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But it is what it is, and at least that makes our job manageable. By answering some very pointed questions, reflecting on the various factors that contribute to your self-concept, and generally conducting a thorough and brutally honest audit of your own life, you will begin to feel a power and a peace that you may not have known for years, if at all. Whatever your current circumstances may be, this is work that you can do. All that it requires is a willing spirit and the desire to see it through. And it is work that you must do. If now is not the time to reconnect with your authentic self, when will there be a better time? This is hard work; I confess that to you up front. At this particular moment in time, you may doubt that you are worth the effort or that it is even possible to really "get right" with you and unlock your true passion, strengths, gifts, and talents. Trust me when I tell you that it is possible and you are worth it. I also want you to realize that whether all of this takes a week, a month, or a year, that precious and limited time is going to pass whether you are doing something about your life or not. Whether we're born with certain gifts or skills or we learn them along the way, we each gather skills or strengths--things we do competently--and carry them around in our psychological toolbox to use when we need them. As an example, perhaps organization comes easily to you; you methodically design your approach and follow through when meeting a deadline. Or perhaps you're someone who waits until that deadline is looming before you get something done; you're most effective in a time crunch. Neither is particularly "better" than the other one. Both can be considered skills. We handle stress through the use of those skills. It becomes the way we function. For example, when a sudden death occurs in the family, some immediately focus on what needs to be done. Others are far more comfortable expressing their grief in the moment. Still others deny any pain at all or even seem angry; this latter group may not have a constructive skill to handle grief.

What's in our psychological toolbox helps us deal with life--both the good and the not so good. Our tools, or skills, develop over time and with practice. And sometimes there are tools missing. Sometimes the criticisms from parents are more subtle. While your mother and father may not have been as blunt as Marie's, they may have still communicated their dissatisfaction with your body or looks by saying things like: "You're not going to eat that whole piece, are you?" or "You know you don't look good in blue; why don't you go change?" or perhaps your parents never said anything--good or bad--about your body. Even still, they had a major effect on your body image; how they felt and talked about their own bodies shaped the way you see yours. If you grew up with a mother who was constantly putting herself down--"I look horrible in a bathing suit" or "I hate my arms"--it's almost inevitable that you'll inherit some of this negative thinking about your own body. Or maybe your mother was always on a diet. The message that sends is that thin is ideal and everything else is unacceptable. Ironically, it could even be that your parents did everything right: They were supportive and encouraging and were healthy role models themselves, but the pressure you put on yourself to live up to their example sent you in the opposite direction. Exploring our inner sparkle awakens us to the wonder of being alive as human beings on planet earth, amid a kaleidoscope of colour and life with all manner of creatures great and small. Indeed, we dwell in an enormous universe where shooting stars dance across the sky and moons circle planets near and far, anchored by glorious suns; in which we coexist with meteorites, black holes, galaxies, dreams, and spirits past, present and future. By astrophysical definition we are made of stars: of stardust, blown into the universe with the same Big Bang with which our universe as we know it came into being. When we acknowledge this incredible truth, we understand that we sparkle by design. Of course, things change. The beliefs I had at 13 in that classroom discussing William Blake are very different from what I believe now. And that is amazing, isn't it? It means the limiting beliefs I held and that you may hold now are not permanent. They are flexible, evolving, and relative to your time now. I have a fundamental value set I follow, and I will share it now.

I believe it is healthy to challenge what is put before us. The A.B.C. It is recorded online as being attributed to many different sources. The police use one version of it. The one I prefer goes all the way back to Vlad the Impaler, a really controversial character who is allegedly the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula. As the saying goes, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." History is a good test of Truth. We are constantly rewriting history. Who knows where it originated? It doesn't really matter. I promise you that at this precise moment next year, your life will be better or worse than it is right now. It will not be the same; the choice to improve it or let it decay is wholly and undeniably yours. I will show you the way. Whether you need a little "polishing up" or feel totally and hopelessly lost, I am coming for you. I need your help and at a minimum your open mind and willing spirit. Let's get busy. NOW, I hate to start off sounding critical, the first rattle out of the box, but if we are going to make a difference in your life, I have to tell you the truth as I see it. As the old saying goes, "You can BS your friends, and I'll BS mine, but let's not BS each other!" What you're about to read is my view of how most people live. When I say "live," I mean their personal, private experience of life, not the image they project. No one will know if I'm right about you but you. I'm not asking that you substitute my judgment for your own, but I am asking that you weigh what I have to say carefully.

I'm also asking that you be totally honest with yourself, even if it is scary to admit certain things about yourself and your life. Remember: You cannot change what you do not acknowledge. Here's how I see it. If your life is like that of most people in this world, and in fact like mine used to be, you may be, whether you know it or not, smooth out of control. It may not look that way to other people, but so much for appearances. We don't care about what others want for you right now; our focus has to be totally on what you want. There will be plenty of time to balance it all later. How do we all learn to compartmentalize? Healthy parents soothe their children, and those children learn that feeling sad or bad is tolerable. We watch those same parents soothe themselves. We learn through their modeling (as well as from other adults) that emotions don't have to govern our lives, that there's a time and a place to express them. Healthy parents teach their kids about feeling pain and working through it a bit at a time. You may have heard some version of the Sukuma proverb, "The wind does not break a tree that bends." Connecting with your strong thoughts, experiences, and emotions that you had to store away for a time is, in essence, bending. You recognize on a very basic level that you can't survive the storm if you're overly rigid. If your coping skills are healthy, you can bend. You can express vulnerability. You can feel all emotions. Your tree won't break. As you remember back to your childhood, also try to think of your friends or classmates and how they treated you; they may have also had a hand in how you feel about your body, as teasing or bullying during adolescence can lead to poor body image. Something as seemingly minor as being picked last for a team in gym class, not being asked to the prom, or being excluded by the popular clique can leave a mark, whether you're aware of it or not.

And traumatic events such as sexual or physical abuse can have a profound and often devastating effect on body image, leaving the victim feeling dirty or ashamed. All of these things form the basis of body image, but as you go through various stages of your life (school, career, marriage, family, and so on), it continues to change and evolve. This can be a good thing. For instance, if you've struggled with your body image as a child, you may have gained a healthier perspective as you grew into adulthood. I often see this with young women after they give birth. They develop a new respect for their body because they've turned their focus to what it can do (carry a baby, birth a baby, breastfeed), not just how it looks. Each and every one of us is part of, not separate from, all of the magic in our universe. We human beings contain all the energy, beauty and creativity of our universe within us. We intuitively know this; we simply forget it most of the time and need to be reminded. We are miraculous gatherings of living, breathing molecules, water and energy. We are inextricably, forever linked to all life, creativity and creation. This notion may sound wild but it is the truth of who we are, biologically and spiritually. The more we connect with the magic that is within us, the more we sparkle. The more humbled and grateful we feel, the more inspired, expansive and alive we become. In my eyes, the most precious and luminous part of ourselves, our inner sparkle, is our wellspring of timeless magic and power. When we find and nourish our inner sparkle, we cannot help but lead wonderful lives. I really do advise you to have a coach or mentor in life, like me, I have a number of them. The reality is, of course, that some people will not be able to afford a coach yet. Find a trusted friend as an alternative. Trust me, this will reward you massively.