The Surprising Side of Shame

surprising-side-shameAn excerpt from “The Beauty Blueprint 8 Steps to Building the Life and Look of Your Dreams” written by Michelle Phillips (Hay House Publishing 2011)

Dealing with your shaming voices from the past will lead to happier, healthier relationships in the present. Researchers have shown a link between shame and negative relationship behaviors such as anger, irritability, indirect hostility, resentment, and a tendency to blame your partner for various things. Dealing with your shame won’t just set you free to love yourself—you can freely and fully love others as well.1

“The Beauty Blueprint”

Exercise: Silencing the Voices

Take out your journal and try to recall all the inner dialogue that ran through your mind as you were creating the parts of your Beauty Blueprint. For each bit of inner dialogue, answer this question: What was the true intent behind the statement? Here’s a story to help you get the gist of what I want you to do. . . .

I was working with a client shortly after her husband left her. After completing her Beauty Blueprint, we went shopping to create a new look to match her new life. After trying on several flattering outfits, however, she looked dejected and stared at the dressing-room floor.

“I have to tell you something,” she said. I braced myself because, by now, I’ve learned that clients who are making bold changes also confront even bigger fears. “I think my stomach looks terrible in all these clothes.”

“What?” I gasped. “You look incredible! You have a great body. Where is this coming from? What is the voice in your head saying exactly?”

“It’s my ex’s voice,” she confessed. “He told me that I was getting fat, and he didn’t want to have sex with me anymore.”

“What was his genuine intention behind that statement?” I asked.

“To hurt me, I guess.”

“So, it wasn’t true, right? He only said it to upset you. Do you see the difference?”

She nodded, and relief washed over her face. The inner voice that had damaged her so deeply wasn’t true, and now she saw it for what is was: a lie.

She stood up straighter and smiled, and I knew she was on her way to becoming a free woman.

Now it’s your turn to do this exercise so that you can finally be free of any shaming voices that hold you back. And even if the original intention was positive—as a way to protect you, for instance—the result may still be the same. This exercise enables you to observe this dialogue for what it truly is and no longer allow it to control you.

Learning to Forgive

Once you start identifying and disarming your shaming voices, you need to go one step further. If you’ve been hurt or have suffered, you need to forgive the people who planted those voices in your mind. Freedom comes with forgiveness. However, this doesn’t require you to speak to certain individuals or open the door to old relationships. Forgiveness is simply a decision you make to let go of the past. This is for you, not anyone else.

Exercise: Write Your Letter

Any lingering negative feelings from the past are often signs that you need to forgive someone or something. If you’re always replaying hurtful words or painful situations in your mind, you need to identify someone or something to forgive.

You can do so by writing a letter that will never actually be mailed. (You can write as many as you need to!) So grab a pen and paper, and pour your heart out. Tell the person exactly what he or she did and how it hurt you. Was it a hurtful word, deed, or a cruel tone that you remember most? Don’t try to justify or minimize it. How did that person’s words or actions impact you then, and how do they impact you now?

One of the letters I wrote went something like this:

I forgive you for being so cruel and degrading in your words, and hateful in your tone. I felt abused and unloved, and sometimes I still hear those words in my head today. But I am ready to be free.

Next, write down your decision to forgive and let go. For example: “I release the pain I once felt, I release you, and I send you a blessing of love and light.” It’s not enough to simply forgive. I believe you must also make an offering of love. Forgiveness releases, but love heals.

Now you’re going to burn your letter. (Some people prefer to tie their letters to balloons and release them into the sky.) The reason you don’t mail your letter is because going back to the offender can sometimes stir up more chaos and hurt. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t require a confrontation or conversation; you’re not condoning what happened. Forgiveness is something that happens inside you.

So, over the stove, on the backyard grill, or in your fireplace . . . just let it burn. As the smoke rises, ask that this person be blessed and find peace. Visualize your forgiveness extending into the sky and beyond. What is forgiven is finished. Those voices, once dealt with and forgiven, can no longer hurt you or hold you back.

“The Beauty Blueprint”

How To Create Your Own Signature Style

how-create-your-own-signature-styleEvery woman wants to wear clothes that make her feel amazing, but in my job as a celebrity stylist, I know that creating that perfect look requires much more than just clothes. It takes deliberate choices about who my client is, and who she wants to be. I don’t just choose clothes that flatter her figure, either. While that is incredibly important, a stylist knows that to truly flatter a woman, clothes must capture something of the woman’s essence. Style is all about spirit: who you are, who you aspire to become, and what inspires you each and every day.

