10 toxic habits you need to unlearn to find inner peace

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If I had to create a list of elusive things in life, inner peace would be right there at the top. 

As adults, it has become so much harder for us to stay calm and in touch with ourselves. The world can be such a noisy place that drowns out any tranquility dwelling within us. 

So, sometimes, finding inner peace can often feel like an impossible task. People even go on retreats and sabbaticals just to get it back!

If you don’t have the luxury of disappearing in the woods, though, what can you do to find inner peace right where you are? 

Well, you can simply begin by examining your habits. More often than not, it’s the little things we do or don’t do that erode our peace without us noticing. 

Let’s check out what these toxic habits are that we need to unlearn to find our precious inner peace.

1) Perfectionism

How often have you found yourself stressing over the smallest details, trying to make everything ‘just right’? I used to do that, too. 

And of course, since getting something (or someone) perfect is so, so rare, I was always in a state of frustration. No inner peace in sight.

If you want to have inner peace, you have to be okay with imperfection. I don’t mean to say you should be okay with mediocrity, though. There’s a difference between the two. 

Imperfection is accepting that you (and everyone else) are human. You don’t have all the answers, nor will you always make the right decisions. 

Mediocrity, on the other hand, is being okay with “good enough” when you know you can do so much better. 

So essentially, go on setting high standards for yourself and push yourself to be the best you can be. But at the same time, give yourself room – and grace – to make mistakes. 

It’s a delicate balance for sure, but take care not to dwell too much on it, or else you’ll fall into the next toxic habit…

2) Overthinking

Oh, this is one I’ve been guilty of in the past. I know just how much overthinking can rob us of inner peace. 

The problem is, no matter how many times I would go over something in my mind, I never ended up with a solution. 

Instead, I’d end up restless and exhausted. I’d end up with only three to four hours of sleep just from overthinking in the night!

The trick to overcoming it is to watch your thoughts like they belong to a different person. Catch yourself when you start to spiral, and gently guide your thoughts elsewhere. 

It’s a lot of thought-policing, and you won’t get it right the first time. But as long as you’re consistently mindful, you’ll be able to break this nasty habit.

3) Trying to control everything

Perfectionism and overthinking are both aspects of this overarching habit – wanting to control everything. 

There’s an old Leo Tolstoy quote I love: “Everybody thinks of changing humanity, but nobody thinks of changing himself.”

You know why I love it? Because it emphasizes how the only thing we can really control is ourselves. 

And that’s a good reminder for all of us, especially if we have the tendency to orchestrate everything according to plan. 

Believe me, once you’re able to let go of the things you can’t control, you’ll feel a sense of freedom. 

And for me, there’s also a sense of excitement because I approach it with the thought of “Hmm, I wonder what surprises life has in store for me this time…” 

Remember the old man Carl in the Disney movie, “Up”? He learned how to let go of his rigid plans and open himself up to life’s unplanned adventures. Sometimes, you’ve just got to Carl it up! 

4) Comparing yourself to others

Another toxic habit that takes away our inner peace is comparison. 

I’m pretty sure you’ve done this – scroll through social media, see people’s highlight reels, and wonder why your life doesn’t measure up. 

I know I have. And I admit to feeling inadequate at times, too. 

But I’ve also learned that it makes no sense to compare ourselves with others, simply because we have wildly different lives. We’re on different timetables and paths, period. 

Need some help to stop comparing? Think about this Buddhist piece of wisdom: 

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

5) Pursuing material things

This is closely connected to my previous point. Oftentimes, we get into a cycle of pursuing the latest whatever – gadget, car, designer clothes – in our desire to measure up. 

Or it could simply be because we think material things can give us inner peace and happiness. 

And at first, they might. But trust me, that joy is fleeting. 

The truth is, when we tie our happiness and self-worth to material things, we set ourselves up for a never-ending cycle of wanting. There’s always something newer, bigger, flashier, more expensive to work towards. 

Personally, I find that chasing after material possessions feels empty after a while. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that having a simple life is more supportive of inner peace and contentment. 

6) Holding onto grudges 

Of course, grudges and past hurts aren’t compatible with inner peace. They’re negative forces, after all!

You see, when we hold a grudge, we’re not harming the person who wronged us. Heck, they’ll still go on having their happy moments while we’re stewing in anger and bitterness. 

So who does it ultimately harm? Ourselves. 

We’re keeping the wound open, letting it consume our thoughts, our energy, and our peace. Every time we revisit the hurt, we’re reliving it. We’re not allowing ourselves to heal and move on.

You probably know what I’m going to say. The only antidote to this is forgiveness and letting go

Now, I’m not saying this is easy, nor am I saying that forgiveness means forgetting or condoning the wrong done to us. 

Forgiveness is more about choosing peace over pain. It’s a gift to ourselves to let go of the resentment and walk forward with a lighter foot. 

7) Living in the future

Just like holding on to grudges, being consumed with worry about the future is harmful. 

I do get it – we’ve got real worries to consider. Bills to pay, our jobs, our children’s future, and all that. 

And of course, it’s always wise to make plans. But once again, we should leave room for the things we can’t control. 

I think this one boils down to confidence and faith. When you feel confident about yourself, you know that whatever happens in the future, you’ll be fine. 

If things don’t go according to your plan, that’s okay, you’ve got the skills to wing it.  

So why sacrifice your inner peace for something that hasn’t even happened yet? 

8) Taking everything personally

One of the most useful tips I learned was to not take everything personally. I used to be super sensitive; I would work myself up into a state whenever someone said something remotely negative to me. 

For example, if my boss would suggest something to improve my work, I’d take it as a personal affront. 

If my husband came home tired and not in the mood to talk, I’d immediately think he was upset with me.  

And if a friend canceled our date, oh, I’d definitely take it the wrong way. 

So yeah, I had to unlearn that if I wanted to be at peace. Because the reality is, it was just my ego talking. 

News flash: most things aren’t about us. People’s actions and words are often more about them – their thoughts, their feelings, their perceptions.  

When we stop taking everything personally, we give ourselves the gift of peace. We free ourselves from the exhausting and never-ending dissection of every little thing for hidden meanings or slights. 

9) Tolerating toxic behavior

While it’s wise to not take everything personally, we do need to recognize when someone is treating us badly. 

There’s a thin line between being patient and being a doormat. With the former, you can still feel at peace. With the latter, definitely not. 

Toxic behavior is never acceptable, period. 

When we allow people to belittle us, take advantage of us, or disrespect our boundaries, we send the message that it’s okay for us to be treated poorly. 

And that shifts the balance of power. Tolerating toxic behavior shows the other person that our feelings and peace don’t matter. 

So, make sure you’ve got healthy boundaries. Don’t give anyone the power to rob you of your inner peace

10) Neglecting self-care

Finally, we get to the last toxic habit, which I’m sure many of us need to unlearn. 

As I mentioned in the intro, the world can be so noisy and busy that it drowns out our sense of calm. 

When we’re so busy trying to get the job done, take the kids to and from school, be there for everyone who needs us, self-care falls by the wayside. 

The result? A feeling that life is nothing but an endless string of responsibilities and tasks. 

That definitely isn’t conducive to inner peace. 

Look, to be in harmony with the world, you need to be in harmony with yourself. Your passions, your self-care rituals, your me-time…they need your attention, too. 

So, carve out time for them and let them bring you the joy and peace you deserve.

Final thoughts

Achieving inner peace isn’t a one-time thing. It’s something we continuously and consciously work on every single day of our lives. 

Hopefully, this list has shown you which habits you need to ditch. As long as you’re committed to unlearning them, you’ll find your way to a place of calm and serenity, day after day. 

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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