3 Principles for Accepting Yourself and Being Authentically Happy

Woman and the Sun

“Happiness is really a deep harmonious inner satisfaction and approval.” ~Francis Wilshire

It is only in the last few years of my life that I have felt genuinely happy and comfortable in my own skin.

Until my early thirties the dominant feeling I carried around with me was one of extreme social awkwardness. Which is strange, because most people who knew me prior to that time would have described me as a confident guy who got on with just about everybody.

I’m aware that outwardly I was very skilful at presenting a positive and socially pleasing demeanor, while on the inside feeling anxious and exhausted from keeping up the act.

This wasn’t just at work or at parties, it was rife in my closest relationships too—with my friends, my family and, most bizarrely, with my fiancée.

Perhaps the reason I was so well liked by so many is because I would agree with just about everything anyone said, so I was no bother to them. In disputes, I’d take both sides. I was always the first to offer a hand when someone needed help, but not because I felt charitable; I just wanted them to like me more.

If I got angry or frustrated, which I did often, you would never have known it. You would have seen someone who appeared unflappable, regardless of the circumstances. If I was hurt, let down or disappointed, my lightening reflex was to smile and say, “That’s okay!”

Somewhere along the line I had developed the philosophy that my happiness was dependent on the approval of others.

This meant that my level of contentment was proportionate to how pleased I thought others were with me moment to moment. Of course, the problem was that I rarely thought they approved of me enough, so I was rarely happy.

Now that I think about it, some of my earliest memories involve me trying extremely hard to be a “good boy,” to do what I was told, and how lonely it felt to fall out of favor with my parents.

I never thought about what I wanted from life, only what would make others want to have me around.

The ultimate price I paid was my authenticity, which I now know is fundamental to a truly satisfying and fulfilling life. Not only is authenticity vital for your relationships with others, but more importantly for your relationship with yourself.

Isn’t it funny how the strategies we use to protect ourselves from our deepest fears are often the exact same strategies that manifest our fears into reality?

One day my fiancée announced that our engagement was over. She said that she cared for me deeply but that she just didn’t know who I was; there was nothing real for her to connect to. I was devastated but not surprised. It was one of the worst and best days of my life.

I walked away from our house taking nothing with me. I quit the job I hated with nothing else to go to. I was broke, lonely, and finally having to stare my exposed vulnerabilities in the face.

Shortly afterward, I found myself walking along a beach contemplating suicide. Not because of the ending of the relationship, but because of the ending of my identity. I hated the mask I had been wearing and what it had cost me, but I didn’t know what to replace it with.

Obviously, I didn’t take my life. Instead I moved to London. I was scared and confused but I was convinced that a new environment would be conducive to reinventing myself.

I didn’t invent a new me. I found the real me.

I read countless books on personal and spiritual growth, attended dozens of workshops, got coaching and training, and even began to write about and teach what I was learning. I started to feel more alive than I had ever felt before. For the first time in my life I was truly happy and being authentically me.

I want to share with you three of the most important principles that I’ve learned about authentic happiness. I hope they inspired you.

1. We live the feeling of our thinking.

As William Shakespeare famously wrote, “Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

Being authentically happy starts with the realization that you are both the source and the cause of your own well-being.

We never get to experience the world as it really is; we only get to experience our thoughts about the world. It wasn’t actually other people’s disapproval that made me unhappy; it was my mistaken belief that happiness is something that comes from outside of me in the form of approval.

Even when it looks as though your emotional state is being dictated by your circumstances, that is never true. Your thoughts are the root of your emotions. Just get curious and ask yourself, “If I weren’t thinking this way, how might I feel differently?”

2. Everything good is inside.

We each walk around with two versions of ourselves. One is our unconditioned self, which is innocent, flawless, and untouched by any trauma, criticism, or injustice we may have faced in life. The other is a learned self, more commonly known as the ego.

The primary role of the ego is to separate you from the truth of who you really are—a human being who is already complete, whole, and mentally and spiritually healthy. The ego believes that happiness is attained through material success, achievement, striving, earning, and deserving. I’ve often heard it described as “everything good outside.”

But your unconditioned self is the much bigger, wiser you. It already knows that you are what you seek; that real happiness is what naturally happens when you dare to show up unedited.

All the happiness you have been looking for outside of you can finally be yours when you stop chasing and start choosing.

3. Our relationship with ourselves determines our relationship with everything else.

One of the standout moments on my journey of self-discovery was hearing Dr. Robert Holden say, “No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.”

Every time I had tried to improve the persona I was presenting to the world, I moved further away from the inner satisfaction I was seeking. As soon as I started treating myself with more kindness and compassion, everything in my life got better.

The more we are willing to love ourselves, in all our messy glory, the less we go searching for happiness in the wrong places. When we are comforted by our own self-love, we no longer need to find comfort through external fixes.

