Embracing Our Darkness: We Don’t Always Have to Be Happy

It is better to be whole than to be good.” ~John Middleton Murray

Discouragement is usually an unwelcome guest. Every time it comes knocking on my door, I try to shoo it away or sweep it under the rug.

In fact, many of us want nothing more than for happiness to be our constant state of being, and have a hard time forgiving ourselves when we falter.

It happens: We can get immersed in the thick of discouragement for days, feeling mopey, downtrodden, physically, mentally, and emotionally “burnt out” and all in all “not ourselves.”

When I am in this state, I avoid the page, others, and even my own feelings, not wanting to face the dark and shadowy sides of my own being.

Though it doesn’t always coincide with the external weather, I can feel rainy inside my own experience and mind from time to time, and I usually struggle against this feeling, only making it worse.

I am so adamant about being a positive person and believe that shining brightly is far preferable to feeling crummy. I think many of us share this tendency toward wanting to hold onto the light—but then, what do we do with our inner storms?

Where do we get this notion that to be our truest and most beautiful selves we have to always be happy, elated, content, and sure of ourselves?

Why do we believe that we must feel confident and inspired, have all the answers, and be buoyant in order to be our best, or at least to “be okay”?

We are only human after all, and nothing in our instruction manuals or in our description before we were born promises that we will always be perfect and shiny. Yet, we carry this unrealistic pressure on ourselves to be so and often berate ourselves for falling short any time a bad mood strikes.

It’s tempting to only put our best foot forward. For example, on Facebook, we can often share our sunshine-y moments proudly but may be less apt to proclaim as boldly when we are feeling negative.

If not for wanting to hide our own seemingly fruitless negativity from others and even ourselves, we might also fear spreading the bad mood to others.

We often forget that it actually gives others joy to be able to help, and it is often necessary to reach out, since “joy shared is doubled and grief shared is halved.”

So today, how can you begin to admit or even embrace times when you may feel discouraged?

In my life, I am beginning to acknowledge that it is just as natural to feel insecure, scared, and to want to curl up in bed in the fetal position as it is natural to sometimes feel peaceful, excited, or happy.

I am even on my way to embracing all these states equally, and not trying to change my sadness or force it to be something it’s not.

Sadness needs to be accepted. It needs to be loved, and cuddled, and caressed, and crooned: “It’s okay, sadness, I see you, I love you, I respect and honor you, and I will let you be.”

It almost always feels a bit better just by being given the space to be allowed and received. Sometimes, as soon as I get on the phone with someone who cares, all the tears I didn’t let myself cry start spilling out of me, because in simply being witnessed, it is like the person actually reached out to give me the warmest hug.

It’s important to appreciate ourselves similarly for all our aspects and to forgive ourselves for even the lowest facets of our self.

Guilt, shame, and self-flagellation—these don’t actually correct the wrongs or make you a better person, they just reinforce the dark emotions even more strongly.

So, instead of beating yourself up, negating or denying your sadness and grief, or trying to “fix” it, simply repeat to yourself the best words anyone ever told me “Be gentle with yourself.”

Give yourself a big strong hug, maybe even a kiss, and tell yourself how much you appreciate you—all of you, now in this moment and forever.

Photo by poetprince

About Jeanine Cerundolo

Jeanine is a workshop facilitator, personal development coach, writer/poet, and Kripalu yoga instructor who lives in New York City. With former experience in social work and education, she  believes that much lasting change in our world begins from the inside out. She blogs at Learn more at

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  • aoyang

    You nailed it. we should be happy that life can suck. The realization means life is real, not fake! When we reach that understanding, we are also less fake.

  • HaleyMia

    Thank you so much for this! As I am writing, there are tears ruining my make-up, but I am being gentle on myself ; ) I just started the most difficult academic program I’ve ever been in, and I cannot sleep because of all the self-doubt & fear of failure that consumes all of me each n evryday. It is probably only making things worse, n so I am going to do the best that I can, n remember that that is all I can do!

  • Carmelo Bryan

    No matter what we think we want, life is a full compliment of experiences. Hasn’t it always been? Just like you say, we really aren’t wise to spend our energy trying to stave off things we think we don’t want. I would suggest that when we do that, we don’t have as much energy to enjoy the brighter side of life.

    It’s all a part of our journey. Love the journey. Thanks for the insightful gaze into life, Jeanine.

  • Well, I’m currently dealing with my own inner storm and it’s at a very inconvenient time in my life right now, as I’m trying to embark on reaching some career goals. In fact, the “storm” seems to be affecting many areas of my existence. So, that surely doesn’t make me happy. The funny thing is, maybe we’re all looking at it from an unnecessary perspective….maybe we’re expecting something that could very well be uncommon…happiness, whereas sadness is far too often very common.

    A friend of mine once said to me “Happiness is an unstable state.” Reading this post reminded me of that and now has me also wondering if I’m chasing something that I really can’t control…the state of happiness. Not joy nor peace, but true happiness. I guess it’s true that it comes and goes…so then, I wonder…if happiness is fleeting, then what do we really have left?

  • It was a big thing for me to learn, a few years ago, that it’s normal to sometimes be unhappy. Everything had gone so well for me before that time.

    Thanks for your excellent post.

