve been needing to read. I’ve read many and none have solidified as well as this one. It comes at a time of great need. Thank you for being brave enough to share your personal knowledge with us. As a person whose transitioning from people pleasing to a person worthy of expressing personal needs; I can tell you it is very difficult. Sometimes I become so defensive. I build walls around me, out of fear, when I think back at how others used me. In reality, though, it all happened because I allowed it. It is true that life is a balancing act. We are all balancing on a small tightrope; except it’s not a tightrope. It’s a piece of string the size of invisible thread. Maybe someday I’ll be able to walk without losing my balance as often. Until then I just keep practicing.

  • Michele

    Hi Monica,
    I am so grateful to be able to share and to be able to help.
    Have you gained self-acceptance yet? For me, it was the most important thing I’ve ever done. It eliminated people-pleasing and defensiveness. It made me comfortable being me and acting on my truths and needs.
    If you want to get off the tightrope, check out my gaining self-acceptance exercise on my site I’m sure it will help you gain some balance.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Michele

    Hi BB,
    Thank you for sharing your powerful perception. I would like to add that life is a gift when you find inner peace, the peace that comes with true understanding and acceptance.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • dana

    Great post Michele, very helpful. Gaining self acceptance Appears to be a struggle at times but this post shall be read many times by myself and I’m sure others too. Thank you for sharing.

  • Anna Puchalski

    Rock on girl! This all hit home so well and was a great reminder of the paralleled journey I am on of working on relieving myself of old habits that were associated with co-dependency. It is truly a balance of inner love and changing perspectives of the external world. Best!

  • Michele

    Well said, Anna. Perception is huge! Inner love and inner peace will come with a shift in perception.
    Much love to you on your journey.

  • Michele

    Thank you, Dana. If you are interested in the shortcut I used to gain self-acceptance, please check our my site.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Vishnu

    Thank you for sharing these lessons Michele. #3 is spot on.

    We are so judgmental and don’t love ourselves unconditionally – how can we expect to receive that from other people? So much of the time we focus on others and their behavior – and should realize we have no power over those things. What’s within ourselves we can work on and change. We can be better to ourselves.

  • Michele

    Thank you, Vishnu. Beautifully articulated!
    The trick is believing we deserve to treat ourselves as well as we treat others, and that we are worth the effort.

  • Dolcevita

    Very well put – we have a lot in common! Thank you for writing this. I will return to it often I think, as I work to become more accepting and on showing compassion always. It’s a beautifully humbling experience :-)

  • Michele

    Thank you so much, Dolcevita,
    Don’t forget about showing compassion to yourself as you travel your path to become self-accepting. If you wouldlike some help, my gaining self-acceptance exercise is on my site,
    May peace and love be with you always,


  • Alice

    Hello Michele. Thank you for sharing. Today was a particularly painful day, emotionally, for me. I hoped to find solace here at Tiny Buddha and I did, in your article. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the things we have already learnt, your article did just that. Quoting you: “(In retrospect, I recognized I didn’t give or receive complements, and the reason was because I did not accept or approve of myself.)”. I never thought I would hear this from anyone. I could so relate to it and I never knew the answer to why it was that way but now I know, it is clear to me. Coming to people having power on you, I could relate it to my relationship with my great-grand-mother, I’m going to try and work it out with her by remembering this: “Other people’s behavior is not about you. If you can perceive “bad” behavior as a call for love and compassion, you will see life differently and respond with kindness.” I have tried this before, but I sometimes crack and get mad at her. Trying is important, yes? :) Thank you again.

  • Michele

    Hi Alice,
    I am so grateful to be able to provide you with the solice you were looking for and remind you of what you already know. I am also grateful that my past and what I learned from it can shine a light on yours.
    Trying is very important. See through the eyes of love and act with compassion. Know that anger and “bad” behavior come from pain and fear.
    If you have tried before and “sometimes crack,” may I suggest that you carry a reminder, especially when you are with your great-grandmother. Write it on a piece of paper or dedicate an object to this ‘mantra.’
    If there is anything else I can do to help you, contact me.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Chetan Sharma

    I will need some time to fit these points inside my head, but I’ll surely give it a try! :)

  • Michele

    Hi Chetan,
    You don’t need to try to fit all the points into you head at once. Try picking one as your mantra for today. Then pick another one tomorrow if the first one has “taken.” This way you will integrate them all.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Chetan Sharma

    You are right.. Thanks for the tip.. :)

  • Michele

    My pleasure. :)

  • Melissa

    I’ve been have a really rough week lately. Questioning myself constantly. Reliving the past few years again and wish I knew better, wondering why I got treated the way I did by certain people, knowing I let myself get walked over instead of standing up for myself and what was important to me.

