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What do we need to be happy? We could all probably make a list of the things we think would make us happy – things we would like to have, people we would like to be with, places we’d like to be etc. But these thoughts deceive us – none of these things can guarantee our happiness, and it is perfectly possible to be happy without them.

Another very common deceptive thought is: to be happy I need to be different from how I am. We live in a competitive society and we are addicted to comparing ourselves to others. The result, far too frequently, is that we feel we are not good enough as we are. We are not acceptable to ourselves – we need to be different from how we are to be worthy and to be happy. This is a terrible trap which spoils our enjoyment of life, sabotages relationships, and leads to all kinds of destructive compensatory behaviour. Many of us are consumed by self-doubt, guilt and excessive self-criticism, and these can easily creep into our spiritual life.

It is true that we have many struggles and shortcomings and have a long way to go to fulfil our true potential. But despising ourselves as we are right now is like rejecting a sapling because it’s not a fully grown tree. The sapling will grow if it is nurtured; it will not grow by being criticized and beaten. We will grow if we nurture ourself, combining honesty about our shortcomings with kindness and patience. In short, we need to be a good friend to ourself. Only by befriending ourself can we come to love others in a healthy, consistent way.

Nurturing ourself has nothing to do with being selfish. True love for ourself and true love for others grow hand in hand, because ultimately there is no difference between self and others