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In addition, the memories of your act of kindness can induce positive feelings time and time again. I think a lot of this losing ourselves has happened because our world has sped up to the point of being absolutely, out-of-control insane. It has sped up to the point of so overstimulating us with input from the outside that we can't or don't even hear any voices or messages coming from the inside. We have lost ourselves in the rush of the world. Five hundred TV channels, the Internet, rental videos, two or three jobs all are conspiring to steal ourselves from us. Kids without a minute of unprogrammed time are racing from school to dance, soccer, drama, debate, one activity after another. We are on a merry-go-round spinning too fast for us to hold onto, and too fast for us to jump off of. In response, we "hunker down" and just try to get through it. If somehow you happened to have some quiet, unstructured, undemanded-upon time, you don't use it to focus on or deal with you. Instead, you get nervous; you panic and start looking for something to do or someone to tell you what to do. You're so busy doing stuff you didn't choose and probably wouldn't choose that you don't even think about what you do want, need, and care about anymore. Here's some quick, "litmus test" logic for determining whether you are passively accepting or even choosing behaviors that ignore who you really are, or have been choosing behaviors and life circumstances that naturally flow from your true, authentic self. If you are constantly tired, stressed, emotionally flat, or even depressed, worried, and unhappy, you are ignoring the authentic you and living a "go-through-the-motions" existence. If your life includes things you profess to hate, yet you continue to do them anyway, that, too, indicates self-betrayal. For example, are you always complaining about being overweight, yet you continue to be? Do you fail to exercise, go back to school, change jobs, confront your dead marriage, get a date, get a hobby, or deal with the pain of abuse or neglect that has scarred you from childhood? If so, you can't possibly be living in concert with who you were originally designed to be. If your life is dominated by constant anxiety and worry, but you don't do a damn thing to change it, that, too, is a bad sign. (My dad used to say that "worrying is like rocking in a chair: it's something to do, but you don't get anywhere.") You've been discounting for years whatever hurt or pain happened to you, whether in the past or in the present. You reason, "There are people a lot worse off than me." Why?

Because at some point you learned: If I focus on myself or my needs, I'm being self-centered. If I ask for something I want, I'm being selfish. So what distinguishes self-centeredness from selfishness? Someone who's self-centered finds a way to make everything about them. They might say, "Oh, I'm so sorry that your mom has cancer. That's horrible. Will you still be able to take on that account?" Or, "Wow, congratulations! I'm so happy you're pregnant! It took me four years and so much money for infertility treatment. I wouldn't know what doing it naturally feels like." Does this sound like you? I doubt it seriously. Selfishness is putting your own needs before someone else's most or all of the time. Someone who's selfish rarely thinks of anyone but themselves. They have little to no empathy. What a selfish person desires governs their thoughts and actions. Does this sound like you? You may have told yourself yes. But rationally? Not at all. Two skills you'll need to combat feelings of self-centeredness and selfishness are self-awareness and self-compassion.

Self-awareness is simply keeping in mind your own needs or wants and considering them important. They may not be your top consideration all the time, but they're on your list. And you treat them respectfully. Being self-aware is good self-care. Have you asked yourself why you are so tired? Most people don't get enough sleep; maybe that's the reason. But fatigue is also a classic symptom of depression, something that Ann explored in detail in chapter 2. Mental stress is fatiguing too and can cause insomnia. Could either of these be sapping your energy? Being too tired to exercise is a sign that something is not right, whether it's an emotional issue you're sweeping under the rug, a physical condition that you need to see your doctor about, or an inability to effectively manage your life. If you are overwhelmed, your day packed to the rafters with too many responsibilities, something has got to give. If you can nail down what is making you so tired and then take action to remedy it, you'll be on the road to becoming a regular exerciser. It's quite probable that the same thing that is keeping you from committing to healthy eating and exercise is also what's causing your fatigue. When you remove that factor, it's going to be easier for you to get into physical activity. But I wouldn't wait until then. As you're working out whatever issues you're dealing with, exercise can help give you the energy boost you need to confront anything, from a boss who has you working too many hours, to a spouse who doesn't pull his or her full weight, to the grief of losing someone meaningful to you. If you're tired because you're depressed, physical activity is also going to help lift your mood. If you're drained because you actually have a condition that makes you tired, such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, exercise is still a necessity. In fact, it's one of the best things you can do to improve your symptoms and overall well-being. If your mind has gotten dull and you just aren't as sharp as you used to be, you aren't getting old or dumb; it's just that your authentic self is getting buried.

