by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
If I could go back in time to speak to myself in my youth, or, if there’s one thing I could say to those remaining after I’m gone, the message would be, “Don’t waste your time being afraid.”
Fear has been the one internal opponent that has slowed me down, held me back, or blocked my ideas and actions. Not external obstacles or misfortunes, but this inner voice of anxiety.
In the past 2 years, I’ve started living Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to do something everyday that scares me. I’ve learned it’s liberating to challenge myself to experience new things, ideas or experiences, or go for higher, different goals as a way to grow my courage overall.
But I’ve also learned that getting to the root of fear is hugely important.
The inner energy of my intent or feeling while taking action makes a powerful impact on the outcome.
It is important to act. Yes, do that.
But go deeper. Look at that fear. Deal with that emotion. Get to the core of it. Spell it out. Analyze it. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
Once you get to the root of that fear and dissect it, you find clarity. When you see clearly what your fear is based on, you can use reason to counter each fear.
Let’s use an example:
I’m launching my new online business. This new venture requires that I learn things I’ve never done. That alone has caused me fear.
But when I look at that fear through the lens of reason, I find it’s absolutely reasonable to feel fear simply because this is a new experience for me. Things we haven’t challenged before often naturally make us anxious.
This helps me see my fear as normal for my situation. This viewpoint relaxes me and diminishes my fear. I feel calmer and a bit proud that I’m pushing myself into new things and beyond my comfort zone.
One way to decrease fear is to acknowledge your courage in taking on new endeavors, in pushing yourself to feel the fear and take action anyway. It’s important to take a moment to celebrate that kind of victory. Celebrations of personal accomplishment are also a strong deterrent to feeling fearful!
As a new entrepreneur, and a highly sensitive person with OCD tendencies, I have many things that make me feel anxious. I start a cascade of inner questions to myself:
As a new business owner, the stress can seem relentless and unending. But by getting all my worries in focus in front of me, I can begin to break things down into a clear plan with my critical priorities mapped out.
I'm learning that having all my fears written down allows me a chance to face each one and brainstorm a solution for it. Next, I brainstorm ideas for a contingency plan in case my first solution doesn't work or something else happens to derail it. Sometimes this process enlightens me to a need to re-prioritize or shift my plans to accommodate additional issues and/or time.
Keeping my daily plan and inner intent in line with these priorities allows my mind to find ease, knowing I’m actively addressing everything necessary for reaching my goals. One of the most powerful anecdotes to any fear is taking concrete action. Taking action based on a plan through which I've faced my fears puts me back in the driver's seat of my life and my business success.
How To Get Back Up After A Failure
But, yes, sometimes I flat-out fail to reach goals. Or, I get out of rhythm with my priorities. Sometimes, I start spiraling into a downward stress mode where insomnia rears its head. I get run-down, and out of whack.
Yes, other personal, family or health issues distract my focus or throw me for a loop. I’m human.
When any of this happens--and things will happen--I get back to self-care basics. I refresh my determination. I refresh my determination again. And again. I go back to review my fears and center myself on my values.
As an entrepreneur, and hell, as a human being, I’m learning that it’s not a straight line to happiness and success. Rather, it’s a dramatic, magnificent drama with these crazy, off-the-beaten-path excursions, unexpected adventures, and hurdles that appear from out of nowhere. It’s heavy storms and strong gales of unforeseen problems that completely drench and knock me down into the sloppy mud.
That’s the story.
That’s the part of life that creates the dynamic arch of climactic engagement. It’s also the fuel for catalytic flow to unleash new, fresh, robust, colorful creative juice that leads to a view of an amazing, vast vista.
That new vista is a vision of your joyful fulfillment and the start of a new chapter for previously unimaginable victories.
But, this up-and-down, twisty, turning story cannot emerge without dealing head-on with fear, or without hitting plateaus of illusive limitations that cause you to rear back or stop dead in your tracks.
These obstacles force you to take three steps back, like the lion prepares an attack on his prey, to regroup. Assess. Take care of your inner world. Do whatever you need to refresh yourself and rebuild your inner fortitude.
Then, you may lunge forward, with all your might. That momentum gained from ripping out each fear by their roots will propel you forward in a way that you’ve not experienced until this moment.
