‘What we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. I believe that everyone, myself included, is responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst. Every thought we think is creating our future. Each one of us creates our experiences by our thoughts and our feelings. The thoughts we think and the words we speak create our experiences.’
You Can Heal Your Life 2nd Edition (2004)
Louise Hay
In Summary

The world you experience is within your control. If you are critical towards yourself, the world will treat you critically. If you change your thoughts and learn to affirm yourself, you will succeed in all you set your mind to.


The news hit Louise Hay like a tonne of bricks: her cancer was incurable. After years of gruelling struggle climbing her way out of poverty and despair, the diagnosis seemed to send it all crashing back to earth. Her parents had divorced when she was only 18 months old, leaving her clamouring for the attention her single mother was unable to provide. At five years old, she was sexually assaulted. The difficulties of the experience were only compounded by those who declared the incident her fault. The Great Depression eroded her family’s wealth and, along with it, any semblance of her self-esteem. By the age of 15, she had run away from home, escaping the constant sexual abuse. A year later, she gave birth to a baby girl, yet she found it ‘impossible to keep her’ and was forced to give up the child for adoption after only five days. This experience, coupled with years of abusive relationships, left her at rock bottom. The only place to go was up.

Wandering into a Church of Religious Science, Hay discovered a ‘new home.’ She took weekly classes, became a church counsellor and slowly began to regain a foothold on her life. Hay would soon enrol in Maharishi International University, excelling in her courses, meditating daily and lecturing on her experiences. Then, cancer struck; like a wake-up call, the news alerted her to hidden resentments she had buried deep within the recesses of her consciousness. Taking responsibility into her own hands, she changed her diet, met with therapists and slowly learnt forgiveness. Six months later, her cancer was gone. Since then, Hay has become one of the most popular female authors of all time. Her most popular work, You Can Heal Your Life, has sold more than 40 million copies across 132 nations and in 30 languages and has twice been listed on the New York Times bestseller list (the second time occurring 22 years later – a nearly unheard-of feat). Hay went on to further amplify her message by founding her own publishing firm in 1984, Hay House, who have been successfully publishing books and audiobooks of over 130 authors to this day. In addition, Hay ran a charitable organisation called the Hay Foundation, which she founded in 1985 with the mission of building futures and supporting organisations that enhance the quality of life for people, animals, and our environment. Until her death in 2017, she remained an icon of self-help and the power of positive thinking, generating hope for countless individuals struggling with the ghosts of their past.


According to Hay, our life in its entirety is merely a reflection of the way we think. No circumstance, no matter how out of control it may seem, is merely accidental. As she states, ‘What we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. I believe that everyone, myself included, is responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst.’ Our thoughts are creative, and the filters through which we perceive ourselves manifest in our lives through our relationships, wealth, health, and success. If you believe yourself to be unworthy of a good spouse, you will likely end up with someone who fits that expectation. If you believe you do not deserve to succeed in your job, you surely will not. Ostensibly our parents, gender, nationality, and race are the products of our choices – just ones made before our births through the cycle of reincarnation. In other words, our destructive self-image breeds failure and the negative thoughts we cling to are the source of our many woes.

But luckily, there is an antidote. As Hay declares, ‘your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish.’ We have complete control over our thoughts; thus, we have the power, here and now, to change our reality. Unfortunately, most of us choose to dwell in negativity, hindering our own success in life. The criticisms we suffered from our parents stifled our growth and formed our destructive self-image. The key is to move beyond the past, breaking free from the resentments and pains that cause us to view ourselves as unworthy or condemned to failure, for ‘if we want a joyous life, we must think joyous thoughts.’ By learning to love ourselves, we retrain our mind and, consequently, reshape our reality.

In each chapter, Hay suggests several exercises to help transform our negative, self-critical habits into positive ones. Exercises include telling yourself something positive every time you pass a mirror, listing changes you want in your life and declaring them as already yours (‘I am healthy’; ‘I am worthy’; and so on) and practising forgiveness both towards yourself and others who have harmed you. By attending to the positive within yourself, you will slowly watch it grow. Soon, as old thoughts are surpassed by the new, reality will respond in kind. Hay lists numerous examples, both from herself and her clients, of cured diseases, transformed lives and seemingly miraculous events that followed from using her technique.

In other words, as you begin to change, so will your world. As you learn to be thankful and joyous in everything, everything becomes a blessing. Hay promises a new tomorrow for those who are willing to embrace their power today. By learning to love yourself, you will slowly discover just how must the universe loves you in return. 


Hay writes, ‘I have set up this book to take you through a session, just as I would if you came to me as a private client and attended one of my workshops.’ The book succeeds in providing an exceedingly practical read, moving methodically and therapeutically through the process of uncovering past pains, unearthing hidden negativity and supplying corrective practices. Additionally, two chapters are devoted to exposing the hidden mental activities associated with various illnesses. For example, Hay equates the sources of migraines, baldness and earaches with perfectionism, tension and a desire not to hear.

Of course, Hay does not deny the role of doctors in alleviating these tensions; rather, she presents her list as identifying the root cause of the issues. If correct, Hay will provide a path not only towards mental and spiritual health but also towards physical health, and the relevance of such a find speaks for itself. In any case, for the multitude struggling to move beyond the pains of their past or just looking for a brighter future, Hay’s work might become a treasured companion.

Further Reading By This Author

While You Can Heal Your Life stands as the most acclaimed title of her many works, Hay has also written the works Heal Your Body and The Power Is Within You.

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