So while I can’t go shopping with you (though I’d love to!) I want to share a few of my favorite style strategies from my best-selling book, THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT. I want you to learn what your own signature style is, and then embrace it!

Find Images That Appeal to You

First, go collect all the old magazines in your house. You can also grab some clothing catalogs or even go to online stores or designers’ websites. (I love the Chico’s website, for example.) Your first assignment is to look for hairstyles, accessories, and outfits you love, and then cut (or print) them out. Whenever you see an image or photo that immediately “pops”—one that appeals to you in a real and powerful way—grab it!

“But what if I’d never wear that?” some of my clients ask when we do this exercise together. “I love the look in this picture, but I couldn’t pull it off.”

Cut it out anyway! That’s all you have to do. This is an exercise—not a commitment to buy. I just want you to collect whatever inspires you regardless of whether or not you’d ever wear a certain outfit or copy a hairstyle. Fashion isn’t always meant to go straight from the photo to the street. Fashion is an art form, with each designer expressing a unique idea.

I’ve been backstage at the world-famous Fashion Week in New York City. I’ve stood next to the teeny-tiny models and the absolutely outrageous designs they wear. And you know what? I loved every minute of it, even though I would never wear many of the fashions myself. I understand the mission of those wild, over-the-top ensembles: all that creativity, the total fearlessness of the designer, inspires the rest of us. The excitement of innovative ideas and cutting-edge styles flood the market, and it enables everyone to interpret their own style in fresh new ways.

Fashion and design is all about experimenting with textures, colors, fabrics, patterns, and styles. Good designers find new ways to express what makes women like us feel beautiful. That’s what you’re doing in this exercise. You’ve become your own designer! You have identified images that moved you or piqued your interest, evoking powerful, pleasant emotions. In fact, that’s how I want you to feel every morning when you get dressed.

I want you to collect these images so you can see very clearly what most inspires you. I am helping you, through this exercise, to understand that style is about more than just the clothes. So many times, we confuse the excitement of a sale with inspiration!

Embrace What You Love About Your Body

I want you to embrace your body just as it is today. What is it about your figure that you really like? Your hourglass shape? Your strong legs? Your toned arms? Your graceful neck? Write down your best features. Can you come up with at least three? I hope so, because I know you have them. You need to know that, too. When you begin picking clothes, it will be important to know what physical features you want to accentuate.

My number one rule with all my clients is to accentuate the positive. Even celebrities struggle with this concept. We live in a world that harps on our figure “flaws” instead of celebrating what makes each woman unique. Creating your own special signature style will keep the emphasis on what makes you unique, and uniquely beautiful.

Identify Your Style Key Words

Next, what is in your heart and spirit that you’d really love to express to the world? I call those your “style key words.” To better understand this idea, let me share a story. . . .

I once had a client who would only wear black clothes and red lipstick. She interpreted this look as “dramatic creativity,” and those words made her feel beautiful. (Did I mention she was an artist?) This woman judged all fashion and style choices by this standard, until she realized that it was actually restricting her creativity instead of enhancing it.

Together, she and I hunted for photos of clothing styles and makeup looks that appealed to her, and she chose some wild stuff—including, to her surprise, ensembles that weren’t all black. Doing this exercise gave her the freedom to fully discover her sense of style. She still loved the notion of “dramatic creativity,” but now it could be expressed in many different ways. In the past, she would have skipped aisles of clothes that didn’t prominently feature black tops and bottoms. Now, she had a clear idea on how to incorporate new pieces into her wardrobe to freshen up her look without losing her identity.

Knowing what images appeal to you, and matching them to your style key words, will give you a beauty breakthrough. So what are your style key words? Read through the following list, and in your journal, jot down the names of those that appeal to you. When you’re finished, narrow your list down to your top five.

