Given a choice, would you choose differently? Do you even know what you would choose if you had an option? Are you in touch with this authentic self? Do you "get" what "it" is, or is this just a bunch of psychological talk? Wouldn't it be tragic if a very different, vibrant you was buried under a pile of worldly to-do lists, and you were mindlessly accepting the world's expectancies? There is an authentic self within you. Maybe you are living a life that reflects that authentic self, and maybe you aren't. Maybe it is buried. Interesting question, don't you think? So, what is this authentic self I keep talking about? The authentic self is the you that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you that is not defined by your job, or your function, or your role. It is the composite of all your unique gifts, skills, abilities, interests, talents, insights, and wisdom. It is all of your strengths and values that are uniquely yours and need expression, versus what you have been programmed to believe that you are "supposed" to be and do. It is the you that flourished, unself-consciously, in those times in your life when you felt happiest and most fulfilled. It is the you that existed before and remains when life's pain, experiences, and expectancies are stripped away. It is the you that existed before you were scarred by your parents' divorce or wounded when that cute boy in school made fun of your braces or your dress. It is the you that existed before your spouse demeaned you in argument after argument, while you just took it for fear of being left. It is the you that existed before you were in fact left abandoned by your spouse or even your children. It is the you that wants to require you to be more than you are, that doesn't even know what it is to settle or sell out.

Let me stress again: perfectly hidden depression isn't a diagnosis. It's not a mental disorder. It's a term I've created to describe a syndrome (a set of behaviors) that can mask true depression. It's not a term found in any psychiatric or psychological textbooks. Yet many people have asked, "Where can I go to get help for perfectly hidden depression? If I tell my doctor I have PHD, will they treat me for it?" The answer is likely no--not because practitioners don't understand the complexities of depression but because those experiencing PHD may not offer the familiar or expected answers that those with a more classic depression might give. They may pick up on your perfectionisim, but unless you fully explain, "I'm not what I seem to be," then your depression could easily be missed. As children, we're born into a country, a region, a culture, and a family. These factors shape our parents' view of life and thus our own. Children are loved on a spectrum of very well to very poorly. If we're lucky, both parents are mature, giving, and stable people. But you may not have been so lucky. Whatever their situation, all children do what they can to survive emotionally. That may sound dramatic to you. It may not be actual physical survival that's at stake (although in the most horrific families or environments this could be true). It's emotional survival. Given what was yours to face, you came up with a strategy for coping. Siblings, reared in the same home, can adapt differently. One may rebel. One may try to please or make people laugh.

One may work to fix the situation, and another may become invisible. Find a room in your house where you can stand in front of a mirror for fifteen minutes without being interrupted. Take off your clothes or leave on only your underwear and slowly look at your body as if you're seeing it for the very first time. Take a look at each body part in a loving and kind way. Look at your face and pay special attention to the parts of your face that you find the most attractive. Focus on these parts and admire them. Then look at the upper part of your body, including your arms, neck, and chest. Which parts of your upper body do you like? Focus on these parts and admire them. Now look at the middle section of your body, including your stomach, thighs, and buttocks. What do you like most about the middle section of your body? Focus on these things and admire them. Finally, look at the lower section of your body, including your legs, knees, and feet. What body parts do you like from the lower section of your body? Focus on them and admire their beauty. When asked, many centenarians (people living to over one hundred years of age) are very much in touch with their inner sparkles. More often than not, our thriving elders express a progressive, cheeky and untouchable youthfulness about them, a spiritual vitality that keeps them active, robust and alive. This unique essence of us, our spirit, is a defining energy we all possess and it shapes our lives as we know them. In my eyes, our spirit, our inner sparkle', is the dwelling place of our consciousness. <a href=''>Indeed,</a> the wordsinner sparkle', spirit',soul' and `consciousness' appear interchangeably throughout this book, as to me they are one and the same.

It is wonderful to realise that as children we are effortlessly aware of our spirits. We are playful, expressive and freely creative. We have imaginary friends and imaginary worlds. Fairies throw tea parties at the bottom of our gardens. Colours and textures are fascinating. Words, sounds and patterns are mesmerising. Mess is delicious, and life is perfectly imperfect. While as adults it might be unrealistic to maintain certain traits or pastimes from our childhoods, it is absolutely essential that we live with a sense of magic in life; that we make it a habit to delight our senses and enliven our spirits every day. This joyous commitment to life makes for colourful, compelling and enchanting days, invigorated by spontaneity and enriched with pleasure. You do it without giving it any conscious thought. It is a process attributed in function to our autonomic nervous system the majority of the time. A process without conscious thought that is, until you have a cold, are doing something exertive, or maybe being particularly proactive with as detailed an act as pranayama (which has been applied in the East for hundreds of years). It is arguably the most critical thing that you do to maintain your survival. Academics usually talk about survival in terms of models such as the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. The typical quoted priority needs are food, sex, warmth, water, shelter and sleep. I remember being bored with attending management courses where the variation of the following survival scenario is presented to everyone: a plane crashes, and you must prioritise the items you need to survive. I never saw air on the list. It must have been assumed we would continue to breathe. Do you know, in vivid detail, who that authentic you is? If the answer is no, vital life energy is being wasted and you are living a compromised existence that cheats you out of a chance to be truly happy and at peace.

Did you at one time listen carefully to that voice? Do you suspect that somehow, somewhere along the way, you have lost contact with it? If so, you must once again find that voice and heed its message, rather than having an ear only for the voice of the world and all those within it who seek to control you. Is your behavioral life, your public persona, at odds with the values, beliefs, desires, passions, and visions that define your authentic self? If so, you have given up control and are living a life defined from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. You didn't recognize your own strategy as a strategy. It simply became you. People may have said about you, "Oh, that's just Jason. He stays out of the way." Or, "You can always count on Gail." Underneath the obvious, superficial behavior was an unconscious strategy, and it's likely to greatly affect you now in the way you approach your life. So, perfectly hidden depression may not be easy to see in yourself. For many, it's not. Even if someone, such as your partner, points out how you didn't cry when your friend died, or how you seem more and more uptight about how the kids are doing in school, or how you're constantly busy--none of that sinks in. You say, again, "I'm fine. Really. It's all good." Try to notice the beauty of different parts of your body the same way that you would focus on a loved one's body: shapely buttocks, full breasts, curvy hips, plump lips, and so on. Remind yourself that it's not only okay but motivating to appreciate your body as it is, even when you are in the process of trying to lose weight. Learning to highlight and appreciate your strengths can make it easier to accept and work on your weaknesses. Still, changing your thinking won't be easy. The following exercise can help you gradually break some bad habits and transform how you see your body. Here's how it works: Using the worksheet below (or your journal), write down a healthy body image goal you have for yourself.