Handmade Nepalese fabric covered book

Traditional handmade Nepalese book, ©iStockphoto.com/claylib

How do we get so friggin’ happy that we can enjoy the gifts of an abundant life, with joy to spare and share? That’s my question. Last post I decided happiness ain’t happening till we’re happy with ourselves. We aren’t talking narcissism or self-indulgence here. We’re talking about learning to accept, nurture and love—really love—our singular selves in a way we rarely dare do.

So let’s talk about it!

Some of your comments last time reflected our cultural ambivalence about whether it’s okay for us to make ourselves happy, rather than focus on the happiness of others. And, I might now add, what about pursuing our happiness in the face of pervasive unhappiness, from Boston and Texas to Damascus and China, where explosions and earthquakes rock worlds and kill the innocent?

In her blog comment, Vicki shared this quote from Shantideva, an eighth century Buddhist scholar, which toes the standard spiritual line about happiness: “All those who are unhappy in the world are so as a result of their desire for their own happiness. All those who are happy in the world are so as a result of their desire for the happiness of others.” That one gives me pause.

Shantideva seems to suggest we will fail to be happy if we make our own happiness paramount. I’m thinking hard about this, and must beg to differ, though the difference may be partly semantic. We all have our own understanding of the “pursuit of happiness.” And the sage’s words make sense if I think of the few people I know (and many I know of) who are successfully preoccupied with attaining fame and fortune—presumably to be happy—but seem miserable.

I’ll bet my own wee wad that few Wall Street tycoons know the simple joy I derive from a home-cooked meal, a loving foot rub or performing  a random act of kindness. Those guys (and they are mostly guys) are too busy wanting and grubbing to stop to take life in and savor it, which requires a very different, less acquisitive skill set. So if that is the kind of personal happiness Shantideva means by his first statement, I agree that all-out seeking of happiness doesn’t produce it.

To be happy with—by which I mean within—ourselves is something else entirely. And my experience suggests we do well to make that our primary focus, whether or not we are intent on being of service to others. For to be happy with(in) ourselves doesn’t come from getting stuff for me or giving stuff to you. Being happy with ourselves arises when we get to know and accept ourselves and our “stuff” enough to love ourselves the way we are. Only then can we relax into being our full-blown selves; only then are we empowered to do what we alone are here to do.

That kind of radical self-acceptance is, I believe, the source of true happiness and, as you too must have noticed, it’s about the hardest thing in the world for us to come to. We are too well-versed in judging our flaws and mistakes, even as we downplay our one-of-a-kind gifts and contributions. But anything short of knowing and accepting ourselves one hundred percent leaves us disabled, unable to give all we’ve got. Short of self-love, we shortchange the world.

So let’s get to it, kids. Radical self-acceptance. More of my perspective on why and how we do that next time. Meanwhile, how about your perspective? I can’t wait to hear, and if my words speak to you, would you kindly subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already and, hey, why not share our link with friends who deserve to be happy and might have something to add? Thanks!

About the Author: Suzanne Grenager

A seasoned writer and mentor with a gift for helping people see and be their most authentic, empowered Self.


  1. Vicki Fox April 25, 2013 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Another thought provoking blog. Thank you. And I have also since pondered the quote I sent you in light of all that has transpired in the world as of late. Had the two souls who set the bombs in the Boston Marathon loved themselves, would they have had the desire to injure themselves and others? I think not.
    The older I get, and the more I converse with you and other like-minded, open hearted, conscious people, I better understand the importance of of self-love. That being said, balance in life is important.. The in-breath of caring for ourselves and the out-breath of caring for others is an interesting dance, and one that needs to be balanced to stay happy and healthy.
    I look forward to your upcoming blogs on the why and the how.
    With Love,

    • Suzanne Grenager April 26, 2013 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Bless you, Vicki, for your gracious response and welcome reminder about the in-breath and out-breath. We sure do need them both, really and metaphorically, in order to flourish. And you, my dear, are becoming a living example of that give and take balance you speak of. I’m so glad you’re *embracing* self-love, even as you expand your realm of service through Women of Intention. It’s a powerful combination and, as you say, a very interesting dance we spirit-servants do!

  2. Sheila Kelly April 25, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

    I think it is time to stop chasing happiness and embrace that radical self-acceptance thing you’re talking about, Suzanne. For me, that means accepting ALL of me … with all the warts and blemishes and shadow aspects of who and what I am. Too often, it seems to me, we so-called spiritual types want to jump to enlightenment and awakening by hiding out from those layers of (ego) self that are also part of us. There is an old expression, “You can run but you cannot hide.” That which we try to deny (ego) will continue to rear its self until we love it. Yes. Love ego!!! That seems to be a radical concept for many. But … when we try to separate ego off and disassociate from it, we are denying an aspect of ourselves that is relevant to living life in this physical form.

