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The Key to Peace: Let Go of How Things “Should” Be and Accept What Is

Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~Wayne Dyer

Many of my friends are getting married and engaged, and when I compare myself to them I feel that I’ve somehow fallen behind. I scroll through my social media accounts and feel that my life is not as exciting or meaningful as theirs.

This belief of inferiority moves me out of the present moment and into a turbulent stream of fear that I won’t live up to what I perceive others have lived up to, or what I believe I could live up to. It makes me feel lacking and empty in the present moment, even though the eternal now is overflowing with abundance.

Recognizing this, I decided to change my belief. I may be single, but that doesn’t mean something is wrong with me or that I’m not good enough to be with anyone.

It means I’ve been given the opportunity to work on myself and to understand my goals, passions, and purpose, as well as to develop other types of relationships in my life that are not romantic in nature, including the most important one of all: the one I have with myself.

When it is the right time for me to share with someone, I will share myself with him completely, and with a deep appreciation for the beauty and sacredness of such a relationship.

As long as I fully accept this and don’t feel insecure about it, there’s really no problem.

Feeling like I should change brings me down into the low vibration of fear, and that is not conducive to attracting or sustaining the nurturing relationship I want.

A boyfriend is not a trophy, and I don’t want to have one for this purpose. I also don’t want to be closed off to new romantic interests because I feel inferior for not having as many previous partners as most people my age, which has become one of my biggest barriers to being vulnerable.

 As long as I fully accept who I am, insecurity falls away, and I can be authentic with other people, including potential romantic partners.

Making this kind of shift in perception is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s the most important step toward developing self-understanding and ultimately, achieving self-liberation. And by that I mean placing your higher self in the driver’s seat with your ego-self as a passenger rather than the other way around.

Your perspective is powerful, and it is the prime cause of excessive anxiety and fear. When my negative, ego-based judgments fuel an unhelpful cycle, I lose sight of the present moment and shift into an obsession over how I think my life should be.

Often, our ideas about how we think our life should be come from other people. Others may be insecure or unhappy about their own life, so they judge ours to make themselves feel better, or they may genuinely not want us to make the same mistakes they did. Either way, they are seeing things from their own lens, which reflects their experiences, not ours.

We can also get stuck comparing our personality, skills, and progress to what we think other people have achieved—as I often do when I use social media—and then think we are lacking in comparison. But the people we compare ourselves to are on completely different paths than us, and in reality they provide no accurate benchmark for our own journey.

The only person to which we should ever compare ourselves is our previous self or what we’d like our future self to be. Doing this in a nonjudgmental way will help lead us toward growth. But if you’re cruel to yourself by being harshly critical, you’ll be more likely to become your own worst enemy.

Sometimes we need to be critical of ourselves, but it’s important to do it in a loving, compassionate way that seeks real, deep change, not in a way that debilitates us from taking any active steps.

If I’m harshly critical of myself for not having as much romantic experience as I think I should have by my age, I won’t be open enough to connect with others the way I want to. It isn’t the lack of experience stopping me, it’s my judgment about what that means.

But my past doesn’t have to mean anything about my worth, and I don’t have to see my present as something to lament.

What we call “lack” can just as easily be seen as opportunity for growth. If you see the present as a failure and merely the means to an end, it can make you feel like you won’t be happy until you have something more, and you set yourself up for pain.

That pain is an indication that your pattern of thought is not conducive to becoming your highest self, and it acts as a trigger for you to change and/or heal the aspect of yourself that needs healing.

When we move toward our greatest self, we clear all the blocks to the natural peace that exists in the present moment, in our hearts.

While I want to grow and expand my perspective, I also know that I am perfect just the way I am right now. Fully feeling this frees my energy so I can use it to achieve my goals rather than wasting it on worrying that I’m not good enough.

When I allow myself to fully feel the present moment, no matter what it may encompass, and accept myself just the way I am now, I begin to feel peace coming back to me. I could choose to think about all the things I wish were different, but all that does is make me unhappy, and it certainly doesn’t facilitate the clarity of mind and heart required for changing any of those things.

Often, all we need is a small shift in perspective to realize that challenges are opportunities and our greatest teachers.

Be present now and experience the complete spectrum of the human experience as it unfolds. Feel the great fullness of this life. All is as it should be, and you are perfect just the way you are.

Sit with your pain. Sit with your joy. They both serve you.

Learn from the past. Plan for the future. But live only in the present.

Do this and you will remove the barriers to clarity and peace of mind. As the great Alan Watts succinctly and beautifully put it, “The future is of use only to those who live in the present.”

About Jacqueline Handman

Jacqueline is a native New Yorker, graduate of Hunter College, and a passionate writer who enjoys using the creative process as a means of self-expression, self-reflection, and occasionally self-mockery (a good laugh can do wonders for the soul). She hopes to help others in their own journeys of enlightenment and personal growth. Visit her at Whispers That Echo.

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  • This is amazing, Jacqueline! 😉 #keepgrowing #keepcreating

  • Abby Cameron

    Great insight. Being mindful and in the moment is so important to happiness. I didn’t get married until I was 36 and it was well worth waiting because of all the time I got to work on myself. It has made me a better partner. Stay focused!

