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Self Matters: Creating Your Life from the Inside Out Paperback – May 6, 2003

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There are pivotal moments in the lives of all seekers when we realize that we’ve been traveling on our path of growth toward happiness and ful­fillment, but, simply put, we want to go faster.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743227255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743227254
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (287 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The well-known "life strategist" and TV personality Dr. Phil begins this upbeat self-help book by recalling one of the most unpleasant phone calls he ever had to make. In 1989, ten years into a flourishing career, McGraw called his father to say that, despite the outward trappings of success, he was miserable. His new plan was to move away and start a new career and a new life. According to McGraw, many people are currently in a similar situation-trapped in unsatisfying lives or jobs that they loathe. Too many people, says McGraw, are "so busy being busy, that they have let the colors fade from their lives." They're worried about superficial matters rather than what's important: "I'll bet 90-plus percent of them spent months, or even years, planning their wedding and almost no time planning their marriage!" To change their lives, McGraw's readers must first complete two questionnaires he designed to assess their "authentic self" and their "congruency" (how someone's current life compares with a vision of an ideal life). With the scores from these tests, readers can then embark upon a specific plan for changing their lives-and for determining which external and internal forces they will, or won't, allow to control their futures. Readers familiar with McGraw's aggressive TV personality may be surprised by this book's thoughtful and serious tone. McGraw's notion of making change is not a simple one-it requires readers to examine every aspect of their daily lives-and it's likely that some readers may not be able to make all the changes he advocates. But his book offers a thorough, realistic resource for those who are committed to turning their lives around to get what they really want and need.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Sigmund Freud eventually concluded that human life is more to be endured than enjoyed, but that is not the attitude borne on the tide of relentlessly cheerful self-help books. Like others of its ilk, this one urges us to live by design, breaking free of the past events and encounters which shackle us in a perpetual victimhood. 'Dr Phil', who is 'known to millions' thanks to his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show, counteracts negativity and excuses for failure with folksy anecdotes, stern admonitions and the glowing offer of hope. Habitual consumers of manuals for the reinvention of the self will find nothing original or startling here, though the reader new to the genre may as well commence with this as with anything else, since this volume is entirely typical, though less poetic than some. In the main, the book consists of laborious explanations of the obvious, e.g. someone whose face is burned and scarred 'will tell you that it changes how they feel about their inadequacy. They become far more uncertain about going out into the world. In other words, the same disfigurement they suffer physically has also affected their psyche.' It also includes exercises, usually ones which require the making of lists with such headings as Ten Defining Moments, Seven Critical Choices and Five Pivotal People. The rationale for the specific numbers is not revealed, but it is at these points that the book becomes potentially useful, since reviewing those events, decisions and encounters which have had the most powerful effects upon us is a sensible way of tracing the patterns of our lives. Some readers may question the concept of the 'authentic self' which exists untouched by experience, while others will take it as the definition of the soul. Again, acting on the recognition with inner passion may be viewed as regressive utopian folly, or as an essential stage in continuing self-development, depending on one's persepective. Certainly, according to the book jacket, the techniques he advocates have worked for Dr Phil, who now runs a consultancy specializing in 'high-profile' litigation cases, as well as seminars on life skills. (Kirkus UK) --Kirkus UK --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This book completely changed my life.
I also found the self-diagnostic examinations in the book to be either too obvious or unusable.
Donald Mitchell
This book will change your life and the way you think about it forever.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