Fear makes you face your problems to break through your self-imposed limitations so you may unleash your massive, unlimited, creative, beautiful human potential.
Fear makes you better yourself, both for your own happiness and for others in your life.
I’m learning that for every negative emotion, problem or experience, there is a positive. A way to convert whatever it is into value, inner strength and a source for deeper personal growth and wider progress.
It all goes back to nurturing creativity and inspiration, based on self-care. When we truly do the things that are beneficial for ourselves, we spur positive health, creative energy and the inner qualities we need to improve ourselves and for others.
How Dealing With Your Fear Buoys Your Success
That’s why I’m becoming grateful for my bouts with fear.
After wholeheartedly, directly wrestling with my fear, I find that interaction miraculously morphs into a kind of bearhug, leading me to a moment of gratitude.
This shift is an amazing metamorphosis that allows me a more informed view of my true self and my situation. I feel a burst of powerful confidence, with the strength to go after my goals with clear action.
This mood change propels the reach of my actions. The energy behind my actions grows more confident, joyful, compassionate, deliberate and resilient.
This personal development process reveals how dealing with fear buoys powerful action toward success and growth.
When you see fear as a part of your necessary growth process, it has the potential to be your friend. Fear becomes your guiding voice of wisdom to do the things you must do for a richer, happier life.
So let’s embrace our fears. Addressing our fear is the way to successful, enlightened living.
by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
People think I have a large life. My energy commands a room. But it’s not intentional. In fact, sometimes I think I have two personalities.
And, no, I'm not schizophrenic.
I developed my exterior confidence through my job as a music educator, and my role as a Buddhist facilitator. Directing, leading and teaching large groups of people performing music, and facilitating faith-based activities with diverse groups provided abundant training.
When I’ve had the opportunity to lead, there was no room for ego or attention to myself. There was a task to do. I’ve honed that skill to focus on the task at hand without regard to my personal feelings.
I appreciate this skill.
It enabled me to achieve more as a teacher, chorus conductor, faith leader and performing musician. It allowed me to see beyond myself and do more than I would have otherwise envisioned had I stopped to ponder my capability.
Battling An Attack of Self-Doubt
On the flip side, my alter-ego is debilitatingly shy and constantly fighting doubt. Through sheer life experience and in particular debt to my SGI-USA Buddhist philosophy, I’ve managed to function well—beyond my insecurity.
But it relentlessly attacked me when least expected with insomnia. Even when I thought I’d confronted my inner demons, fear and doubt insidiously assaulted my thoughts until the wee hours of morning.
I’d combat it with my intellect, of course. I spoke to myself with a voice of calmness about reality and fool-proof strategies to turn away my inner demons. I distracted myself with reading, deep breathing and imagery of relaxed, happy visions.
I chanted my Buddhist mantra while attempting to empty the barrage of negativity swirling in my brain. I got out of bed and stretched. I wrote my thoughts in my journal. I fought the battle until 3am, despite exhaustion.
Finally, I’d drift off for about three hours of rest.
In the morning, it would all seem perfectly stupid. In the light of day, my evening struggle seemed like a mirage. Except that I was depleted for two days afterwards.
Making Headway By Forging Inner Strength
This darkness beat at my inner doors all my life. I’ve dramatically lessened the effects of it. It used to cause such stomach-upset agony I couldn’t function beyond bed-rest. It caused me to develop respiratory issues. I had no stamina against this demon.
I continued consistently battling it from the inside out with my determined prayer. I forced myself through the exact experiences that caused me anxiety, repeatedly. I forged directly through anxiety until I incrementally gained strength over it.
I no longer have those anxiety attacks that shook my whole body with nausea or stomach pain. I no longer get respiratory illness or stage fright. I have no qualms about public speaking, performing, or facilitating. I've led hundreds of groups as a music educator and chorus conductor, performed in front of thousands as a vocalist/pianist, and spoken in front of countless audiences from musical to community events, from weddings to funerals and beyond.
I don’t worry about what people think of me anymore. All those battles forged my strength and grew my confidence.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
Notably, when I’m striving to reach a personal goal, or break through to a new level of success in any aspect of my life, my doubts rear their ugliness to challenge me.
That’s how I know I’m on the right track.