  • Oh man!! I’m on the other side of the situation and feeling the same way! I stayed home and raised four beautiful children all the while feeling that time was passing me by. My peers were traveling,graduating college, making a difference out in the world. Definitely bringing the focus to the here and now and letting go of false agreements have set me free! Thank you for this beautiful article, it brought my perspective back to the beauty of letting go❤️

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much for your lovely response! It makes me very happy to know that others are encouraged and helped by what I write. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond; I appreciate it very much. I think we all feel down on ourselves at times when we start to compare to other people. I’m so glad you were inspired by the article and that it has helped you have a perspective shift.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for your kind and encouraging response! It means a lot to me. Yes, it is important to utilize single time to develop yourself and/or your talents and aspirations. I appreciate you taking the time to read and reply!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you very much! I will do my best!

  • Tony Casillas

    I love this!

  • Jane Bird

    Very wise advice! 🙂 In regard to romantic partners and “experience”, i’ll try to keep this brief. numbers dont count in life. I met my husband at 18, married for 30 years before being widowed. I spent two years in the grief process and I spent my time alone getting to know the “real” me. it took a while to get used to being alone but i discovered who i was and what i wanted from life and relationships.. 3 months ago i met a wonderful and loving man while not actively dating. So, i was able to bring all of me to this new relationship. Because of our age and experience we started at the deep and meaningful level and things have moved along quickly, but because of our lack of “experience’ it is hard for me to trust that what we are feeling is the real thing. Anyway, i have learnt that i have to trust my instincts and not always let your head rule your heart.

  • Usha

    I loved it , very true n helpful .

  • Jen

    Thank you so much for this amazing article. I’m almost 29 and I have never been in a serious relationship (partially due to the struggles of anxiety and depression). Meanwhile, literally all my friends are or in the process of getting married, buying homes, and starting families. It’s hard not to feel like you’re a complete pariah. You find yourself feeling like there’s something wrong with you, that you’ve been wasting your life, and that you’re future is doomed. As hard as it is, I have to remind myself that I’m just on a different timeline. There’s no right way or wrong way to live life. What works for one person might not work for another.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for reading and sharing this response, I appreciate your openness. Yes, it’s too easy to fall into the comparison trap but I’ve found it to be more beneficial to own my own path and accept it – and yes even learn to like it, because I know deep down it’s the right one for me and that I have the ability to chose a new one if I want to. Either way, it helps me grow to take responsibility for myself. I’m glad you found the article useful!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you very much! I’m glad that you were able to take something from it!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for reading and sharing this lovely response! Yes, “experience” can have many definitions and it can be about quality, not quantity. Being present with yourself is a really important yet highly underrated and avoided thing by many people, but it’s so beneficial for not only yourself but for the relationships you have. I’ve always believed that the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself because all the other ones stem directly from that.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you! I’m glad you do!

  • Niels Rustenhoven

    I really liked reading through this and it reflects a lot of what I’m experiencing as well. I’ve never been in any kind of relationship and people all around me are. This makes me feel like somehow something must be wrong with me or that I’m doing something wrong because it seemed so easy for them. This line of thinking also makes it so that I notice I sometimes actually resent seeing happy couples, because why should they have it and not I? However, I also went abroad to work and study for a full year last year, which would not have been so easy to do if I was in a relationship. So then I started thinking about all the things I’ve done which were only possible because I am single and it gave a certain peace of mind. While the thoughts are still there, they’ve gotten a lower priority in my brain, so to say.

  • Renee Annison

    So well written. Thank you. I’m 40 and “still” not married. I get a lot of people asking questions, making assumptions, etc. I’m very focussed on personal development and authenticity and on a constant journey of learning and growing. I’m in a relationship now and loving it and I don’t regret for a minute the amount of time it’s taken to get here. I feel that I can be a better partner to my boyfriend now than I could’ve been a few years ago.

  • Excellent article! There is no doubt that when we become blindly attached to views and beliefs about how life and how we should be, the result is suffering (dukkha), big time. Developing more acceptance is a central part of the path of mindfulness meditation, but the heart of acceptance is to build mindful space around the underlying insecurity, the compulsive emotional drive that makes us identify with our beliefs and thoughts. This is why it is so important to meditate on your emotions – make them the center of your meditation if you want to manifest acceptance.

    Boulder Center for Online Mindfulness Therapy

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you so much for this wise response! I appreciate you reading the article and sharing this advice. I agree – sitting with emotions fosters acceptance and releasing any ideas of how we “should” be. Thank you!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for your honest response. I appreciate you reading the article and responding so thoughtfully. Getting married is a beautiful thing but of course it is not the only path. It is courageous to live fully in your authenticity! Every path is different. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for your response and for taking the time to read the article. It can definitely become difficult to accept yourself when you’re always comparing yourself to others. There are benefits any learning opportunities to any situation and you can always chose to change your situation if you want to. But this is best done from a place of love and acceptance rather than insecurity and resistance. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Lynn Greenbauer

    As I was reading this, I found myself thinking of the relationship I have with my career. I can be so very critical of myself. “I should have thought of that”, “I should be at a certain job title by now”, “no one is going to take me seriously if I don’t climb the ladder”, and on and on. Your line about accepting myself as am I frees up energy, hit home for me. That’s what it’s all about, what we spend our energy on. Life is energy. Thanks for the great article.