    Thank you, as always, dear Suzanne, for generating and energizing these discussions. Love you! Sheila

    • Suzanne Grenager April 26, 2013 at 11:11 am - Reply

      Amen, and you are so welcome, dear Sheila. Let’s raise a glass of bubbly to a strong healthy ego! I agree 100% with your implication that whatever we deny about ourselves ends up running us and, I’d add, wreaking havoc — from a deep, unconscious and dis-empowering place. I think of the example in Vicki’s comment here about the Boston bombers and how they must have felt about themselves in order to do what they did. Two very unhealthy and unhappy souls all right! God bless us all in our ignorance and our pain.

      I am slowly, and sometimes painfully, coming to understand that a strong, healthy ego is the foundation on which every part of us rests, including our spiritual aspirations to serve our souls and the souls of others. As you wisely suggest, the ego is an essential tool in claiming our purpose and becoming our fully embodied divine human selves. Thank you for adding another rich layer to this conversation, which I am honored to generate. Love you, too!

  3. Mary April 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I think acceptance in all its forms is important, including radical acceptance of oneself and of others. There’s a quote I’ve had on a piece of paper for ages that says something like Acceptance of the way life is at the moment is the key to positive change and peace of mind. Thank you for your very relevant blog ! Big hugs, Mary

    • Suzanne Grenager April 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Mary, very good to hear from you, and with such an affirming — and yes, *relevant* — comment. Your quote is so right that there is no peace in fighting reality and no way to move in the “right direction” but to embrace and start where we are. Acceptance — of everything — is indeed the “key” to unlock the gates of heaven (so to speak). Simple but not easy. Thank you for being here and offering us that gem, which speaks directly to my heart.

  4. Karen L. May 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Suzanne,

    i think you’ve put your finger on some important points–radical self-love/acceptance/contentedness is important before we can seek happiness by serving others. Of course, the other extreme is narcissism as you said, and that puts us in an ego-centric world, where we spiral down into total unhappiness. So, as Shantideva says, look outside ourselves to find the happiness that comes from fulfillment.

    • Suzanne Grenager May 8, 2013 at 11:48 am - Reply

      Always lovely to see you here, dear Karen! I am so grateful you take time to share the wisdom you have relentlessly pursued for the decade I’ve been privileged to know you. I want to be sure I understand your final sentence, which expresses the essence of *your* understanding about happiness.

      When you say we “must look outside ourselves for happiness that comes from fulfillment, do you mean that to maintain the happiness of our (inner) fulfillment we must *serve* outside ourselves? If I understand you correctly, I agree wholeheartedly, since not sharing our own fulfillment would, as you suggest, leave us too full of ourselves — quite literally — and we might implode. 🙂 If I misunderstood you, please feel free to set me straight for the benefit of all our readers. With love & thanks.

      • Karen L May 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm - Reply

        yes, that’s what I meant! Inner work first, then outer work for fulfillment and happiness.

  5. Richard Michaels June 7, 2013 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Well written. I think that for true happiness to be shared it first must be experienced. I think that sharing not built in the first place on radical self-acceptance is an overly filtered and prescripted happiness which is not much of a give away. So I agree with you, happiness is an internal affair first. Just like a diamond is an internal affair first. That is how it forms itself. Its also natural to let it flow when it is formed. Not out of a “should,” but when its natural. If your name is Cezanne you do that with a brush, Adele you sing it, and so on. Now SD says its not happiness until given away, well, it may just complete a certain cycle when it is given away; Van Gogh didn’t need to sell a lot of paintings to give the world his gift, there was no way such a gift could not eventually be given, and he did have a sense of that, or Emily Dickinson. Happiness is part of a continuum. If we be who we are that is what is important whether we are happy on a hilltop by ourselves, cooking a dinner for the family, or singing in front of 10,000 people. Love the dialogue about consciousness evolving.

    • Suzanne Grenager June 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm - Reply

      Hi, Richard. I love the consciousness dialogue too! Thank you, thank you for showing up here and adding your seasoned voice to our little piece of the growing virtual conversation. I so agree that it’s natural to let the happiness we create from inside “flow,” an insightful way to put it.

      For if *we* are happy, we are bound (almost by definition of what it *means* to be “happy”) to exude happiness. And how can those around us not benefit from our joy, however we express it (and I like your examples)?.Also, you and I seem to be on the same page about the source of our happiness — being who we are. Even the great Bhagavad Gita suggests how important it is to be ourselves:

      “It is better to do your own duty
      badly, than to perfectly do
      another’s; you are safe from harm
      when you do what you should be doing.”

      Being safe from harm isn’t quite the same as being happy; but close enough, methinks. Blessings to you in your wonderful work!

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