Style Key Words

  • Accessorized
  • African
  • All-American
  • Animal prints
  • Artistic
  • Asian
  • Bold primary colors
  • Casual elegance
  • Classic, timeless
  • Clean lines
  • Comfortable
  • Contemporary
  • Delicate
  • Detailed
  • Dramatic
  • Earthy
  • Edgy
  • Effortless
  • Embellished
  • European
  • Exotic
  • Feminine
  • Flirty and fun
  • Functional
  • Jewel-toned
  • Lace and ruffles
  • Latin
  • Lean
  • Leisure wear
  • Lightweight
  • Luxurious
  • Minimalist
  • Modern
  • Neutrals
  • Outdoor adventure
  • Romantic
  • Sexy
  • Sleek and chic
  • Soft
  • Sophisticated
  • Sporty
  • Statement pieces
  • Structured
  • Tribal
  • Versatile
  • Vintage

Not only have you identified your style key words, but you can also see fresh ways these looks are interpreted in fashion, hairstyles, and cosmetics. This can have an immediate payoff. As a former salon owner, for instance, I can’t tell you how many women thought they were describing what they wanted when they said, “I like Jennifer Aniston’s hair,” or “I like the layered look.” In reality, I had very little idea why those looks appealed to a client. My stylists and I would have to make an educated guess. But if a woman came in and said, “I like a sophisticated look with a modern edge. Here are a few photos I cut out from magazines that really appealed to me.” Wow! That information gives me so much more insight—and the ability to create a hairstyle that my client absolutely loves. As a stylist, I needed both the key words and the pictures—and so do you.

You’ve just created your very own Signature Style, just like all my clients who use my techniques from THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT. Keep a copy of your choices, words and images in your purse. You can get put this information right to work, and it will save you hundreds of dollars. You can shop with the confidence of a stylist, knowing what features you want to emphasize, and what colors and designs reflect your spirit.

Don’t go shopping without this information! Without it, it’s easy to fall back into old habits and choose items that don’t reflect your style key words and images, or your best features. You might pick up something to please your spouse or peers, or because you found it on the clearance rack. Now you have an easy way to stay grounded and check whether something is aligned with your personal style before you hit the cash register and potentially waste money.

Always remember that the more you honor your true beauty, the less prone you will be to caving in to old insecurities and making the same old mistakes in life or at the cash register. You have a signature style to come back to, which allows you to rediscover (and celebrate) the real, beautiful you every day.

Celebrity stylist and life coach Michelle Phillips (www.MichellePhillips.com) shares secrets from her new book, THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT, to help you save money and look fabulous.

Am I Pretty?

am-i-prettyIn a disturbing new trend thousands of girls as young as 11 and 12-years old are posting videos on YouTube asking the question, “Am I pretty?” This public call for validation shows a dangerous lack of self-worth and an unhealthy focus on outer beauty at an early age.

Am I pretty? The answer is YES!

As a Celebrity Makeup Artist and Life Coach I have been working with people for years to build their ‘beauty’ from the inside out. Usually though the questions of; “Am I pretty?” “Am I good enough?” or “Am I worthy?” don’t really start to weigh on us until life as taken its toll a little bit more. Seeing such a display of low self-esteem at such a young age though really troubles me so I feel strongly that this is a topic that needs addressing.

Whether it is the images in the media, social networking, or increased peer pressure, people, especially teen girls, are feeling pushed to look and act a certain way. One of the things they don’t understand is that in trying to find acceptance online they are opening themselves up to even more negative influence. The relative anonymity of the internet creates a breeding ground for hostility and hate resulting in wave of hurtful responses to their videos. Not to mention the fact that online predators are constantly lurking, typically preying on girls in this exact age range.”

To remedy this I suggest a variety of solutions.

– Monitor your child’s internet usage! The web is just that, a dangerous place for those that get caught up in it. There are just as many physical and emotional hazards to be found in the virtual world as there is in the real world.

– Talk to your kids about their ‘beauty’. Have your child create a list of their most beautiful qualities; their values, dreams, and maybe even throw in some physical attributes they love as well. By working to build a foundation for what makes them uniquely beautiful you create a source for real and lasting self-worth.

– Model strong self-esteem yourself. Even with all of the other sources of information your kids have access to you are still their biggest influence. By relating to them your self-worth you are instilling that same value in your kids.

Most important is have as open a line of communication with your kids as possible. And when the question “Am I pretty” is ever asked by you or them, the answer is always “Yes!”

