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You find out your commute is longer than you thought, or the supervisor who hired you left the company. The baby may be colicky, or your two-year-old may be sulking that she now has to share the attention. Things can go from high to hard pretty quickly. As we discussed before, in your own growth, things might even feel worse before they feel better. As you've let off the brakes and allowed feelings in, they can arrive with such force that you'll have to steady yourself or reach out for help. Think about how long you've been covering up--feeling angry and suppressing it, feeling sad and getting even busier, or not feeling at all, ever. You may even question why in the world you picked up this book, wondering what it would be like to forget all of this and go back to your perfect-looking persona. Lonely but perfect looking. Depressed but perfect looking. You can be overwhelmed by feelings that you've never had to handle before. The first few times you do, you may feel even darker than ever. You have encountered hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people in your life who have had an impact, yet research has shown that there are as few as five truly pivotal people who have left indelible impressions on your concept of self and, therefore, the life you live. Our goal in this chapter is to identify and examine these people and their roles in your life. Every person who has ever lived, you included, has a short list of these pivotal people. Once acknowledged, once identified as the source of such powerful impact, the effects that these people have had on you can be dealth with, but not until you get real about the role they have played in your life. It is also the case that the pivotal people in your life can be those who give you words of encouragement at critical times, who open up opportunities you didn't know existed, who unravel for you a problem you thought had no solution. They can be people who step up at critical times with great acts of courage and support or can in a thousand humble, simple ways demonstrate their love and concern for you. Sometimes they are the people who recognize in you a particular talent and inspire you to develop it. They may even be people you don't know very well but whom you watch from a distance, and the way they live their lives challenges you to live yours with the same qualities. They can be people who love you when you are not very lovable.

Identifying and naming our stress empowers us. The hardest part is when we are thinking or acting out of stress and don't acknowledge it, or when we are not attuned to what is actually stressing us out and forge ahead without any self-awareness. Simply taking a look at our lives in the present moment and saying or writing down for ourselves. Once our stressors are flood-lit and named, they can become far less scary, abstract or amorphous. At this powerful point we can work with our stress, tending to ourselves with self-soothing, self-sustaining acts of self-care. When we feel our stress levels rising we are immediately called to choose a personalised remedy with love. Do we need some fresh air or a few long, deep breaths? Do we need a tall glass of fresh water or a soothing cup of herbal tea? Do we need to talk to a good friend or confidant? Do we need to stop ruminating and pour our focus into a crossword, some dance steps or a creative project? Do we need to have an early night, enjoy some yoga or have a massage? Do we need to have a laugh or practise a little mindfulness? With so many options at hand to soothe and comfort ourselves moment to moment, we needn't feel helpless in the face of stress. We can choose from a joyous list of relaxing options that soothe, balance and refresh us. We are all works in progress, learning every day. Learning to see stress for what it is helps empower us to take it out of the darkness and into the light for healing and transformation. It is wonderful to note that the better we become at following our bliss, delighting our senses and embracing our sparkles, the more resilient to stress we naturally become. When we love and approve of ourselves, others' opinions of us become just that: opinions, not definitions. When we each nourish and nurture our own sparkles, others' shines cannot take away from our own, nor can our shine threaten others. When we take the time to know our spirits, we can make decisions in support of our ongoing health and happiness.

By nurturing our happiness we're already going a great way towards managing, reducing and transforming any challenges we may meet in this life. What do Olympic athletes, Fortune 500 businesspeople, and world-class musicians have in common? Invariably, lofty expectations are the common denominator. Star performers set the bar high. Hard work, discipline, and persistence are traits associated with achievement, but what really sets the best apart is that champions and luminaries expect the most from themselves. In other words, self-expectations are the impetus for success. Expectations take many forms. Some expectations are imposed by others. For instance, parents expect their children to behave, get good grades, and ultimately take responsibility for their lives. Other expectations are internal. For example, many people have goals that come from deep within: the aspiration to excel at a sport, write a book, or achieve a professional outcome. Still other expectations are implicit, like the expectations associated with social roles or responsibilities (e.g., jobs, or institutions such as marriage). Expectations pervade our lives. There are expectations governing handicapped parking spaces (only people with special permits will use them), marriage (partners will be faithful), and sporting events (referees and umpires will be neutral). Both individuals and society depend on expectations to provide structure and order; without them, chaos would reign. Expectations abound in relationships (both familial and romantic) and in just about every sphere of society, including the workplace, education, sport, religion, and the law. I let others do the thinking for me. Most of us are like that. For example, I thought I would never have to worry about having a job if I got my college degree. I honestly believed that until I was about 26 years old.

I figured out the hard way that nothing is guaranteed in life and that you have to work hard to earn money. And that making money has nothing to do with your degrees. If I had to pick another predictor of career success I would say it's skills. The better you are at something, the more value you can provide to others, and the more money people are willing to pay in exchange for your value. Also, achieving a goal never happens linearly. Most of us believe there's a straight line from where you are to where you want to be. Let's say your goal is to start a business so you can have more freedom in your life. That was always my goal. I thought I would just work on it until I achieved it. But that's not how it worked out. I had to take a lot of detours. I worked for many other people in between. I also started businesses that failed. Understanding that life is not linear helps us to change the way we think. Along the way, I got discouraged a lot and almost quit. Now, I realize that things often don't go according to plan. That helps me to think of backup plans or alternative options to get closer to my goals. One of those feelings that can "feel worse" may be a deep grief. Grief that you were hidden for so long. Grief about opportunities not taken because of your perfectly hidden depression.

Grief about the circumstances or the trauma that led to the creation of your perfectly hidden depression. This is a normal part of any healing process. As you recognize and gain new information about what it's like to live your life differently, you can get angry or sad that you were needlessly hidden for so long. You may have to mourn both what was and what was not. That's when your own self-compassion plays a role. It wasn't needless at the time. It served its own purpose. I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has looked at me with anger or despair, sadness or sarcasm, and said, "So why is it that I couldn't have figured this out before? Why couldn't I know then what I know now?" Because you can't. That's why. Because it takes living life one day at a time to gain the experience, wisdom, and courage needed to recognize and heal your own vulnerabilities. Again, your goal is self-acceptance. And that self-acceptance includes what you may now wish you'd known earlier. Pivotal people can be found in unexpected places and in unexpected stages of your life. They may be people whose influence is connected to the authority they exercised, in a caring and responsible way, during your growing-up years. On the other hand, they may include someone you encountered today. The influence they've had in your life may be the result of years of steady guidance, day in and day out--or it may be the result of a single act that they themselves would be unlikely even to recognize. Perhaps they entered your life only for a short time before moving on, yet you still carry, today, the effects of that encounter. Perhaps predictably, I've observed that successful people--meaning those whose lives are peaceful, well balanced, and satisfying--tend to identify more heroes or role models among their five pivotal people. By contrast, people who live with pain in their lives tend to single out those whose influence was just as significant, just as dramatic, but who were their tormentors.