Why is it that, despite everything you do, it feels like you’re still not good enough? Because at the core of the Old Happy worldview is the message that no matter how hard you try, you are always lacking something. Deep down, you’re flawed, broken, and bad.


The first worldview question is: Who am I?

Old Happy’s answer: You are lacking something.

Every week, I host a virtual check-in for the New Happy community, during which people share what they need help with. After years of these weekly check-ins, and reading tens of thousands of messages, I have learned a lot about what people struggle with.

There is one thing that appears in these check-ins, again and again and again:

“I’m not good enough.” “When will I feel worthy?”

“I feel like there’s something wrong with me.”

Perhaps you have wondered, “Am I the only one who feels like I’m not good enough?” I promise you, you are not alone. In fact, this belief that we’re lacking seems to be one that we all share. It’s also a belief that compels us to treat ourselves terribly. 

We have been taught by Old Happy to hate ourselves for our humanity and to punish ourselves accordingly. While self-hatred might sound dramatic, how often do you treat yourself like an enemy or an adversary? Look through your own self-talk for the evidence. It likely sounds something like this:

“You idiot.”

“What’s wrong with you?” “You never do anything right!” “If only you were different . . .”

This voice in your head—the one that keeps telling you that you are not good enough—that’s not really you. It’s the result of growing up in a culture that told you that no matter what you do, you are not enough. That’s why unwinding Old Happy starts with learning a new way to relate to yourself—with unconditional self-acceptance, knowing that you are worthy exactly as you are.


Old Happy has convinced you that your worth is based not just on your performance, but on constantly achieving more and more. It also has convinced you to perpetuate this idea by grading yourself constantly in your progress toward this inhumane goal.

Have you ever noticed how often you do this?

“That was a mediocre presentation.” “I’d give myself a C on that project.” “At least I did better than Jake did.”

Grading ourselves against an external standard is a behavior that Old Happy socialized us into a long time ago. Along the way, we also learned to use that grading system to define our value as people.

We rate ourselves and then we use that rating to judge whether we are good or bad. (Spoiler alert: we’re always bad.) These leaps happen really quickly. It may sound like this:

“I forgot Bryan’s birthday—I’m such a bad person.”

“I can’t believe I snapped at Sarah—I’m a terrible parent.”

“I should have caught the mistake in the report—I knew I wasn’t good enough for this job.”

Your performance does not have anything to do with your worth. The two are unrelated. Every time you grade yourself, you are reinforcing Old Happy, sending yourself the message that you are not doing enough, you do not have enough, you are not good enough.

The next time you catch yourself beating yourself up, try this tool. I call it “the Breakup,” and it helps you disconnect your performance from your self-worth.

Take the following thought:

“I forgot Bryan’s birthday—I’m such a bad person.”

Next, break it up into two sentences:

“I forgot Bryan’s birthday. I’m such a bad person.”

The first sentence is a fact. The second is an Old Happy lie.

Drop the second sentence, and replace it with a recognition that you are still worthy, no matter what you do:

“I forgot Bryan’s birthday. I’m still worthy as a person.”

This method was proposed in the 1950s by psychologist Albert Ellis, who invented the first form of cognitive behavioral therapy. He argued that using one event or behavior to evaluate your entire self-worth is not only completely illogical, but also the source of our suffering. His solution: unconditional self-acceptance. Accept yourself no matter what, even if you wish you had done better or behaved differently.

Here are a few other ways you can use this approach:

“I made a mistake on that report. I know my worth isn’t based upon my performance.”

“I hurt Melissa with that comment. I recognize I’m a good person who made a mistake.”

“I couldn’t get everything done today. I tried my best, though.”

You might be thinking, “Is this just letting myself off the hook?” In fact, it’s the opposite.

When you haven’t done the Breakup, a mistake or a struggle can feel extremely threatening to your sense of self because it feels like the mistake dictates your self-worth. Think back to a time when you felt that your self-worth was on the line. How did you behave? I know my impulse: feel defensive, lash out, judge. Trying to prove that we are good enough usually turns into trying to prove how superior we are. On the other hand, when you accept yourself no matter what happens, it helps quiet this impulse.

Excerpted from New Happy: Why We Got Happiness So Wrong & How You Can Get It Right by Stephanie Harrison with permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Stephanie Harrison, 2024.


  • Stephanie Harrison is the creator of the New Happy philosophy. Her work has been featured in publications such as CNBC, Fast CompanyForbes, and Harvard Business Review. She is the founder of The New Happy, a company helping individuals, companies, and communities apply this philosophy in their lives. The New Happy’s art, newsletter, podcast, and programs reach millions of people around the world.