My Vision For A Spring Party!

my-vision-spring-partyA very important process that I share in my book “The Beauty Blueprint” and my coaching circles is to create a vision board. Over the past few months I have had a couple vision board parties that were a huge success!

If you are asking, what is a vision board…let me back up for a minute. A vision board is a corkboard or poster board or anything to post your dreams to, to help the manifesting process of making them come true. What better way could there be to concentrate the power of making something come to be is there than actually seeing it?

So how do we get our vision board party started? That’s the fun part. Invite some friends over, put out some snacks…and drinks to help the dreaming come easier… have each person bring or you can provide poster boards, scissors, tape..and lots of magazines to find the images or words that appeal to you—

Be sure to have your guests bring pictures of people, quotes, or personal letters that inspire them.

I like to cut out positive words from advertisements, such as powerful, truth, and beautiful. If you like uplifting quotes, O Magazine is a great resource.

While you do this, try not to concentrate on material things. Rather, focus on your dreams and on living your best life; your job, family, relationships, hobbies, whatever it is, be specific about how you would want your life to look like the people or places that inspire you.

In the center of my board is my personal mission statement you might choose a picture, quote, or a verse that really resonates with you. The important thing to remember is that there is no wrong or right way to create a board…or two! I have three in my home and feel that it is a fun thing to do every few months. You will also find that all your dreams and aspirations will come true after posting them on your board…so updating is crucial.

Doing this by yourself can be a blast, but doing it with your friends can be even more fun and a great way to support each other in making your best lives a reality. It’s really fun to see what your friends are dreaming about…

Here are some thoughts on how to do that with some fun pics and video from my last vision blowout.

February 28th Radio Show-Raising Beautiful Children

On today’s show we are talking about raising beautiful children.

If you have been a frequent listener to the show you know when I say beauty I’m not talking about making sure your kids are in the latest fashions or have perfect haircuts….I’m talking about raising them to be positive people with a strong and balanced sense of self-esteem.  The kind of people that will help us create and foster true beauty in our world.

As a mom, a step-mom, and at one time was a single mom and  know that while we may need work to put a roof over our heads or provide food, our most important job in life is parenting our kids.

Join me and my guests, Dr. Wendy Walsh, Jan Horn, and Sandi Schartz.  Together we will share some valuable tools parents can use to help balance and reduce stress in their own lives and in turn empower their children to create their own beautiful lives.

Tune in live by logging onto www.hayhouseradio.com on Monday February 28th at 9am Pacific Time/12noon Eastern Standard Time.  If you missed the show, you can listen to the show in the archive section.

Some info on my guests:

Dr. Wendy Walsh is a journalist, a psychologist, and a mother.  You may have seen her on TV as she is a contributor to CNN, The CBS Early Show, The Today Show, Lifetime, and many more. www.drwendywalsh.com

Jan Horn is the Executive Director/Founder of Blooming Place for Kids.  Jan and her staff are deeply committed to improving the lives of neglected and abused children by giving them hope for their own future through programs developed to build leadership skills, self-confidence, good moral character and values.

Blooming Place for Kids’ residential camp promotes positive values and encourages teamwork, sharing and individual growth.

A PLACE TO DREAM . . . to GROW . . . . . and just be a KID!!!  www.bloomingplaceforkids.org

Sandi Schwartz is an educator, author, radio show host, and inspirational speaker with over 40 years of experience in the field of child development, Sandi combines the best of traditional wisdom with a depth of spiritual awareness, delivering a powerful message for parents. Her most distinguished honor was from the Governor of New York State for leadership and courage in her work with children and families in the aftermath of 9/11.

Sandi’s Leading Edge programs for parents and educators have received international acclaim.  She consults with parents in many countries and her weekly radio show, Leading Edge Parenting, is heard around the world.

For More Information About Leading Edge Parenting or to contact Sandi for consulting, speaking, or to receive her free daily love nuggets, go to www.sanditeaches.com

After working in the beauty industry as a make up artist and stylist for celebrities, I can tell you- first hand- that the women who sat in my chair did not look nearly the same as they did once they had an army of stylists, lighting experts, photographers, and then computer experts create their on camera look.