It's fighting for air. If your emotions are marked by cynicism, apathy, hopelessness, and a lack of optimism, it is because you have abandoned yourself and what matters to you. If you are choosing what you do, what you think about, and put at the top of your priority list based on what you think others expect instead of what matters to you, then you have the "fictional infection." Your authentic self has been infected with a lot of nongenuine living that has ignored who you are and has created a fictional self instead. Ignoring who you truly, authentically are can literally be killing you. Yes, I said "literally." If you are ignoring who you really are, your entire "system" is so distressed that it will wear out, and you will be old beyond your years. Forcing yourself to be someone you are not, or stuffing down who you really are, is incredibly taxing. It will tax you so much that it will shorten your life by years and years. I wonder how many obituaries in the newspaper should actually read something like: Self-compassion is about acknowledging whatever pain or trauma you experienced and recognizing its impact on your life--without drowning in blame or bitterness. Self-compassion doesn't equate with feeling sorry for yourself. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On your way to healing, using this book as your guide, you'll be learning about how self-compassion works--recognizing that anyone going through what you did, learning what you learned, experiencing what you experienced would've been hurt or damaged in some way. That's not becoming a victim. That's not wallowing in blame. That's acknowledgment of your experience. Men especially have been taught that it's unmanly to show tenderness for the self. Both genders learn the same in their families: "Don't cry over spilt milk." "You made your bed, you lie in it." "No one likes a whiner." Whining isn't what we're talking about. It's also critical to realize that you're not always going to feel like exercising. Even the most psychologically and physically healthy people have days when they would just like to drop to the floor and take a nap! Yet many of them also push past the fatigue and get out there on their bikes or into the swimming pool because they know that within five minutes they're going to feel energized. Because, technically, that's what exercise does: It increases the production of hormones that put your body in a hyperalert state.

One woman, a teacher, told me that she found herself practically nodding off in class after lunch. She decided to bring a pair of workout shoes to school and walk briskly three or four times around the school yard after she finished eating lunch. It worked just like a cup of coffee. A few years ago, researchers at Columbia University in New York City and the University of Konstanz in Germany conducted a joint study looking at what helps people stick to exercise. They found that women who filled out a goal-setting worksheet doubled their weekly workout time compared to a similar group of women who did not use the technique. I could go on and on. I just offer these to get you percolating and thinking about things that you might want in your life. If those things are not there, and I'm betting that many of them aren't, I'm going to show you exactly, precisely why and how they have been robbed from you, and exactly, precisely how to restore them to your life. The good news is that the only person we need to fix all of this is you. You don't need your parents, your spouse, your boss, or anyone else, just you. My theory is this is all about you, because you have either passively allowed or actively been jerking yourself around by putting you and what's important to you at the bottom of the priority list. Whether you know it or not, you may very well have sold out. Typically, when we do that, when we sell out, the things we abandon first are the things that matter only to ourselves. Why? Because that way we don't disappoint anyone else and God forbid we do that. Remember, when you put yourself at the bottom of the priority list you are cheating not just yourself, but also everyone around you. What I'm telling you here is that you don't just have a right to find your way back to the authentic and true you; you have a responsibility to do it. We're talking about your entire life here. We're talking about the one shot you get in this world. If you are just so fundamentally self-righteous that you can't justify doing this for yourself, then do it for your kids, do it for your family, and everyone else you love.