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Excerpt from "Shift Happens"

There Is Nothing Wrong With You

by Robert Holden, Ph.D

The following story describes one of the most poignant and tender moments of my life.

I met Peter at a summer camp for the Royal National Institute of Blind People in Hampshire, England. Peter was in my class. I was teaching a day on self-esteem to 50 teenagers. They were like any large group of teenagers in school—creative, unruly, funny, boisterous, challenging, and very energetic. They were normal . . . and blind.

Peter was one of the few quiet ones. He sat at the back of the class. He was half-Chinese, half-English, about 15 years old, tall, and slender. There were many jokes flying around, most of them at my expense. Peter laughed heartily, but he never spoke. At the end of the class, he stayed behind. “Mr. Holden,” he said.

“Call me Robert,” I said.

“Can we talk?” he asked.


Peter looked troubled. He was pensive and painfully shy. We talked small talk for a while as we walked around a large green sports field out behind the main college building. “I feel I can trust you Robert, even though we’ve only just met,” he said.

“That’s a real compliment,” I said.

“I need to ask you a question that I have been put­ting off my whole life,” Peter said.

I was in no way prepared for Peter’s question when it finally came. “I need to know,” he said, “is there anything wrong with me?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I was born blind, and I have never seen myself. I need to know from someone I trust if I am beautiful or not,” Peter said.

With all my heart, I told Peter that he was handsome, perfect, and beautiful.

“You really mean it?” he asked.


Peter flung his arms around me.

“There’s nothing wrong with me?”


“Not even a little bit wrong?”

“Not one bit.”

“What about my breath? I had pizza for lunch,” he laughed.

“I love garlic,” I countered. We both laughed and cried. Rarely have I felt so moved. Peter’s relief was such a joy to watch.

For six years I trained in a profession that focuses on finding things wrong with people. We take in “ugly ducklings” and merrily pluck away for disorders, dysfunctions, neuroses, psychoses, syndromes, and schemas. Psychology is obsessed with diagnosis. Every day we invent new labels, new diseases, and new courses of treatment for the “ugly ducklings.” We never see them as swans.

The fear that something is wrong with you is your greatest block to joy. In truth, there is no other block.

For as long as you feel there is something wrong, bad, lacking, or not good enough about you, your life will reflect this belief. On the face of it, it will look as though others reject you, the world blocks you, fate is unkind, life is against you, and the Heavens are punishing you. But in fact, it is you who are condemn­ing yourself and sabotaging all that is good. Hence everything is a struggle, successes are hard-fought, happiness is short-lived, love always goes wrong, and there is no peace.

There is nothing wrong with you. Certainly, your perception can be sick. And your thinking can be off. And you can make poor choices. For instance, you can choose to see flaws in yourself that no one else sees. You can invent a story of how bad you are. You can try to convince the world how unlovable you are. Give these strange ideas all of your power, if you want, but who you are—your Unconditioned Self—remains whole, worthy, and well.

True psychotherapy is a process of changing your mind about yourself. Shift happens whenever you practice unconditional self-acceptance. Shift happens whenever you give yourself a break. Shift happens whenever you choose kindness instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of self-attack, and laughter instead of condemnation. Life always gets better when you treat yourself better.

Happiness is all about being willing to be innocent again. Remember that old bumper sticker, God doesn’t make junk? It’s true.

The final (and only) act of healing is to accept that there is nothing wrong with you. Try this powerful exer­cise today. Make a point of looking for the good in everyone you meet. See the light in their eyes, their faces, their smile, and their presence. Mentally bow to the light in everyone you meet today. Above all, teach no one that there is anything wrong with who they are. As you offer this light to others so will you strengthen it in yourself.

Robert Holden, Ph.D., is the director of The Happiness Project and Success Intelligence. His innovative work on happiness and success has been featured on Oprah and in two major BBC-TV documentaries, The Happiness Formula and How to Be Happy, shown in 16 countries to more than 30 million television viewers. He is the author of the best-selling books, Happiness NOW!, Be Happy, and Shift Happens!

Visit: www.robertholden.org and www.behappy.net.

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