With so many girls comparing their looks to those of the models and actresses they see on TV, in the movies, or magazines, it is important that they understand that what they see is not reality. What we do need to see is the beauty inside of us all. While working to help my own daughters develop a positive outlook on their beauty inside and out, I encourage them to focus on all of their unique qualities. They are uniquely beautiful and it is important for them to take pride in their kind nature, compassion for others, their gifts, and talents. These are just of a few of the things that make them truly beautiful.

I am posting this video to show our girls what goes on behind the scenes to make models and on camera personalities achieve the looks that for 99% of us is unobtainable.

Hats off to the Dove campaign for their continued effort to help real women and young girls love who they are for their own unique beauty!

February 7th 9a.m PT/ 12pm EST- Turning Heads by Turning Hearts

Have you forgotten what you have to offer? You are a divine gift to the world. By being true to your sense of purpose and embracing the authentic nature of you, you give yourself permission to live a life where it is okay to bloom, soak in the sun, and be the wild color you were created to be. This is in turn empowers those around you to follow your lead. The results of overcoming obstacles through determination and belief in yourself can create a ripple effect for generations to come. Join Michelle to learn how you can look and feel more beautiful by being true to your purpose.

Listen live or from the archives online by logging on to www.hayhouseradio.com.

The Miracle of a YUMMY Body – Guest Post

This is re-posted from my friend Leah Carey’s online Miracle Journal. Her original post is here; you can find her full journal at www.TheMiracleJournal.com. She posts a miracle every day on her journal.

—————

By Leah Carey

If you’re familiar with my book Transforming Your Body Image, you know that it is the chronicle of my own journey from feeling “Fat and Ugly” to being okay with my body just as it is and helping others to do the same. In that book I wrote,

“As long as I keep my focus on being healthy, my self-image is not tied to my weight. My weight still fluctuates, but it’s not the end of the world, because I’m busy being the best person I can be!”

This is absolutely true…AND there’s more to the story.  I have good days and I have bad days.  There are days when I look in the mirror and think, “I look really cute today” and that is a HUGE miracle, because for 20+ years I thought I looked hideous.  But there are other days when I look in the mirror and think, “Who dressed you?  You look so washed out.  I wish these pants looked better on me…” and more.  Feeling better about myself doesn’t mean feeling perfect.  It means that I can look in the mirror and feel positive about what I see.  But there are still days when I’m not completely in love with what I see.

Then there are times like the last couple of days.  It has been a perfect storm of body appreciation.  On Tuesday night, I played in my closet with a friend, creating new outfits out of the same old clothes – she put things together that I never would have imagined.  She got me looking at the same clothes in new ways.  It was amazing.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working through a workbook that’s about opening my heart and inviting in new love.  Yesterday’s exercise was about appreciating my body.  The instructions were to stand naked in front of the mirror and focus on each part of my body.  At each part, I was to apologize to it for the negative thoughts that I’d held about it, tell it something I appreciate about it, and then thank it for something – from the feet to the calves to the knees to the…well, you get the idea.  I’ve done mirror work before but something about the way that this exercise was laid out and explained felt completely new to me and I felt my energy changing as I did it.

By the time I got to my face and head, I had a thought that was so new – so completely revolutionary – that I actually started dancing around in my bedroom in front of the mirror…and that thought was:
“I HAVE A YUMMY BODY!!!”
WOW!!!

Later in the day I stopped in to my friend’s consignment clothing store (see why she’s the best person to play in my closet with?!) because she had just received several fitted blazers that were exactly the type we had determined I needed in my professional wardrobe — hello, miracle!  As I was trying them on, another customer came into the store and these two women – one a good friend, the other a person I’d never met – started commenting on my “luscious” curves and what a beautiful womanly body I have.  All of this without me saying a thing about the work I had done that morning.

Truly amazing.  What a miracle.

Do you have any suggestions about things that help you to feel good about your body?  If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!  And don’t forget to head up to the “Share Your Miracle” tab and let me know about the miracles that have been happening in your life!

If you’re interested in the mirror exercise, you can find it on Day 32 of Calling in the One by Katherine Woodward Thomas.  If you’re interested in my book, Transforming Your Body Image, you can find it here.

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Leah Carey is the creator and facilitator of the Live. Write. Share. workshops. Her mission is to help people share their stories as a vehicle for healing old wounds and finding their own inner resilience. She facilitates workshops and gives lectures throughout the US and Canada. She is online at www.leahcarey.com.