Forgiveness is key. Start by forgiving yourself for all the times you have allowed your ego block your joy. And understand that the only reason you need to forgive is to restore yourself to the authentically happy person you are here to be.

Photo by Manuela

About Paul Dalton

Paul Dalton is a personal growth coach, facilitator, writer and speaker with a particular passion for assisting others in defining their authentic life purpose. Sign-up for free insightful coaching tips, podcasts and videos via his website, where you can also check out his popular e-Course Create a Wonderful Life.

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  • Nasimeh Bahrayni

    Thank you so much for this. I really needed it today – and it resonates so deeply, especially the bit about wanting to please people! Though I’ve been working on that, I still struggle with it quite a bit. That quote, too, is potent – “No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance.” Whew! Time to go love myself and be kind and compassionate with myself all day. 🙂

  • Phil Bennett

    Thanks Paul, this post resonates with me a lot. My story is following yours very closely although it is my own. I am at the point where you moved to London, myself looking in to a move this winter to find the real me.

  • Diana B

    Wonderful post. Many quotes went in my journal to be treasured and lived.

  • RandyH

    Hello Paul…man am I glad I opened my TinyBuddha email this morning! What a thought-provoking​ and eye-opening article. Your writing gave me several “aha” moments and a lot of things to think about. I will be checking out your website and e-course. Thanks for inspiring my day and my life!

  • AllSeeker97

    Wonderful post wanna read it everyday when i wake up thanks ^^

  • Wow, what a wonderful comment, thank you. I often wake up and think of these principles as an intention for the day. Px

  • So pleased it resonated Diana, thank you for commenting, Px

  • Really pleased the article connected with you Nasimeh. I’ve certainly found that the need to please others is a lot more common than I thought it was. You are not alone!! Good for you for working on it and I’m glad to have been a of service a little! Px

  • Hey Randy – I’m glad you opened your TinyBuddha email this morning too! I’m stoked that you found some “Aha’s”. I’ve had so many of them from others over the years and its great to dish a few back out! Hope you enjoy the website. Px

  • Sean

    I may as well have written the opening paragraphs to this. Down to a T. Even the fact that you went to London! I have just entered my thirties. If you are from South Africa too that is just creepy. I hope I can achieve the level of self-acceptance and understanding that you have. Thank you for these inspiring words.

  • sd

    wow! Its like you are inside my head! I HATE myself and does not have a lot of positive things to say about me very often. but this post got me thinking though….my constant unhappiness is due to lots of reasons that you had mentioned.

  • lv2terp

    WHOA, what a powerful post!!! Thank you for sharing your story, and being vulnerable on this level! Kudos to you for making such a brilliant shift! Your tips are perfectly stated, so clear and concise! Thank you for sharing such insight, truly beautiful!!!! 🙂

  • Jade

    Great post! Your second point “everything good is inside” really struck me as poignant, it’s something I struggle with (or even rebel against!) on a daily basis. I’m slowly learning that my happiness is not dependent on something external to me, it’s inside of me, it’s already there, waiting for me to uncover it again. 🙂

  • Thanks so much, Px

  • Isn’t it amazing how many of us have similar stories and yet feel we are alone in our experienced. Thanks for you comment Sean. Keep going my man!

  • Hey Phil. So pleased it was helpful for you. Best wishes for your move, any change can teach you a lot about who you really are. The only I can say with 100% confidence is when you get closer to knowing the real you, you will think he’s awesome! Take care, Px

  • Yes, your thoughts are a big part of how you feel – so please don’t think that it is your fault if you cannot make yourself happy. It’s not that simple.


  • Wonderful post Paul. I have forwarded onto many of my clients and friends – all of which have responded so positively

  • Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I love the line, “I didn’t invent a new me, I found the real me.” I agree about how much our thoughts and the stories we tell ourselves about our lives can influence our experiences. And thanks for the reminder about being authentic…. We are so much happier when we are true to ourselves!

  • Thank you Sarah

  • Thank you Luke. I appreciate you sharing this with others. You’re a star. P

  • Thanks Jade. I think recognizing that we are the source and cause of our own wellbeing is our life’s work. The external world is very convincing, but knowing your life is an inside out job opens you up to so many more possibilities. Px

  • It is so important to go easy on yourself sd. I hope these principles stay with you.

  • E. Pluribus

    Very solid.

  • Rose

    Sadhu sadhu sadhu! The William Shakespeare quote is excellent. So happy to know you’ve found the real “you”!
    Metta, Rose

  • Jennifer

    What an amazing post! I am currently going through a similar journey of self-discovery. Your reference to “no amount of self-improvement can make up for a lack of self-acceptance” is perfection. I read ten years of self-help books and spiritual writings without loving myself before God helped me hit rock bottom. Once I did my eyes were finally opened to the importance of no self-judgment, total self-love and complete and utter self-acceptance. I am learning to become my own best friend, my own true love… and it’s working. Wonderful words of wisdom Paul. I will read them as a reminder often! Thank you.