    I find it difficult to keep things in perspective. I’m constantly trying to convince myself that what’s done is done, I need to move forward and accept what has happened. Only I can change myself going forward if I choose to.

    It’s always a comfort to read similar stories. I do feel alone as I don’t think people close to me have gone through much similar to what I have… Or they keep those stories to themselves. So thank you for sharing yours. I know I must make a habit of forgiving myself and therefore others in order to move on.

  • Rachel

    I have officially saved this to my favorites. I cannot express how great of an article this was, and how much it spoke to me today. One of the best I’ve read on TinyBuddha, great job. Thank you for showing the light. :)

  • Michele

    Hi Rachel,
    I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for your comment and for theopportunity to touch someone I don’t even know.
    Be the light as you were meant to be.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Michele

    Hi Melissa,
    I am so sorry you have been suffering. But suffering is created in the mind and therefore, can be changed. I hope you can use the above stated ‘mantras’ and turn them into beneficial beliefs which will change you perception, permanenlty.
    What’s done IS done, if you let it be done. Bless the experiences for what they taught you about yourself, and about how to be better to you and others. Lesson learned, class dismissed!
    Or you can heal your past by identifying all the losses in your past, grieve each one of them, and truly forgive all parties, because now you know the 7 truths above and can behave and think from those beliefs.
    I have 8 more beneficial beliefs on my site, if you can handle more perception changes.
    May peace and love be with you always,

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Michele for posting this article. I believe these 7 steps will help me work through the pain I have been feeling for years.

  • Michele

    Divine Spirit,
    I am very grateful that you believe this post will help you. Don’t forget to see what you can learn about yourself from the years of pain. I wish for an end to your suffering.
    May you find the peace you deserve.

  • Levi McIntyre

    Amazing article, thanks for writing. I would like to mention that at school (1980′s) the impending environmental destruction of the biosphere (as taught in geography/biology) would result in extreme weather/mass hunger etc I developed terrible anxiety because of this, made worse by the fact that the destruction is accelerating. I started to hate mankind & looked at it as a virus. This made me very unhappy. The only actions that have stopped these feelings inside me was taking the responsibility into my own hands & learn as much as possible about plants/fungi/local habitats & do everything I possibly can to help the local environment. Growing all my own medicinal herbs & fruit/veg also helps me keep that warm feeling in my heart.

  • Rev. Michele

    Hi Levi,

    I am grateful you enjoyed the article.
    I can totally relate to your feelings as I am environmentally compulsive. I commend you for all the great steps you have taken to improve the situation and I can understand your
    feelings when you see or hear about what others are doing (or not doing) to protect our magnificent planet.

    May I suggest using #4 as a mantra when you experience frustration, which is what I do. This will help you forgive and achieve peace. Believe that we each have our own purpose (and I believe you are fulfilling yours); some are personal, some are global, and some are in between. You can teach by example, but many people are too caught up in their own personal dramas andstresses that they cannot see the big picture. Be compassionate with them.

    With the situations created by greed, we have no individual power. This is a job for acceptance or for making a plan for large-scale change. If you have the ability to affect a large-scale change, go for it knowing the Universe will support you in your noble efforts. If not, please try using the mantra.

    I hope that was helpful.

    Feel free to contact me through my website
    if you require more help.

    May you perceive and receive all your blessings.

    With Much Love,

    Rev. Michele

  • Levi McIntyre

    Thank you very much Michele :)

  • Jason Holborn

    “Everyone is doing the best they can (with the tools, knowledge, and presence of mind they have at any given moment).”

    Well, I guess that this is maybe the best, most useful, most perspective-opening advice that one of my best teachers ever gave to me. It’s wonderful to see it here at Tiny Buddha