Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I have walked the self-help path a number of times, and I recognize the difficulty in maintaining inner strength, peace and security. I am currently at a loss in my life—with myself and career—and I realize my lack of self-worth affects my presentation to my relationships and the outside world.
How does one keep their focus when their self-worth is broken and they walk in an emotionally abusive relationship? How does one take control of their life and create a beautiful harmony with the universe? How does one teach their children to believe they create their own reality and life and to strive for greatness, when the "teacher's" life is one of chaos, no direction and insecurity? Where does a person start? How does one create heaven on earth for themselves and their family and people around them?
I realize I am all over the map. Clearly, I lack personal direction—I am aware of that. It is just frustrating because it is always easier said than done. Please enlighten; there has to be some place a person can start, which I know is myself. Perhaps you could recommend some books? I just wish I could have one of those aha! experiences so I know what my role in this world is supposed to be. And no, I am not crazy, or on drugs, just a genuinely confused adult who really does not get where her place in the universe is yet. Thanks for allowing me to write from the heart. I truly do appreciate this opportunity—never done anything like this before.
— Nancy P., Vancouver, Canada
Your letter shows you are in touch with your confusion, which many confused people aren't. There are several starting points, but they all have in common that they are realistic. Your aspirations have become confused by reading so many books. So let's say no more spiritual books for a year. All they are doing is allowing you to build castles in the air. Here are some realistic steps that will actually be of benefit:
Join a group you believe in. This group might be religious or spiritual; it might be doing volunteer or charity work. The purpose is secondary. The primary benefit is for you to meet people of your own kind whose spiritual nature is important.
Find a confidante or mentor. This person should be mature and inner-directed, with a strong sense of self. You need to feel a bond with someone you can look up to.
Seek kindness and understanding. You are in a tough place, and you need to talk to someone who will send kindness to you in return. Advice and guidance don't need to be present. Closeness and human warmth are your deepest needs right now.
Find one activity every day that you can enjoy alone and truly savor.
Find one thing every day that makes you proud of yourself, no matter how minor it may seem: feeding a stray cat, giving a coin to a beggar, helping a child follow instructions.
There is no mountain you must climb. Finding yourself isn't arduous; there is no risk. You merely need to take the right steps, in a realistic fashion, even if the steps are small. Self-worth starts out with you enjoying who you are and having something you can take pride in. Experience both feelings every day, and I'm confident you will get where you want to be.