  • Jackie Ann

    You’re very welcome ! & Thank you so much for your thoughtful response and for taking the time to read the article. I’m glad that readers find it useful; that’s the reason I write.

  • Louie

    I really appreciate this article! I’m the oldest of two, and my sister, who is 5 years younger, recently got engaged to her boyfriend of 5 years, while I’ve been single for the past 5 years after a horrible breakup. I have many family members and friends who question me about why I’m single. They ask “what’s wrong with you, why are you still single?” and say that because I’m the older sister, I “should have been married by now” or I was “supposed to be the first” or “you let your sister beat you to the altar”. It has been making me feel slightly depressed, but I need to change my belief and not worry about what others say 🙂

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for sharing your story and for taking the time to read and respond! Yes, it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap and unfortunately, many people have the belief that life is a competition and there is only one acceptable path. Everybody has their own plan and anything can be an opportunity for learning and growth. It’s difficult and takes a lot of courage but ultimately being our most authentic self is the most rewarding way to be – and it’s partly because it’s difficult and courageous…Stay faithful and brave 🙂 And being grateful is very healthy and can totally change your perspective as well.

  • This is easier said than done. When life becomes tough, it is hard to just let things go and accept them for what it is. But it is the only key to happiness.

  • K

    There were so many things that popped into my head as I read your thoughtful post. It is so easy to lose ourselves in attempting to reach goals that other people have placed in our minds. It is easy to forget that there is nothing that we really have to do besides find our own since of peace, happiness, and fulfillment. I often get caught up in the cyclical thought process that if I just tried harder, planned more effectively, and executed more precisely life would be better. “What if” thinking really doesn’t serve much of a purpose as you elegantly pointed out in your post. Thank you for this article and reminding me that I create my own happiness and life is not a race. Life has to be about accepting who I am now and the person I would like to be in the future.

  • Jackie Ann

    You’re very welcome! & thank you for your highly intuitive response. I really appreciate you reading and sharing this comment. We are usually our own worst enemy and critic. Acceptance can be difficult so it’s important not to be too hard on ourself if we struggle at times, but it is a journey that is well worth it and the seeds of the struggle bloom into beautiful flowers 🙂

  • Jackie Ann

    Absolutely easier said that done. But saying and accepting that is an important step toward doing 🙂 Thanks for reading and responding

  • Erica Chamberlain

    I could relate to this so much. I seem to get caught up in my thoughts thinking of what ifs and comparing myself to others. I always have to remind myself that I am a beautiful, strong and smart human being and that there is always room to grow. As well as the only comparing I should do is with who I was before which inspires me to keep going. This article was great for reminding me what I need to stick to and tell myself when I get in moments like that.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Live in the moment!!

  • I think that the ability to change your perspective is one of the most underrated,most least understood, and the most powerful tool we have out our disposel. It can quite literally help erase depression/conflict in our lives, as well as (potenitally) create vast empires.

    And not only that, but with practice, you can gain momentum and motivation with this tool, making you feel (almost) unstoppable…although like I said, this does take practice 😉

    And the good news is, that it is both simple to learn, and free. It cost nothing, yet it can almost certainly help you out of bother.

    Thanks for posting a very honest account, and for sharing this.

  • Thanks Jackie! Yes. We must do what we can to move forward.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for your kind feedback and for reading the article! Yes, perspective changing does take practice, determination, and grit but it is definitely well worth the effort.

  • Jackie Ann

    Thank you for your lovely response and for taking the time to read the article! I’m really glad it was useful to you 🙂

  • Mia Swanegan

    This post alone connected to me in a personal way. A lot of my friends are either in relationships right now or are talking to someone so when we all hang out, I am just kind of like the odd one out. When this happens to you, you start to think “well is it me? I don’t understand.”. Then reading your post today gave me a little clarity in realizing that I am not alone in this. My favorite part was when you said “I may be single, but that doesn’t mean something is wrong with me or that I’m not good enough to be with anyone.”. It is just a friendly reminder and something that us women should all know.

    In your free time come check out my blog!
    -https://miaswaneganblog.wordpress.com/
    mia.swanegan@gmail.com

  • Leila Souza

    Thanks fo sharing! I also didn’t have much love/relationship experience for a woman of my age (I am 30), and recently I’ve been very upset with myself, because I see everybody having children, marrying and I never care about nothing of that… I was obsessed with getting a career , independance and money that I just forgot about the other part. Problem is that I still don’t care, but just because I see others doing and being normal… I think there is a problem with me, why am I not open to love like everybody else?! Since being obsessed with success became something really bad, I start to meditate to easy my mind and accept that I already have a great life, which is working, however I notice that I have more time to compare myself to others and now I am not sure what I am doing with life anymore, I lost purpose and am feeling stucked…

    But this article really got in my mind and I felt like I am not alone… Thank you again, sorry for the English, it’s not my first language.
    Love & Peace! ✌