9 Common Ways We Limit Our Happiness

How to Recognize Them in Yourself—So You Can Fix Them

Self-acceptance is about being honest with yourself. It is the ability to hold up a mirror and see the original truth of who you are, as opposed to learned self-judgments. Thus, one gift of Self-acceptance is that it improves your awareness of your true self (the Unconditioned Self), which, in turn, helps you to be more authentic and fully integrated with yourself. Another gift of Self-acceptance is accountability-the willingness to accept the part you play in your life and in your happiness.

How Are You Limiting Your Happiness? — An Exercise

One of the most revealing assignments we do in the course is called “Limiting Happiness.” I invite you to try this exercise now.

  1. Take out a pencil and paper
  2. Identify a list of five ways you are currently limiting your own happiness.

Note: If you’re having trouble thinking of ways you’re blocking your own happiness, I’ll share with you the 9 most common ways we block happiness in a bit. As I introduce this exercise in my workshops, almost everyone smiles or laughs in that “busted” sort of way, as we do when we know that it’s time to stop looking good and start being honest.


The unspoken question is, “Okay, how dirty are we allowed to get here?” I encourage them-and you-to let it all hang out.

What’s so revealing about this exercise is that no one has any difficulty coming up with at least five ways they limit being happy. In the last course, one person jotted down 22 ways without breaking stride. “I could go on,” she said.

What the “Limiting Happiness” inquiry reveals is a basic dilemma, that is…

…everyone wants happiness, and everyone would like to be happier, and everyone is aware that they limit their own happiness.

The “Limiting Happiness” exercise is designed to help you hold a mirror up to yourself and to take full accountability for the part you play in how much (or how little) happiness you are currently experiencing. You can blame the economy, your kids, the calories, the president, and God all you like, but if you are ever tempted to blame anyone for your lack of happiness you would do well to look in the mirror first. Being accountable for your happiness, or lack of it, is an important step in attracting more happiness.

9 Most Common Ways We Limit Our Own Happiness

So what are the ways we limit our happiness? Honestly, if I wrote them all out now this blog would end up too heavy for you to lift. So, instead, I will give you the digest version. Below are nine excerpts from different people’s “Limiting Happiness” lists. They represent nine popular methods of self-deprivation. Notice if any fit with your own preferred ways.


Happiness-Limiting Habit #1

Self-Criticism. “When I look in the mirror I see a droopy bottom, a spare tire, and Caesarean scars. My two-year-old daughter looks at me and thinks I’m the coolest mom on the planet. I have to believe she is right, but sometimes I just don’t let myself see what she sees.” -Jane, mother of two

Happiness-Limiting Habit #2

Self-Neglect. “When I look in the mirror I struggle to even see myself. The way I limit my happiness is by trying to make everyone else happy first. Inevitably I end up unhappy, and then I usually upset the people I love the most.” -Terry, nurse

Happiness-Limiting Habit #3

Self-Deception. “My whole life I have looked to others for a sense of value and okay-ness. I’m okay if you’re okay with me. I’m great if you think I’m great. I’m a shit, if that’s what you think. I often lose myself in my work and in my relationships.” -Jo, actor

Happiness-Limiting Habit #4

Self-Centeredness. “I’m always looking in the mirror. I need to put the mirror away. I forget that life isn’t all about me. I get caught up in so much petty stuff. I’m hypersensitive. I forget to take myself lightly.” -Chris, actor

Happiness-Limiting Habit #5

Self-Alienated. “I spend a lot of time by myself, but not with myself. I lose myself in stuff. I can’t always name what I really feel or really think. I don’t even feel that real to myself. I guess I should hang out with me more.” -Ross, musician

Happiness-Limiting Habit #6

Self-Doubt. “I’m always anxious, and I don’t handle it well. I even get anxious when I feel happy, and that limits my enjoyment of things. I usually don’t tell people how anxious I am, and that makes it worse.” -Angela, journalist

Happiness-Limiting Habit #7

Self-Exhaustion. “I definitely pursue happiness. My schedule is always packed. I always overcommit. I’m always ahead of myself. I forget to stop. I’m always on to the next thing.” -Dan, restaurateur

Happiness-Limiting Habit #8

Self-Control. “I build walls around myself. I call them invisible walls, but everyone tells me that they can see them. I’m way too self-controlled. I’m way too independent. I don’t like vulnerability.” -Tom, entrepreneur

Happiness-Limiting Habit #9

Self-Negating. “When I’m low, it’s like I wipe myself out. I edit myself. I make myself invisible. I forget to participate. And it’s like I’m not even in my own life.” -Mike, accountant

What the “Limiting Happiness” inquiry reveals is the need for each of us to treat ourselves with honesty and compassion. Honesty helps you to connect more consciously with your Unconditioned Self and with your natural joy. Compassion helps you to manage your relationship with your self-image, which is potentially the most difficult relationship in your life. When you treat yourself better, your life gets better.


Excerpted from my book, Be Happy



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