Hay House Radio – Jan. 24, 2011 show

This Monday we’ll discuss the meaning of true beauty. I’ll be speaking with guests Carnie Wilson and Asia Voight.

Join us at 12 PM EST/9 AM PST for The Beauty Blueprint on Hay House Radio.

Click here to listen live – http://www.hayhouseradio.com

Carnie Wilson is the daughter of Beach Boys co-founder and mastermind Brian Wilson and a member of the Grammy Award-nominated group Wilson Phillips. She has been very public about her battle with Obesity. Carnie, in her own words, is simply “a go-getter.” “I like to work,” she explains. “I don’t like to stop moving — like a shark! But at the same time, I never do something unless my heart’s in it. I can’t be fake. I really go by instinct, and it seems like everything I do has to have some kind of message behind it.”

Carnie  is raising awareness for Autism.  She has seen first hand the challenges that children with Autism and their families go through.  To help Carnie in her mission  log onto http://www.theangelsmall.com/cwilson/

Find her online at www.carniewilson.com.

Asia Voight is an internationally known Animal Communicator, teacher and speaker, who has worked with over 40,000 animals in the last 13 years. Asia’s work has been featured on ABC, NBC, and Fox TV. She has graced the covers, of many publications such as Brava and Women Magazine, the front pages of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Fitchburg Star with her amazing personal story and words of animal wisdom. Asia has published a chapter in Crossing the Rubicon: Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond in Life and Death, an inspirational and uplifting story of the healing aspects of her Animal Communication work. Find her online at www.AsiaVoight.comClick here to read her guest contribution to this week’s blog.

Fire Red to Carnation Pink: Uncovering Inner Beauty

By Asia Voight

“Some day my daughter is going to be Miss America!” my dad boasted to other parents waiting outside dance class. Standing beside him my leotard glimmered in bronze over my long smooth legs. Every daughter wants to make her father proud. Believing that outer beauty reigned supreme, and that one day I would be Miss America, I signed up for every lesson that would get me on that national stage. Gymnastics, modeling, piano, cheerleading, singing and baton twirling lessons filled weekly schedules. Determined to please my family and make myself a star I pressed hard to excel.

By my teenage years, the momentary highs of my many accomplishments were followed by a deep sense of shallowness and darkness that lingered inside me. And at night I became haunted by a re-occurring dream where layers of bizarrely expressive African looking masks came off my face only to reveal nothing but a void, a black space. I began to see myself as empty and hollow, a mannequin of changing masks. The positive outward appearance and talents of my waking self was intended to bring me love and acceptance but instead, it brought about a severe disconnection between my outward persona and what I felt. Until one day, I found myself on my knees in prayer.

“God, show me how to be real. I’m sick and tired of feeling like a hollow shell.” Like a small tornado my prayer swirled up to Heaven.

In my early twenties, a speeding semi driver crashed his rig into my van and into my dreams of beauty. Trapped inside the van, a raging fire closed in on me. Managing to wriggle my body through the partially open driver’s side window, I jumped into an inferno of flames and miraculously made it to the other side

As days and weeks passed, lying immobile in my hospital bed with 72% of my body charred, I watched lovely new skin begin to form over raw flesh.  Maybe I still can be Miss America, I thought. However, all hopes cast off with this new skin as it became twisted like roots and vines. The skin fit so poorly over my bones and muscle constricting my every movement. I could not even wipe my own tears away. Hope ebbed away as each new scar formed. All the softness and gracefulness of my skin and body had been burnt off and taken with it the only avenue to love and acceptance I had known in the world.

“It’s time to look,” a staff nurse said. She handed the mirror to me but I would not take it from her.

“No!”

“Your going home soon, you have to look, “ She jetted the mirror in my face.

“I want to remember myself as beautiful,” I kept my eyes closed.

“You have to face the truth,”

“I’ll do it on my own.”

Later that day, shuffling weakly with the use of my cane and a grip on the wall handrails I made it to the bathroom. Once in I closed the door behind me. Elated to have accomplished my longest walk since the accident I relished a moment alone. This euphoria didn’t last long. Seeing the large wall mirror caused me to break out into a cold sweat. Can I do this?

