Artist Living

Seven Principles to Inner Healing, Part II from Tina

Tina Erdman

While there is not one path for healing, I have found seven principles to inner healing that have made all the difference in my own path.  But first I want to thank each and every one of you for your loving, encouraging, heartfelt comments on last week’s post, How Photography Brings Healing. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I read each and every word you all wrote. My story has resonated with a number of you, bringing encouragement—for that I am so very grateful.

As promised last week I’d like to share more about my journey with you. I’d like to share some of the emotional ups and downs, books I’ve read, and exercises that I did (and do), to keep moving forward in finding peace. I’m not a licensed therapist. I’m not an expert by any means. I’m simply sharing my own experience and findings for you to use as you wish.

There is so much to tell that I could go on and on, but I’ve narrowed it down to my most important seven principles to inner healing that I continue to experience like gentle waves.

Seven Principles to Inner Healing with Photography

1. Nurture yourself.

As part of my healing process, my psychiatrist encouraged me to begin working on my self-esteem. She recommended the book, The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD.  This book changed my life.  My therapist explained to me that when there is an absence of parental antecedents, you have to learn to love yourself. You have to give and show yourself unconditional love. You have to learn to nurture yourself as you would a baby. How do you care for a baby?  You make sure your baby is fed properly. You make sure your baby is clothed, gets enough sleep, is comforted when he or she is upset, and you allow your baby to grow naturally without judgment. Do all of this for yourself.  Eat nutritious food.  Exercise.  Find time for yourself to do something you love to do—whether it’s a walk in the park, a 15 mile run, or enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend. When you do each of these things, be aware that you are caring for yourself, and allow yourself to accept and appreciate these small gestures. When I began this process I felt guilty for taking time to myself. And I have to admit, I felt silly thanking myself for the nutritious meal in front of me. Soon though, I could feel a transformation occurring. I discovered that when you love yourself unconditionally, without judgment, your self-worth and self-esteem will grow. There is so much truth to the sentiment that you can’t find happiness externally, happiness can only come from within—and it starts by loving yourself.

yoga and photography, seven principles to inner healing

2. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling.

I can’t stress this one enough. I have to preface this by saying that I’ve always been a hardworking adult. I’ve always taken care of myself. And looking in from the outside I was living a fairly normal life. There were days though, during my late 20s and early 30s, when I didn’t even want to get out of bed. It felt like the weight of all the pain was too much to bear at times.  Somehow I mustered all of the strength I had to get up, put on a (somewhat) happy face, and go to work. But at the end of the day, during these tough days, I would allow myself to be alone and feel the pain. I would stay home and cry if I needed to. Sometimes I would watch a movie. Sometimes I would go sit by the water’s edge and just breathe. Do what you need to do to feel the pain. Allow it to move through you. Don’t try to suppress it, as it will eventually rear it’s ugly head. I kept moving forward, but I gave myself the space to be still. To be quiet. To be present. To feel the pain. Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, is full of insight on breaking free from the ego to build a life filled with personal happiness.

morning light bursting through leaves, seven principles to inner healing

3. Keep moving forward.

This one is tough when the pain is at its greatest. However, we must find a way to keep moving forward even when we think it’s going to be impossible. There were times when I was taking one very small step at a time. I wasn’t moving forward as quickly as I should have been, but I was moving forward nonetheless. To do this, set goals for yourself. This will help you stay focused. Write down everything you want to accomplish in your life, in a year, or maybe just for one week. Then break the list down by categories: family, spirituality, fitness, career, working toward your purpose. After that, break each goal down into steps. This way they will feel attainable. Last December I wrote a blog post about setting goals, click HERE to read it. One thing to keep in mind though is that you may not accomplish ALL of your goals. And you may accomplish some of your goals at less than 100 percent. THAT’S OKAY! When you’re ready, pick up where you left off—without guilt. Ignore the negative voices that may be telling you that you failed and you don’t deserve a second chance. We ALL deserve a second, third, or fourth chance if that’s what it takes to get to where you want to go. One of Me Ra’s and my favorite quotes by Julia Cameron, “Progress not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.”

