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If it is distorted and fictional, be assured that it will show itself at the worst and most inopportune times, because that self-critical voice is relentlessly whispering in your ear. This personal truth business is a big deal, a huge deal. If you don't get yours straight, it will ruin even the best-laid plans to revitalize your life and everything in it. As we move forward, don't dare cheat yourself with some deluded thinking because you don't have the guts to tell yourself "out loud" what it is that you really believe on the inside. Unless and until you confront your personal truth you will never, ever have a chance to be the person you can be. You, like every other living person, get mixed and faulty messages from the world and from all of your experiences in it. The result is a distortion of your personal truth. Failing to confront that ill-conceived personal truth is a crucial betrayal of you, by you. Let's look at why I say your personal truth is so very important. What this journey will bring is a change in those beliefs. Every good thing has inherent loss within it. You can be ecstatic about your cancer remission and need to grieve what chemo did to you. You can be delighted that your four children are doing well in school and admit that keeping up with homework eats up a lot of time. You can be glad you found a new job and miss some of the perks of your old one. You can learn how to grieve and be grateful all at the same time. A glass is half full and half empty by definition. It's important for you to learn how to connect and disconnect with the feelings from both. If you're a spiritual person, you may struggle with feeling as if you're suffering because your faith is weak. You can become, in your own eyes, a failure as a believer. If this is your situation, I highly recommend that you seek spiritual counsel.

Fortunately, you have the ability to change. In this chapter, you're going to learn to start seeing your body from a new perspective, and if you have a poor body image, you're going to work on improving it. You might even discover that you're actually hanging on to these negative or bad feelings about your body--maybe because you fear you'll lose your motivation to slim down or get in shape if you become more comfortable and accepting of yourself. Or perhaps you've always made light of your weight and body image, insulting and hurting yourself before anyone else can. You might think it's easier when you're the one telling the fat jokes. It could even be that it's just more comfortable for you to live with these negative feelings. Holding on to a poor body image can be soothing, oddly enough--the belief that you're not attractive or not worthy feels familiar and safe. You might even derive a hidden sense of pleasure in living up (or down) to the expectations of overly critical parents or others that have been drilled into your head for years, or that you've heard time and time again from an emotionally abusive spouse. For many people, being fat simply becomes part of who they are. Learning to accept and love yourself requires letting go of this identity and creating a new one for yourself, and that can be very difficult. While we may look very different from one another on the outside and lead unique, separate-looking lives, what we all have in common is our shared aliveness. Our collective human being-ness. It is this spiritual essence within us that we recognise in each other, especially in our kindest, most unguarded and tender moments. Sensing the sublime and timeless connection between ourselves and all others with whom we share our world, we may draw boundless compassion and energy from our shared story. We may open our hearts at last to the meaning, purpose and belonging for which we all inherently yearn. We are deeply creative, imaginative beings, far more powerful and magical than we realise. When we find our heaven within us, we may find it in one another and in our world at large. One by one as we nurture and share our sparkles, we form healing constellations that illuminate our world. In my corporate life, a manager of mine committed suicide. He and his wife were gifted with twin babies.

Shortly after the births, he left a note saying this was the happiest he could ever be, so was leaving. That he could never be as happy again. I struggled with that as many did. Especially his loving wife. Now, after working with many people, with what is totally rational in the depths of depression, I can understand how people arrive at solid decisions like that. Now I'll just confess that about half of the time, I don't even know what the "experts" who talk and write about our lives mean when they throw around words like "self-realization," "inner self," "actualized self," being "centered," and whatever other buzzwords they manufacture to sound smart. A lot of it is beyond me, I'm afraid, way too fancy and convoluted for this ol' country boy. But to my simple way of thinking, who you are in this world, who you become, all boils down to this personal truth, this set of beliefs you have about you. It is so critical because it sets up and defines what I call your self-concept. If your beliefs about you are an authentic reflection of who you truly are, then you will live with a self-concept that empowers you and equips you to be absolutely the most effective and genuine person possible. If not, if there is distortion instead of accuracy, then you will have a limited and fictional self-concept that betrays who you truly are, and one that will cripple you in all of your pursuits. Not good! In your calm space, write out the blessings in your life. You can pick tangible things, intangible things--anything that is a blessing. Please be as specific as you can be. Write out how it's a blessing to you. For example, "Jane is a blessing because she's so funny and makes me laugh." After you've written down as many blessings as you want, go back and ask yourself, What's the underbelly of this blessing? To continue the previous example, it might be, "Sometimes I don't know if I can share something more serious with Jane." This isn't throwing Jane under the bus. What it means is that every blessing has an underbelly. For every gain there's a loss.

Finally, write about what this reflection has pulled up for you emotionally. What beliefs did it challenge? How uncomfortable were you in doing it? This is harder to do than it seems, especially when perfectly hidden depression is entrenched. If it doesn't come easily, that's okay. Challenging beliefs that have been around a long time can be very difficult. You're doing the work, and that's what's important. But accepting and believing that you are worth it, that you do deserve happiness, and that your body is good and beautiful and strong are profound changes that only breed more happiness and confidence. When you feel good about yourself and your body, you'll want to take care of it, feed it healthy foods, exercise, and insist that the world treat you with respect. Feeling strong brings about changes in other areas of your life, too. You'll carry yourself with more confidence, which could help you advance in your career, strengthen your relationship with a significant other, make you a better parent, give you the courage to try new things and experiences--the list is really endless. It is an exciting time to be alive now as, in my eyes, our world is changing. We are looking to exchange tiresome comparison, competition and clutter for meaningful collaboration, connection and compassion. We see that by elevating others, we too sparkle more brightly. Tired of jam-packed agendas, burdensome hurries and worries, we are seeking greater inspiration, spaciousness and happiness in our days. We yearn to touch the kinds of sublime experiences that inspire our curiosity, playfulness and wonder, encouraging us to believe in bliss on earth. We long to experience our lives not as problems to be solved but as soulful, joyous, unfolding adventures; creative journeys through which we awaken, grow and blossom. It cannot be forgotten that we human beings are crafted of ancient stardust and other miracles, and by no mistake either. We are here to find our sparkle. You breathe without a thought.

Until you do. Think about it. Until you take conscious control. Until now. Now that your mind is paying attention to your breathing. Is it fast or slow? How many breaths a minute? Your breathing has control over your emotions. You are getting ahead of yourself. You and I will come back to this later. Understand that you have only one "self," but it is one that, like a chameleon, takes on the emotional colors of the history and environment in which it has existed. Your self-concept moves up and down a continuum anchored on one end by an authentic self-image (who you were created to be), and on the other by a fictional and distorted self-image (who the world has told you to be). Where you are on that continuum depends on what your external experiences in life have been, and what personal truth you have created from observing and interpreting yourself across the years. This personal truth, and the self-concept that flows from it, is the "DNA" of your personality. Know this DNA, and you know your starting place in the journey to reconnect with your life. As we move forward, I intend to show you how, whatever your DNA is, this came to be. I will then lead you to "deconstruct" those elements that are just plain wrong and have not served you well. I will also lead you through the steps necessary to reconstruct your authentic self-concept in a way to insure your success. You appreciate structure. Whether it's within the organization of a corporation or the hierarchy of the PTA, you've been very successful.