Cautiously peeking out one eye at the top of my head in the mirror I let out a sigh, Not so bad, I Initially thought. Scanning down the rest of my face I grasped the sink’s edge as both eyes fixed upon my neck covered in a speckled, discolored skin-graft that looked like dead bare chicken skin. Steadying myself against the vanity, hot tears streamed down my cheeks like water down a tumbled mine shaft.

Any illusion of beauty gone, I set into hating the hospital staff, and made God an enemy of mine. Doctors call this healing? God betrayed me by keeping me alive for this. Death would have been the miracle here. I am utterly worthless now. Hideous.

My anguish only deepened as the staff got me ready for the day before leaving intensive care. My nurse gave me a package – a Jobst pressure garment used to compress raised scars. Painfully, the tight nylon-like suit stretched over my thin-skinned legs, torso, and arms – at the bottom of the package, a facemask. Refusing to put it on the staff held vigil at my bedside. My shouts of “No!” and “Get that away from me,” would not deter them. Finally giving in, the mask came over my face like a suffocating white sheet placed over the dead. The binding magnified my shallow breathing as the Velcro at the back of my head became fully attached. The nurses walked away pleased at saving my face from contracting, while I disappeared under the restricting tan mesh and ceased to exist.

The next day they wheeled me from the hospital to a vehicle waiting to take me to the airport and eventually my hometown. A staff nurse handed me a laminated card. If anyone around me were to become overly frightened I could show it so they knew I was not a bank robber or dangerous somehow.

Sitting in a narrow wheelchair on the airport runway, the crew and my mother cautiously lifted me up the airplane stairs. Rounding the corner into the aisle, the piercing stares of alarmed travelers bore into my eyes. Tightening my throat to stifle tears, I put my head down until landing. Upon arrival at O’Hare Airport with one more flight home, my mom wheeled me through the crowds to our next gate. A stranger faced us; I shielded my heart ready to be confronted by her glare. Instead she pulled a flower from her purse and looked deeply into my eyes. My breath sucked back into my chest as our gazes locked. Mouth agape, I reached out for the flower. I felt her heart open like the pink carnation she handed me. Smiling through my Jobst mask my heart lifted.

During the next few months of recovery it continued to be painful turning over in bed and reviving my paralyzed leg, but the image and sensation of the unknown airport traveler continued to give me strength to progress with my physical therapists. Likewise, meeting new people in the hospital became easier as my skin and body continued to heal. Now it was time to take my new face out into the world.

I no longer wore the mask and yet I continued to be self-conscious about the red scar that covered the left side of my face, and the graft on my neck that looked like a patchwork quilt. I drove into my old neighborhood and pulled up to a favorite hangout. My heart raced in my chest as I thought, What if no one likes me anymore? Or worse, they don’t want anything to do with me since I’m not pretty. I sat there for long moments of breathing and searching for my confidence to take this step out into the unfriendly world.

Then the image of the pink carnation sprang from my mind, energizing me like new blood. And I heard an angel speak to me through the darkness like one of the caring night nurses; “Inner beauty and love shines out as attractiveness, be this splendor and wear it on your face.”

Every cell of my body savored this declaration and I found the courage to walk into my old haunt. And to my amazement, familiar friends from my past gathered around with hugs and kind words! Looking deeply into their eyes I witnessed authentic beauty reflected back to me as if each of them had handed me a pink carnation.

About Asia Voight

Asia is an internationally known Animal Communicator, teacher and speaker, who has worked with over 40,000 animals in the last 13 years. Asia’s inspiring work has been featured on ABC, NBC, and Fox TV, as well as, countless radio interviews like the Rick Lamb Show and dressage rider Jane Savoie’s tele-seminar. She has graced the covers, of many publications such as Brava and Women Magazine, the front pages of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Fitchburg Star with her amazing personal story and words of animal wisdom. Asia has published a chapter in Crossing the Rubicon: Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond in Life and Death, an inspirational and uplifting story of the healing aspects of her Animal Communication work.

Speaking in front of thousands of animal lovers, Asia is often a popular keynote speaker for countless events like the Midwest Horse Fair® in Madison, Wis., where she has delighted audiences with her on-the-spot personal readings, humor and warmth.

Also, a popular teacher in her Animal Communication workshops, Asia generously shares her skills by gently guiding course participants on how to connect with one’s own animal companions, through exercises and guided meditations.