We’ve all met them — the people who seem to radiate a sense of calm, no matter what life throws their way.
They’ve had their share of struggles, sure, but they don’t let their past weigh them down. Instead, they seem to walk through life with a grace and ease that leaves you wondering, “How do they do it?”
The secret isn’t just in how they handle the present, but in how they’ve made peace with their past.
I personally deeply look up to these people and I hope to be in the same place as them one day.
So in my effort to understand them, I’ve identified 7 behaviors that seem to help them be at peace with where they’ve been — and where they’re going.
Let’s have a look at what these are.
1) They let go of grudges
Holding onto grudges is like carrying a backpack full of rocks; it weighs you down and makes every step a struggle. The people who are truly at peace with their past know the value of setting down that burden and walking away.
I remember meeting someone who had every reason to be bitter — a failed business, lost friendships, and a history of letdowns in his love life.
But when I asked him how he felt about the people who had wronged him, he simply smiled and said, “I’ve let it go. Holding a grudge only hurts me, not them.”
This is the wisdom of someone who understands that forgiving others is the first step in freeing yourself.
Letting go of grudges doesn’t mean you forget what happened, but it does mean you’ve decided to focus on your own well-being over harboring resentment.
It’s a liberating choice, and one that lets you move towards a much brighter and happier future.
2) They self-reflect without judgment
People who are at peace with their past have a unique way of looking inward. They embrace self-reflection not as a harsh tribunal but as a compassionate conversation with themselves.
I once had the privilege of speaking with an older lady who had been through a myriad of life experiences, both good and bad.
She told me how she realized that regretting mistakes is a waste of time, as it only fills your days with sadness. Instead, she aims to learn from them.
She wasn’t wallowing in self-pity or what-ifs; she was acknowledging her journey without judging herself.
The beauty of self-reflection without judgment is that it allows you to grow. You can identify your strengths and weaknesses, understand your motivations, and figure out how you want to move forward.
You become your own wise friend who provides advice rather than criticism.
3) They accept what can’t be changed
One of the hallmarks of people who are genuinely at peace with their past is their deep-rooted acceptance of what can’t be changed.
Coming back to the man I mentioned earlier, one of his hardships was losing a high-paying job and facing severe financial setbacks as a result.
And another thing he told me was “I can’t change the past, but I can decide how it shapes my today and tomorrow.”
Accepting what can’t be changed doesn’t mean you’re happy about it or that it doesn’t hurt. It means you acknowledge it for what it is, like acknowledging the weather. You might not be thrilled that it’s raining on the day you planned a picnic, but you accept it and adapt.
This acceptance is like lifting a weight off your shoulders. You’re no longer exhausting yourself by pushing against an immovable object.
You’re free to invest your energy elsewhere, like in healing, growing, or pursuing new goals.
4) They live in the present
You know someone is at peace with their past when they fully embrace the present moment.
Because trauma and pain have a way of pulling you back and keeping you trapped. It can be extremely hard to break out of it — I know, because I struggle with some things from my past to this day.
And I know others who have been there too, but they’ve been able to shift their attention fully to the present.
How did they do that? It doesn’t happen overnight. This is a massive shift in mindset, but it’s also a conscious decision to not let the past rob you of today’s joys and possibilities.
Several people I’ve spoken to have mentioned therapy was instrumental in making this change.
For others, a jolting event snapped them out of their days and made them realize that they had to start being more present, or their life would just pass them by.
But at the end of the day, there is no deadline for this. Some things take time to process, and if you need more of it, there is no need to rush. The present will always be here for you when you’re ready.
5) They speak about the past without anger
I have a relative who had an excruciatingly difficult childhood — it’s heartbreaking to hear about it.
But what amazes me is how she can talk about the people involved in those traumas without any trace of bitterness or anger.
If you had no idea what happened, you wouldn’t even realize anything was off in those relationships.
This is the mark of someone truly at peace with their past. It’s not because she was in denial or emotionally detached — it’s a sign she’s worked through the emotions that the memories used to trigger.
She has gained a sense of closure, a calm acceptance, that allows her to revisit even the most challenging episodes without being catapulted back emotionally.
It can sound like an impossible feat, but scientists show that it is possible, and they have developed treatments that help trauma survivors successfully do it.
Even if you haven’t lived through anything super drastic, it’s important to cut yourself free from any ropes that pull you back as you try to move forward.
6) They set healthy boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries is a powerful lesson that hardships teach you — but thankfully, it’s one that can make life moving forward so much better.
It’s like putting up a fence around the garden of your life. It keeps out what could harm you and nurtures what makes you flourish.
Just make sure you have a gate there where you can let in people who you decide to trust — it doesn’t do any good to push anyone and everyone out and have super rigid boundaries either.
This is something I’m proud to say I’ve made a lot of progress in myself. Especially as a teenager and young adult, I used to be a huge people pleaser who said yes to everything. I was afraid having boundaries would make me seem rude or selfish.
But after doing a lot of inner work, I learned how to assert myself while still being kind, and I’ve found it actually helps rather than damages my relationships.
7) They prioritize self-care
Taking care of oneself might seem like a modern buzzword, but people who are at peace with their past understand it’s not just a trend — it’s a necessity.
Let me share a story. I once met a woman who had been through several taxing years of caregiving for a sick relative. When I asked her how she managed to keep her spirits up, she spoke about her “me time,” as she called it.
She would take long walks, meditate, or even just sit quietly sipping tea. “If I don’t take care of myself, how can I take care of others? It’s not selfish; it’s survival,” she said.
This is the wisdom of someone who gets that self-care isn’t an indulgence but a vital part of life, like eating or sleeping.
When you take the time to focus on yourself, you also become more present for the people around you. It’s a win-win situation.
Self-care can be as simple as taking a short break to breathe when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or as significant as setting aside time each week for a hobby you love. The point is to listen to your needs and honor them.
Becoming at peace with your past
Life is a complicated journey, full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows.
But the people who really inspire us are those who’ve learned how to navigate this journey with a sense of peace, despite their past hardships.
From letting go of grudges to setting healthy boundaries, the common thread in all these behaviors is the focus on personal growth and emotional well-being.
It’s not about ignoring the past, but about learning from it in a way that enriches your present and future.
I’ve been fortunate to meet several people who embody these principles, and their wisdom has been a beacon for me. And let’s be real; none of us are perfect. I’m definitely still a work-in-progress.
But the beauty is, each day offers a new opportunity to practice these behaviors, to move a step closer to that well-deserved peace.