A Strong Opponent Builds Your Spiritual Muscle
My Buddhist practice confirms this is a sign of my inner growth; I’m pushing myself beyond comfort and growing my capacity larger than before. There should be some fear or doubt because...I’m human. I’m tackling new and bold territory.
I’m on to these twin evils (fear and doubt). They appear so I may open the path to my future with my true essence—my inner power fueled by belief in the human heart. My heart.
There’s resistance so I may develop spiritual muscle. These most powerful opponents enable me to forge my full potential. Anything easy would not warrant a victory celebration.
I wage on—with a resolute vow to never give up until I win absolute victory over every new challenge. I know it is always a test of my faith. A chance for me to see how my determined prayer—starting from the inner realm—manifests in tangible, conspicuous external proof, based on the interconnectedness of life.
I just have to do the inner work first.
Take that, doubt and fear. Take THAT.
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Change Requires Taking A Leap Of Faith
A chat with a close friend this week was so enlightening and helpful I want to share it. This friend has been by my side through thick and thin for the past 18 months.
She was there as I resigned my music ed position, sold my Florida home, and moved back to my home state (Kentucky) to be in place as Mom’s caregiver. (My two sisters helped Mom through our father’s battle with cancer. He passed away 5 years ago. I determined to help with Mom as needed.)
I took a major leap of faith to make this huge transition into launching a second career as a 50+ single woman. I’m pursuing my lifelong dream to be a professional writer, composer, and online product and course creator.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had numerous unexpected obstacles. People have disappointed me. I’ve made mistakes. Some things failed entirely.
When Your Closest Friends Are Fear And Doubt
During my journey for the past year and a half, my closest companions were my overwhelming self-doubt and fear. My tendency toward insomnia escalated dramatically from my nightly battle against anxiety.
The switch from a steady teaching job to being a caregiver and entrepreneur raised my deepest doubts. This constantly interfered with my sleep patterns and stunted my wisdom to make decisive, appropriate business decisions. I often felt paralyzed with fear of failure.
I’ve discussed my fears repeatedly with the friend mentioned above. As I’ve wrestled my negative feelings head-on, I’ve pulled out all the stops for the solution to win over them. I’m gratefully making tremendous progress with overcoming insomnia, and with winning over my angst.
Fear Reveals Your Courage
I’d like to share some of the things that are working for me, as they may be useful to you. First I want to point out how my friend illuminated things for me; She said that the fact I’ve battled so strongly with fear is an indication of my courage. I wouldn’t even have my courage, without my fear.
That pierced my heart with hope as it made me realize how much I’ve been challenging myself to grow beyond my comfort zone! If I had stayed in my secure job, in my comfy home, and didn’t choose to tackle the responsibility of being my parent’s caregiver or go after my dream as an online entrepreneur and creator, that fear would not appear in my life.
Your Fear Proves Your Growth
If I’d remained where I was 2 years ago, I’d be “safe.” But I wouldn’t be developing my potential or expanding my happiness.
It’s important to remember that when we tackle new adventures, learn new things, or face unexpected difficulties, we are in the fantastic position to transform our lives.
While constant devouring entrepreneurial, self-improvement, and Buddhist literature, I came across the idea that fear is completely natural when launching something new or facing unexpected challenge.
Fear is an indicator of growth. It means we’re going in the right direction, we’re demanding more of our limitless potential.
Find Your Best Self Through The Mirror of Fresh Perspective
Another thing that encouraged the hell out of me, was my friend’s tone of confidence when she mentioned that whatever I do from now will be successful because I’m so capable. We don’t often have the fortune to hear anyone, including ourselves, showering praise for our innate capability.
People don’t tend to mention how inevitable our success will be because of our unique abilities. If anyone does mention it, we often don’t hear it.
Instead, we typically ingrain oodles of negativity from the voices of others. Those old tapes get stuck in our minds, replaying over and over, while the positive encouragement so often gets lost amid that noise.
Hearing my friend’s voice of confidence in me stopped me in my tracks. It made me look at the mirror of my mind with fresh perspective.
The idea of recognizing and trusting in my capacity (talent, wisdom, experience, skill, compassionate energy) nearly shocked me with the reality that I tend to constantly negate my potential.
This led me to immediately ask myself,
“What if I believed in myself as much as my friend believes in me?”
