Look at that face! If that's not the picture of joy, I don't know what is. This face says, "I have a full belly, a dry bottom, and my Mommy is singing a happy song to me. Life is good."
When we're babies, joy is our natural starting place. We don't look for joy outside of ourselves. We know joy to be a state in which we feel happy, safe, and cared for. We look at the world, not as something to seek approval from, but as a marvelous adventure, a land of magic and exploration, and with each new discovery, we become even more joyful. In this context, it's all about us.
Then we grow up. and we make our joy dependent on people and things outside of ourselves. We seek approval and when we don't get it, we blame others because they have taken our joy away. I am reminded of a story that the late Dr. Wayne Dyer always used to tell. He said that when we were in our mom's tummy, we trusted in our nature to come out with all of our fingers and all of our toes. Then we came forth into the world and society said, "Great job, God, perfect, couldn't be better ... we'll take over from here." Therein lies the end of our trusting in our own nature which is love and joy. Our culture bombards us with messages that tell us if we want to be happy, we have to seek it outside of ourselves. In baby language, we're hungry, we're wet, and nobody is singing us a happy song!
We need to move back to that place of self direction where we choose joy for ourselves, not because someone else says we deserved it, but because we deserve it regardless of anyone or anything outside of ourselves. Joy is our fallback position. Joy is our birthright. Joy is our choice. Even if it means treating ourselves with the same radical self-care that we would shower on a baby. After all, as one very smart man once said, "Who loves you, baby?"
And so it is.