An excerpt from Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life! by Deborah Jane Wells (Hay House/Balboa Press 2013)
When you fall in love with yourself, everything else falls into place, personally and professionally. When love transforms your relationship with yourself, it transforms your personal life, your work, and the world.
When your birth includes a near-death experience, you know you are in for a wild ride. A 55 year roller coaster of triumph and burnout led to finding my life purpose more than five decades later. Mine is a story of hope. Yours can be too.
My birth in 1954 as an “Rh factor” baby required a complete blood exchange to save my life. Instead of perceiving my survival as a blessing and a gift, early on I concluded that I had to pack each day with output because I was, after all, operating on borrowed time and someone else’s blood. My response to a gift of grace was a lifelong marathon of trying to prove myself worthy through productivity.
Prove myself I did! Having earned a full academic scholarship to college, I graduated summa cum laude in just three years and began my professional career as an organization transformation consultant. I made partner in my first firm at the age of 30 and went on to serve as a senior partner in four of the world’s largest and most prestigious global professional services firms.
I had some wonderful times in that 30 year career. Coached, taught, and encouraged clients and colleagues to claim their personal power and step into their greatness. But 51 years of the “hamster wheel” approach to life, with little regard for my personal health and welfare, finally took their toll. A poster child for professional burnout—exhausted, morbidly obese and clinically depressed—in 2005, I took a five-year sabbatical to find healing and peace.
In 2008 and 2009, I hit bottom. I lost three loved ones in five weeks and found myself living alone for the first time in my life when my husband of 17 years took an important assignment in Washington, D.C. That “alone time” became a crucible in which I transformed myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Prolonged isolation gave me the opportunity to work on the relationship I had neglected my entire life—the relationship with myself. Stripped of my habitual pattern of avoiding my own needs and feelings by focusing on caring for others, I finally understood that loving and taking care of myself is one of the greatest gifts I can ever give myself or anyone else, because when I nurture and cherish myself, my very presence encourages and supports others. When I’m not taking care of myself, I’m not able to give my best to anyone or anything. I may put on a good show, but it will be a pale imitation of the real thing.
When my husband headed off to Washington DC in 2009, I spent the first four months hating being alone and bemoaning all the things I didn’t like about my life. Then one day, in a rare moment of clarity, I received a Divine download: “You can spend the next year making yourself miserable over all the things you can’t control, or you can see this as an opportunity. Is there anything that’s completely within your control and, if you achieved it in the next year, would plant joy firmly in your soul no matter what your other circumstances might be?” My response? “I have got to lose this weight.” The most incredible journey of my life began in that simple moment of grace.
My journey to wholeness started with regaining a sense of control over my physical care—what I ate and how I exercised. Losing eighty pounds—and keeping it off—is the part of the story that many people respect and even envy. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. If all I accomplished were to change my body through healthy eating and exercise, I would have stopped far short of the wholeness I was seeking.
I had my next life-transforming realization forty pounds into my eighty-pound weight loss―high on healthy fuel, cardio-induced beta-endorphins, and the thrill of, once again, being able to do something I set my mind to. While a healthy diet and significant daily exercise were necessary factors, they were only the price of admission to attaining the life of deep peace, lasting joy, and meaningful relationships I desired.
Once I understood that excess physical weight is often just a symbol for excess spiritual weight, I realized finding wholeness is not primarily about losing body fat. It involves caring enough about myself to create an environment in which I nurture and cherish all aspects of myself.
With this realization, the universe tapped me on the shoulder once again: “The key to living a life you love is to feed all of your senses in a balanced way, so no one sense will take over, trying to fill voids it can never hope to fill.” Sensory balance doesn’t just apply to the five outer senses through which we celebrate our external world but also to the four inner senses of creativity, vitality, spirituality, and belonging, through which we imbue our experience with meaning.
As one who suffered anorexia at age 19 and obesity at age 50, I believe both have their roots in an unhealthy relationship with food—trying to use food to fill un-food needs. For me, both were ways of coping with anxiety—misguided attempts to feel safe by creating the illusion of control over a life spinning madly out of control.
The major reason many of us can’t sustain the positive results of diet and exercise is that most programs do not get to the root issue—an imbalance in the care and feeding of our souls. I learned to pay attention to how I am feeding all of my senses—content and frequency—and whether each is being starved, smothered, or healthily sustained. While my weight loss certainly involved more mindful and nutritious eating as well as regular exercise, the degree of success and ability to sustain a healthier, happier, more harmonious lifestyle was much more dependent on balanced feeding of all nine senses.
As I lived my new commitment to loving myself, I discovered that my sense of equanimity and fulfillment were greatest when I fueled my core energy in constructive and loving ways—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But as I worked more deeply with the concept of love, I found the term to be nebulous, tricky, and easy to misunderstand. With experience, I was able to increase the clarity of my intention to love myself by adding the attributes of respect, curiosity, compassion, and gratitude. I discovered the following:
Approaching myself and my life—every being, encounter, and experience—with love, respect, curiosity, and compassion always reveals and advances the highest good. Moment by moment, I know where, how, and when to invest my energy to move myself forward on my Journey to Wholeness.
Maintaining a belief in abundance and an attitude of gratitude anchors each moment in a sense of generous, effortless, gracious flow—a life of freedom centered in being, not doing, filled with faith, hope, prosperity, peace, and joy.
Most surprising, important, and delightful of all, when I fall in love with myself again and again, everything else in my life really does just fall into place.
Where did these insights take me? Over a period of two years, I shifted from taking good care of myself to falling in love with myself. When I fell in love with myself, everything else in my life finally fell into place. No longer a hamster trapped on a wheel but a vibrant, joyful, fully engaged woman. I said good-bye to obesity, along with a ten-year bout of debilitating chronic depression, and said hello to a fulfilling life guiding others on their journeys to wholeness.
I discovered my purpose gradually by committing myself to unwaveringself-awareness grounded in cherishing myself unconditionally. The journey that began with transforming my own life shifted naturally into meaningful work as a life coach and Reiki master, through which I help others discover that health, peace, and joy are possible for them as well. If it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone. If any of us is worthy of such a life, we all are.
I close this chapter of my story where I began: mine is a story of hope; yours can be too. Fall in love with yourself and live the life you dream of. You are worth the effort.
When you fall in love with yourself,
everything else finally falls into place,
with beauty, power, and grace.
When you release the illusion of fear
and embrace the truth of love,
you will know in each moment
who you are and Whose you are.
That, my dear friends,
is more than enough.
It is everything.
―Deborah Jane Wells
If you enjoyed this post and would appreciate other valuable tools and insights to support your personal Journey to Wholeness, click here to sign up for FREE download access to additional articles based on my book, Choose Your Energy: Change Your Life (Hay House/Balboa Press 2013):
- Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: My Journey to Wholeness
- Suffering From Burnout? Love Is The Cure!
- What’s Love Got To Do With Business?
- My Five-Part Mindset For Living In Flow
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Found Out What It Means To Me
- Changes in Gratitude: Changes in Attitude
- Tools For Fostering Flow