    Best regards,


  • lv2terp

    Fantastic!! It is so great to give permission. I have lived in the space for my whole life that I have to be happy all the time, and have a friend that lets me know that it is okay to have a bad day or be sad.. I am slowly but surely learning it is okay. ha..thank you for this post, it is much appreciated 🙂

  • Jeanine Nicole

    Thanks! That’s a great friend to remind you of that and to be there to accept you however you show up! Now if we could be that kind of friend to ourselves… 🙂

  • Jeanine Nicole

    Thanks Nicole. This reminds me of the quote “The only constant is change”.. It’s not necessarily that sadness or happiness are fixed, but that it’s all an evolution and that we have to be willing to accept ourselves fully as we go along for the ride… Easier said than done, I know! Good luck with your career goals, maybe the “inconvenient storms” are there to teach us something, if we can look at them that way:)

  • Jeanine Nicole

    Hi Haley, thanks for sharing, and for reading. Listen to yourself.. it sounds like this program is taking a toll. Sometimes we have to change circumstances that cause us to suffer, or sometimes we can transform our relationship to them, like this quote says : “”The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust Good luck on your journey, whatever you choose!

  • Liz Esquirol/BuddhaBalboa

    In total agreement here. It’s exactly how I have come to understand and experience life. The happiness overdrive we expect of our lives is misaligned with the real journey. It’s impossible to be happy all the time (nor would we want to be.) It’s the full complement of emotions that make us complete and whole. I apply the 24 hour rule to my disappointments…I give myself permission to feel whatever I’m feeling for 24 hrs – then I let my pity party go 🙂
    Keep up the good work Jeanine!

  • KB

    Wow! Such perfect timing, this article. You touch on so many elements of my inner work these days. So nice to see it all voiced by another caring soul. Thank You!

  • It’s particularly dangerous to give in to feelings of sadness and uselessness when you must boost your immune system and not let the door open to depression. But even worse is having to struggle to pretend that you’re OK. In moments like these I feel that it’s OK to forgive yourself, but it doesn’t necessarily make things better. You feel the danger of the slippery slope.

  • Hitman316

    I’ve had a hard day today and your article came at the right place and at the right time.

    Even if we don’t necessarily like negative things, we should accept them. Sometimes, they’re even necessary for our development.
    Can’t thank you enough for writing this 🙂

  • Zanthie

    I used to struggle with depression so whenever sadness and dispair come along I panic that I am returning to my old ways … Hopefully I can draw on this article when I get scared and realize that it is normal to feel this way.
    Thank you

  • J

    Great article. ThnQ!

  • Tina

    Love this message! Just shared the same thought with a friend last week…..ironic that this was posted a few days later. So, of course, I passed it along. Thank you for helping us remember!

  • me, wendy

    HaleyMia. I just failed at an intense, brand new course and I am already being gentle on myself. I shared all and Do Your Best is the only way to approach life and you have the courage to try…best to you…

  • Chars

    Today, i needed to read this. Thank you for sharing and making my day. I shall be gentle to my dark side today. : )

  • HaleyMia

    Thnk you so much for sharing that Wendy. I’m srry that you failed the course, but I guess the best way to look at it is that you just got redirected on yr path. I’m trying to think of my apprehension with my program in the same light. Good luck!

  • Carolyn

    I love this post and all the responses!! I’m definitely in a place lately where I’m feeling down on myself (or not like myself) for no particular good reason and trying to constantly remind myself that I AM and IT IS ok, even though not every moment feels this way. The bad times make the good times that much better, I know, but sometimes the bad times feel like they’ll never go away. We just have to remind ourselves that they have before and they will again. As sad or low or scared as we feel one moment, we must remember that we will once again feel just as happy, high and confident!


    I know we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and feeling sad, angry or unhappy are human emotions. Accepting what we are feeling and choosing to let it go brings us back to peace, to our soul’s natural state of joy.


    I know we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and feeling sad, angry or unhappy are human emotions. Accepting what we are feeling and choosing to let it go brings us back to peace, to our soul’s natural state of joy.


    I know we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and feeling sad, angry or unhappy are human emotions. Accepting what we are feeling and choosing to let it go brings us back to peace, to our soul’s natural state of joy.


    I know we are spiritual beings having a human experience, so feeling sad, angry or unhappy are human emotions. Accepting what we are feeling and choosing to let it go brings us back to peace, to our soul’s natural state of joy.

  • marilyn briant

    I know we are spiritual beings having a human experience, so feeling sad, angry or unhappy are human emotions. Accepting what we are feeling and choosing to let it go brings us back to peace, to our soul’s natural state of joy.

  • Dorianne

    thanks, very real article, I believe I am one of those who chases happiness recklessly & feel like my whole world is falling to pieces if something / someone gets to me and makes me feel sad. To this day I don’t know why I expect so much , it’s as if I am fighting the real life with it’s ups & downs & want to stay in a fantasy world full of happiness. Easy to say that’s life, grow up, deal with it….but deep down it’s so hard to accept…

  • Lovely post … Especially liked the part of honouring our sadness – if we don’t witness it, accept it and care for why we are sad, how else can we ask anyone else too …thank you

  • friend forever

    Beautiful!!! Simply awesome! I loved the part about crooning to our sad and negative feelings that everything is okay.

  • That’s good I needed that’s

  • I was feeling certain kind of way today I can explain my heart was feeling very heavy so wuz a girl to do google how I feel an I found that sadness is very necessary it’s apart of life so embrace it love on it care for and it to will come to pass thanks allot

  • balancingact

    Great post, woke this morning and felt the gloom decend…. but you’re rite… Its ok.. Its impirtant to accept that we are all two halves of the same coin. We cant have the positive without the negative… it provides us with balance and feeds our spiritual development. Thanks again for a great post.

  • pradeep

    Great Post !

    Very true indeed.
    Here’s someting in wrote on the same topic – happiness
    Please have a look , and would love to have comment

  • Perfectionist

    I think this article will change my life somehow. So,big thanks from me. =)

  • Perfectly put, thank you.