Pretend You Are Amazing
This leads me to concentrate fully on envisioning my life through the lens of self-belief. Even if I have to pretend I’m someone else who believes in me.
I’m not condoning selfishness or ego. Rather, I’m referring to envisioning myself through the perspective of my best qualities.
Defining your qualities may bring up a self-depreciating attitude. But, sometimes what we think are our worst qualities are seen as admirable from someone else’s perspective!
Every tendency of your life has both a negative and positive aspect. Keep pretending that you are amazing, imagining that each trait you possess is functioning in the most positive way.
I’ve learned that if I look for the good in myself and others, I will find it. Even if I feel I must dig deeper to see something positive, it is through that burst of concentrated effort that I uncover value.
The act of searching for that positive value is the process that delivers actual proof and enables progress. In other words, the effort made to win over negativity is the very thing that leads to victory and developing inner strength. The more I use that muscle, the easier it gets, too.
Use Your Gratitude As Fuel For Action
My friend served as a catalyst for my awareness of my courage and capability. This inspires me to do my best to repay my gratitude to people like my dear friend, who encourages my faith, personal development, and success in life and business.
Writing a list in my daily journal of what I appreciate in my life helps remind me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Appreciation is a strong weapon against fear and doubt, too.
When I think of my friend and others who have believed in me, encouraged and supported me in my life, it fuels my determined action. This helps me create momentum to power through fear and doubt.
Focus On The Positive Boosts Drive
Imagining my greatest potential, acknowledging my innate courage, and taking action to repay my debt of gratitude to others are things I now use as focal points going forward. Focusing on the positive, and taking action from that place redirects me away from my negativity.
What we think about becomes our reality. Buddhism teaches the law of cause and effect; What I think or do creates the kind of life I have. My mentor, Buddhist leader and peace activist, Daisaku Ikeda explains, “The reality of your future self is forged by your current action, in your behavior now.”
Defeat Fear With Constant Action
In the past, I’ve allowed my anxiety and self-slander to stunt my progress, or stop me from achieving my goals. Now, I’m actively experiencing how my inner voice determines my external progress. Training myself to think proactively and positively is working.
I take more energetic action, get more accomplished, appreciate myself more, have better moods, and sleep better as a result.
I’ve learned to replace fear with action that is based on positive mindset. I aim to focus on the positive and envision the best outcome as I take action.
But, sometimes I still have to battle my inner demons. Even if I feel doubtful or have anxiety, I find that setting clear daily goals and taking decisive action helps me win over my negative self-talk.
I find that the less time I allow myself to think about my insecurities, and the more I do toward my daily goals, the stronger my inner voice of confidence becomes.
Use Prayer To Transform Your Anxiety
Here’s what’s working for me in my battle against mental angst:
As an SGI Buddhist, I start and end my day with prayer. My mornings start with an hour of Buddhist chanting, during which I set a determination for the day’s success and productivity.
I also use that time to send waves of prayer to others in my life, from family to friends, and you, my online audience.
I resolve to be effective and to fulfill my potential through my daily actions. In the evenings, I do a short 4-minute prayer to reflect and appreciate the day’s progress and life lessons.
The health and positive mental effects of my daily Buddhist practice are profound. Chanting gives me hope, boosts my compassion, and restores my energy. It’s an amazing tool I’ve used for 32 years. If you’d like to learn more about SGI Buddhism, please click here.
Build Your Positivity Fortress
Besides my incredibly supportive friends, and my participation in SGI-USA activities, I immerse myself in positivity.
From listening to upbeat podcasts, blogs, and my favorite music, to reading books on positive mindset, to my SGI-USA Buddhist publications, I devour all things about positive-thinking.
The more I delve into this kind of content, the easier it is for me to shift my focus to it. This dramatically diminishes or replaces my negative self-talk.
Developing a daily routine while vigilantly training my brain to see my best self has been helping me achieve more as I continue forging my new adventurous path. I plan to keep moving forward toward my dreams as I challenge myself to fulfill my potential.
I hope giving you an inside peak into my journey is helpful to you, too. Please let me know in the comments below if it is, or if you have any questions or other topics you’d like me to explore more deeply!
I sincerely pray this content inspires YourCreativeChord!
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful or if you have questions or suggestions!
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