195 of 202 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As I psychologist, I am consistently confronted with clients who do not know "who they truly are." They come in, plop down in a cozy chair and after summarizing (sometimes over months) their difficulties and past traumas...they oftentimes feel more exhausted than "better." They don't feel "fixed." It's frustrating for them at this point and usually this leads to the inclination of giving up; feeling that that nothing can make it "all better" and they buy into the lie that "I am worthless!" If you have ever been in therapy, you may identify with this. If you haven't, then you may still understand the frustration that can derive from doing everything you can to "feel better" and not experiencing the "pay off" for all your effort.
That's why this book is so valuable. It breaks down the cycle of expectation - effort - undesired result - failure and explains, in no uncertain terms, the "formula" for knowing who you are; not who other people SAY you are, not who you THINK you should be, but who you are at the CORE. I consider this book a hands on tool to evaluate and understand YOU. It's especially helpful for those who feel any or all of the following:
1. I have spent so much of my life trying to please others and live up to their expectations, that I have forgotten and neglected who I truly am.
2. When I do muster up the courage to do something for myself, (take on a new hobby, career, etc.) I feel guilty that doing so would be taking time away from my family and/or responsibilities to others.
3. I have bought into the labels others have placed on me instead of defining myself on my own terms. I have become what others said I would become.
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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Joel L. Gandelman VINE VOICE on September 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm one of the few who has not seen Dr. Phil on TV except for brief bits and I have not read his other books. I bought this book because of its title, good reviews, and because I was undergoing severe problems with relatives that forced me to do research. Buying Self Matters was the BEST DECISION on a self-help book that I EVER made.
Dr. Phil's main point is simple: a person may be unhappy and tormented by internal pain but we create our lives "from the inside out." We have one shot on this earth and face a simple choice: are we going to live our lives as we would truly like to live them or are we going spend our time here being defined, "typecast," hammered down, discouraged, de-energized -basically, CONTROLLED -- by outside forces(relatives, friends, expectations and past events)? Do you live according to what he calls the "authentic self" or do you live a life and identity others have given you, much like a casting director fills a part? And how to do you find out what you REALLY want and who you REALLY are (not how friends and relatives typecast you)?

Here are several big reasons why you MUST buy Self Matters:
1. DR. PHIL WALKS THE WALK: He changed his life. Originally he'd start each day unexcited, not proud of who he was since "everything I was doing was chosen to please other people by meeting their expectations while totally ignoring my own...I knew I wasn't living the life I was meant to live." He realized he had "betrayed who I was and instead accepted a fictional substitute that was defined from the outside in. I betrayed myself, and mine was a life and an experience that was a fraud and a fiction."
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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Julie Jordan Scott on June 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
I don't have anything AGAINST Dr. Phil, I just hoped it wouldn't
have a lot of really good food for thought, practical applications and wisdom in the straight, no nonsense approach that makes up Oprah's buddy, Dr. Phil.
Well, I couldn't help myself: this book is chock full of good stuff.
Not only that, Dr. Phil's voice rings through his writing so clearly that I can literally hear him talking to me as I read!
The approach in the book is very much a step-by-step approach working with a foundation of gathering evidence from defining moments in your life and then creating a plan of action through taking action upon positive, empowering choices instead of being "stuck" in the quagmire of your negative life history.
Dr. Phil reminds us to "Know your history so you can walk out of it."
He tells on himself more than once, describing his own episodes of "creative stupidity" which had me howling with laughter.
Another lightbulb moment for me and a pure "Dr. Philism" was the
reality that we are, in every moment, contributing or contaminating our relationships. Wow. That alone is worth the purchase of the book: especially in reading the supportive paragraphs.
Like I said earlier, I didn't WANT to like this book. The main problem there is too much tangible substance that I can use to apply to my life in a positive way that I can't help myself in giving it a high rating.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on November 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a counsellor and one who has studied behavioural psychology extensively, this will definitely be a book that will be highly recommended reading material. McGraw challenges the reader to take a look beyond one's mirror image and discover who the individual truly is inside. It is extremely thought provoking and readers will find themselves doing some deep soul searching to come up with honest answers. Sometimes finding one's true self is a painful experience, for many people are quite willing to identify their strengths but are less enthusiastic when it comes to identifying (and admitting) their weaknesses and imperfections.
The people who come through our lives and leave their mark, the choices we make and the critical events that happen in our lives, all determine to a certain degree, who we are and what we will become. Genetics also plays a part as well as our early childhood experiences. However, this book is really a book in understanding one's inner self. Of course, our life is created from the inside out! Those who fail to see the value of the book, are missing out on in important lesson in life: the basic psychology of "what makes us tick." McGraw has written a dramatically poignant, frank and intellectual book that enables the reader to "pull down the masks and walls," maximize their full potential, and live the life of the person they were intended to be. If one does not comprehend the purpose and significance of the book, they are sadly missing out on an insightful journey into self-discovery. "Self Matters" is a fantastic book; there are not enough stars for this one!
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More About the Author

Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D., has worked in the field of human functioning and strategic life planning for over twenty years. Dr. McGraw is co-founder and president of Courtroom Sciences, Inc., America's leading litigation consulting firm, and has been associated with some of the highest-profile cases in the country, including Oprah's highly publicized "Mad Cow" case. A professional psychologist, he appears regularly on Oprah as her resident expert on human functioning. He lives in Dallas.

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