For as happy and bubbly of a person as I am, I have an odd and strained relationship with joy. It’s okay if I am creating it for others, or basking in it with others–especially when I am basking in it for others. However joy for the pure sake of joy? For purely my own sake? Instant guilt. I shut that idea down immediately. I cannot even help it. It is such an automatic reaction. This is when I know that it is a defense strategy. Something about being happy feels unsafe.

I began to ask myself, "Why would I feel guilt around joy?" That does not make sense.

Whenever there is a disconnect like that, it usually points me towards deeper inquiry. What is going on with this guilt? Where is it coming from? What is it trying to tell me? What is it trying to protect me from? I get compassionately curious. I don’t beat myself up for feeling guilty, but I sure want to know, "What is underneath this?"

When I dove into the topic of guilt and joy, I discovered the belief that I can’t be happy, because if I am, I won’t be able to be there for others who need me. I can’t be selfish and focus on my own life and needs. Others have more pressing, dire, important needs than my own. This belief thought it was protecting me AND others. I can see why it was holding on for dear life when it came to the guilt tactic. However, that strategy was no longer needed. Because, while it might have been helpful or true once upon a time, that belief is no longer valid.

Me being joyful fills my cup and allows me to be there for others in fuller, richer and more energized ways. Me depriving myself of joy leaves me haggard, resentful, and tired. Who wants to be around that? I know I don’t! My joy could inspire other people’s joy.

Sometimes I find myself wanting to fake joy, just to try to create this reaction in other people, but then I remember, that doesn't work either. See how sneaky that survivor self is? Masquerading as joy to meet other’s needs so that I don’t have to feel guilty and can rest knowing everyone is safe. It is sophisticated that part of us. However when we can recognize that it is merely a protection, we can release it, knowing our solid, healthy, knowing self can handle it. It also knows that joy is a way to handle things with so much more grace, love, and stamina.

Since I have been giving myself more permission to both BE joyful, and SAVOR being joyful, I have noticed the energy of a room change as soon as I enter. It is fascinating to see the visceral spark that joy is and the ripple of happiness it creates in everything surrounding it.

My invitation for you is to get compassionately curious around what your strategies are around joy. Once you are clear, you can focus on what needs reassurance within you. It's okay to feel safe to allow in the goodness. That is the practice of joy – both giving and receiving the goodness that lives all around us.

To letting in the good,


Natalie Vartanian is a Staff Leader, Small Group Facilitator, and Enrollment Specialist for COR. In her own work, she is a Love & Relationships Coach. You can learn more about her on our website at