“I used to look at the abuse as, ‘I cannot believe this is happening,’ ” he reveals to PEOPLE exclusively about what he endured from ages 8 to 12.
In his book he also describes growing up poor — “I hid bread in my underwear because food was rationed in our house” — and how he went from a fit athlete in high school to an overweight college student thanks to late-night pizza. “I stopped running track and started gaining weight!” says the trainer, who added 50 lbs. while studying for his degree in sports science.
But as he notes, all of those struggles made him who he is today: a world-famous motivator, choreographer and creator of fitness phenomenons Insanity, Hip Hop Abs and CIZE. And while he prides himself on being open and honest and encourages his clients to do the same, he realized six years ago when he first came up with the book idea that he wasn’t quite ready to tell his story.
“I quickly learned that I had not worked on improving myself enough to write a book to help motivate others,” says the trainer, 38. “I had great-selling DVDs, yet I needed to work on myself before writing a book.” So he sought professional help.
“I went to therapy at age 26 to confront my own demons,” he says. “People are often afraid to do that. I needed to find my vulnerabilities and learn how to deal with what has happened in my life. Once I cleaned out the closet, I could hang up new clothes and be ready to motivate others.”
He had to look back at his history to move forward.
“It wasn’t my fault,” he came to realize about the sexual abuse. “I believe it’s how you attack what is happening which gets you through something like this. I said, ‘I am not going to be a victim.’ ”
Once Shaun T addressed the difficult issues through therapy, he found clarity in his own life, including a solid and loving relationship. (In 2012, he married Scott Blokker.) After gaining confidence in himself, Shaun was ready to share his experiences with readers.
“Through those struggles came my strength,” he says. “I found happiness, then I was ready to write a self-help memoir to help others. I wanted to be able to help readers surround themselves with positive things that propel them forward.”
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In the book, Shaun introduces his seven-principle plan that blends psychology with sports science to offer readers an action plan for life improvement. Each chapter ends with exercises and diagnostics to help readers embrace change and move ahead with their dreams.
“My goal with the book is to help people come to grips with their own personal baggage, to help them live it and move on,” he explains. “The book will accept readers wherever they might be on their journeys, and then empower and motivate them to build confidence and become the best version of themselves.”
He emphasizes that self-improvement should be a slow and steady process on the way to personal power and confidence.
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For example, if someone needs to lose a lot of weight, they must take small steps — one healthy meal today, another tomorrow. Little by little they can change their lives permanently.
“Small successes will create big changes in the lives of those who want to gain confidence and happiness,” he says. “Readers will learn that trust and believing starts within them.”
And he cannot wait to share all he has learned. “I am ecstatic about the book,” he says. “Writing it is the biggest thing I have done. All I have worked for these years comes together so I can bring people to the next level.”
T Is for Transformation is available for pre-order now on Amazon.com and will be in stores on Nov. 14.
For more information on Shaun T and his upcoming appearances, sign up to become a member of Shaun T’s Transformation Academy.