blue spotted butterfly photo, seven principles to inner healing

4. Follow your life’s purpose.

Some of you may already know what your life’s purpose is but feel like there are too many obstacles in the way to make your dream a reality. Some of you may not know your life’s purpose but deep down you feel that something is off—that you’re not doing what you’re meant to be doing. According to Brooke from Cheeky Kitchen, you can Find Your Purpose in 10 Minutes. It’s as easy as making a list of things you love, and when you get to that one line that makes you cry—that’s your purpose. Writing down the words, Making Photographs, makes me cry. My purpose is to make photographs that bring people joy, as with my portraiture. And to make photographs that help others, as with my humanitarian work. I feel a burning from within. I feel at peace when I have my camera in my hands. I feel my insides smiling.  I always think back to the movie Eat, Pray, Love  when Ketut tells Elizabeth (Julia Roberts), “Try a new meditation: sit and smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, smile with liver.” Doing your life’s purpose will make you smile with liver.  There are two books that I’d like to recommend to help you move toward working your life’s purpose. The first: Quitter by Jon Acuff. Jon writes about the importance of not only finding your purpose, but also taking the necessary steps to working your life’s purpose without making drastic changes in the beginning. He says to keep your day job until your purpose job is up and running. The second: The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters by Sarah Susanka. Sarah was an architect, and she uses this background of designing and building homes, as a metaphor for designing and building the life you want.

family portrait with ivy on brick wall

5. Write it down.

Last May when I had my meltdown and called Me Ra, she encouraged me to write down my story on paper—by hand. “Puke on paper,” Me Ra said. She told me to write everything that came to mind. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, or order—just write. So I did. It took me hours. I was emotionally drained. I cried. My hand was sore. But this exercise allowed me to move my emotion somewhere outside of myself. It was the greatest release I have ever felt. When one door closes another will open. So, write it down.

doorways in San Juan, Puerto Rico, seven principles to inner healing

6. Let go.

This is going to be the toughest part of the healing process, but once you get here, you are close to the mountaintop. To get here, you have to go through many, many, steps, depending on the level of your pain. You can’t force yourself to let go. You can only do the work, to do the healing, and the letting go will come. I wasn’t able to completely let go of the pain from the way my mother treated my sister and I until I came to the understanding that she was only doing what she knew how to do. She was broken from a dysfunctional childhood and started her family far too early. She wasn’t healed yet.  Through this cognizance I am able to find peace.

7.Surround yourself with people who love and respect you for who you are.

When you’re self-worth and self-esteem is low, chances are you’re going to attract others who may not necessarily be healthy to have in your life. These are the types of people who judge you, cut you down, and zap your energy. This is going to sound harsh, but walk away from these people. In my early 20s, I was attracted to people like this because that’s how I thought relationships were supposed to be. Further into my healing process, however, I began growing out of these destructive relationships. Instead of letting go, however, I hung on to some of them because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Or, I would cross paths with someone who I felt had it all together, and I would feel intimidated, or not worthy of having a friend like that. In the end, I found that I was only hurting myself. I let the last destructive friendship go last year. Life is short. Time goes by so quickly. Don’t waste another moment on someone who doesn’t appreciate you for who you are deep down inside. It feels so amazing to finally be surrounded by people who will pick you up when you fall, instead of kick you when you’re down. Surround yourself with those you can trust to be silly with, cry with, and share anything with—you are worth it.

Me Ra Koh CONFIDENCE Photography Teachers

The healing process takes time. It’s a journey filled with peaks and valleys. It can take months, years, or a lifetime depending on the depth of your wounds. And just when you think you’re on an upswing, something will trigger unmet feelings and throw you into a tailspin. But it’s okay.   It must be okay.  It’s all part of the process. You will get through the tough times. The shift will occur little by little. You’ll begin to feel lighter. You’ll stand taller. You will feel worthy.  I hope my seven principles to inner healing provides some bit of encouragement to your own journey.

Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable, i.e. open.  — Stephen Russell

List of favorite reading:

A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson

Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval by Alverto Villoldo, PhD.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer

The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters by Sarah Susanka

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle’s book

The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD

Quitter by Jon Acuff

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Recommended to me by Me Ra)

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

If you have any advice or recommended readings that helped you through your own healing process, please share in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Lovingly Living,


Women Photographer Self Portrait, Tina Erdman, Me Ra Koh Teacher


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