  • Nic

    Thank you. I intend to read this countless times to remind myself of your values. I can relate to your story so much, and just by reading the comments we realise that so many people face identical struggles, but feel alone in doing so.

  • Sheila Marie Ang

    What a great article!

  • Anna Puchalski

    I love this article. Many points in regard to living authentically hit home for me, especially having a great relationship with yourself. With that I am able create in myself and then skillfully give it to others. It is such a great journey to truly discover yourself especially since it is such a hard first step. Thank you!

  • Kei Takashima

    Really inspiring! Thanks a whole lot for sharing!! I really needed something like that recently, and I guess I know what should I think about myself already. Thank you 🙂

  • Echo

    Thanks for that post. I developed serious anxiety a few years ago and got some help. Now there are only a handful of situation which make me anxious. But those situations remind me of (your quote) “how lonely it felt to fall out of favor with my parents.” I’ve been sitting around, thinking for days why these particular situations still trigger me and that line was the clincher. So thanks, you really helped me out with my realizations and self-discovery 🙂

  • Santosh

    Its a wonderful post, the introduction and the first two points really make a lot of sense for me.

  • nandini

    Hi Paul… that was really a good post to start my day with…thank you so much….

  • Hi

    Inspirating: great work and very helpful to myself, thank you

  • Fantastic post. While I can’t say I’ve ever had identity our authenticity problems, I believe, everybody can gain great value from this post.
    I find your three principals far more universal. They seem to apply to quite a lot of topics like how to understand ourselves and others better or how to improve our communication with others.
    They look applicable in the entire field of psychology. Even though, they’re completely obvious, I’ve only realized them after going through your post with my mind. Great and certainly valuable read. Thank you!

  • danune

    Thanks for the great article
    Whats the relationship between self love and the ego?

  • witsend

    I wish it was as easy as you make it sound. i’m lost and i have three boys that depend on me but I hate myself

  • Ryan P

    Thank you so much for this. You have described my entire life. But I am ready to make the correct measures to love myself.

  • Robin Marie Ogle

    I will definitely be reporting back to the notes I took off of this for reminders in the future. Very insightful! Thank you for exposing yourself for the greater good!

  • Natalie H

    I loved this. It really helped me to see things from a different perspective. I have a habit of looking to others and outside sources to make me happy. its hard trying to gain that hapiness from yourself at times.

  • Lucy

    Paul, what a great post! I really enjoyed this, and so much of what you have written really resonated with me. Thanks for these great tips that will help me on my road to greater self-happiness!

  • priyanka

    This is such a good post! I am so ruled by my ego.

  • Fadil

    First of all I would like to say how much of an amazing post this is. I truly loved this post for one reason and that is that it’s literally revolved around loving yourself and just being happy in life. The thing that really hit me was how after all you have been through your still up ad going & I truly admire that, also when you said “I didn’t invent a new me. I found the real me” it made me realize that we all have our true happy selves inside of us but that we don’t truly know til the time is right. Thank you so much for writing this it truly makes me thin about life differently.

  • Bharathi Karthikeyan

    I just really love it <3 i started to live 🙂

  • Sur

    I had this tendency to please all ESP my freinds who I throught were true friends. But they walked all over me and r more like leeches. Which comes to my question. Why do I attract leeches ?

  • Sur

    Can u advice me with some
    Tips ?

  • Sur

    And I d give my all , time ,money ,sacrifices ! But when I needed little time from them, they weren’t available. And this is when I went into depression due to hurt by their behaviors ! And I started feeling empty unwanted ignored! I need to re read your post daily to get myself back on track to depending on me and me only to keep myself happy !

  • Camrynne Kevany

    Deliciously insightful. I can tell that you are at peace with yourself by the way you structure your attitude towards your philosophy so eloquently. This really helped me to get back on track with what I previously felt many years ago – I was so blissful and all of that changed after I allowed such negativity to enter my life due to a series of very unfortunate events… and the journey back to being blissful and happy truly does start with me – I have indeed been looking in the wrong places and so easily forgotten how simple this was… I am the master of my own universe… all that truly matters is how you perceive because nothing in this life is fixed or labeled one way – we all see it differently therefore the external entities should not matter. Thank you for putting this out! You’ve lead me to my own realisation.

  • Hideous NOLYB

    I like this site alright, but all your writers seem to have lived quite privileged lives before their respective breakdowns. I can’t count how many articles here contain lines like “so I left everything behind, and moved to another country”. Must be pretty easy to find peace when you can afford to do things like that.