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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How To Decrease Your Anxiety & Live More Mindfully; An Empathetic Perfectionist Helps You Balance Your Life
GET YOUR FREE COPY OF Dr. Tara Sanderson’s book, Too Much, Not Enough A guide to decreasing anxiety and finding balance through intentional choices!
A Book Review
By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
In sync with my constant quest for more inspiration, creativity hacks and self-care strategies, I recently read Dr. Tara Sanderson’s new ebook, Too Much, Not Enough A guide to decreasing anxiety and finding balance through intentional choices. The book title captured my attention as something that would fit in with my current journey toward being more mindful.
I’m always open to new, positive ways to transform negative self-talk, doubt and fear. Aren’t you? So, along with adding meditations to my morning Buddhist chanting and exercise routines, I eagerly read through Sanderson’s book.
I was looking for tips or practices that could help me and TEAM YCC (YourCreativeChord, aka, you) deal with life’s inevitable challenges, that little inner critic, ways to improve rapport within relationships, and smooth out my perfectionist, overachieving tendencies. I found all these in Sanderson’s book and more.
The author begins and continues through to the last page of the book with blatant personal transparency, laying out intimate details of her personal struggles in a way that is immediately disarming. Her willingness to show her own vulnerability through every step of the way puts the reader at ease on the level field of humanity with this credentialed new author.
Sanderson is a “Licensed Psychologist, Author, and Clinical Supervisor in Oregon.” For more than 20 years, she has been “helping people learn the skills to live their best lives. Using tools from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, she specializes in working with clients who struggle with Perfectionism, Overachieving, Anxiety, and Depression. (from her website, https://www.drtarasanderson.com )
Sanderson dives right in to the core of issues. She shares inner feelings and life scenarios that are readily relatable. Though that may be awkward or troubling to note, she brings her wisdom and random humorous anecdotes just in the nick of time, comforting us enough to keep digging. She gently urges us to see that the big reward of continuing to sit through that discomfort, and along with it, grieve “the loss of our expectations” is that “experiencing difficult emotions makes us present.”
Sanderson’s advice resonates deeply with the benefit of practicing mindfulness; being present, sitting still with our thoughts and negative feelings. We learn that the more we sit with our discomfort, the more we can tune in to ourselves and what we need to transform our feelings and/or situation.
Just when we begin to feel what is most painful about ourselves, and as if she’s reading our minds that we want to walk away from this, Sanderson chimes in that “Broken-ness doesn’t have to be life ending. It can be a new beginning with a history,” bringing us peace of mind that we are okay despite our fragments and broken hearts.
She gives tools and reminders that our future has the hope of becoming a rich story based precisely on our struggles and endings, followed by new chapters of beginnings with our growing resilience that will come from doing the work Sanderson suggests we undertake.
She offers encouragement with the tools she practices professionally, such as reframing our situation or ourselves to see more options available to us than the extreme black and white areas of life that we often get stuck between. As an example, she doesn’t tell “clients they’re going to be a gold-laden bowl in 2 weeks. I am telling them we are ready to start picking up the pieces.”
She gently explains, “Sometimes we need to be broken in order to move forward in a new and different way. Brokenness isn’t final. It’s a thing that happens and we decide how to move on from it.”
Her soft power approach coaxes away the fears of endings or weaknesses, allowing the reader to breathe through the process of personal development. Sanderson’s professional skills come through her book, without overtly flashing those credentials in the reader’s face.
She walks us through various real-life scenarios, interspersing humor into her unadorned initial responses to paint a relatable picture of a problem state. She gets the reader down in the trenches of the typical emotional state of an overachiever, until we feel that problem or it brings up something parallel in our lives.
For those dealing with anxiety, Sanderson’s guiding voice compels the reader to let go of extremes to see the gray areas of life, and with those, the opportunities for releasing fears and finding hope. As a person with tendencies toward anxiety, I relaxed my brain to embrace her reminders that life is full of options, is never truly black and white, and that decision-making is a process that is not final. This may seem obvious to non-perfectionists. But Sanderson clearly speaks to her tribe.
A critical chapter in the book is for those from dysfunctional backgrounds who haven’t learned the art of training others to respect personal boundaries. Sanderson covers the issue of setting boundaries with the heart of a poet, reminding us of how important it is to treasure ourselves, and to teach others how to treasure our lives, too,
“Recognize your worth. You are a gift. When you have something valuable where do you keep it? You are valuable. You don’t just hand over your heart, your mind, your soul to whoever comes around. You keep it safe until you trust them. You deserve to be protected from those who might ignore your boundaries.”
This is where Sanderson segues into the importance of self-care as an important way of assuring we have enough to live our best lives. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Self-care is less about the value of the person and more about the fullness of the cup.”
Sanderson’s book shows us how critical it is to find ways to take care of ourselves, whether that’s solitude, listening to or playing music, exercising, spending time in nature, hanging out with friends or family, prayer, or good food. Sanderson makes it okay to treat yourself in the name of bringing your best to the situation and the people in your life.
Sanderson walks you through various situations that typically provoke negative emotions or friction within relationships. She voices the common responses that tend toward extremes of black and white options, then eases the reader to acknowledge a wealth of in-betweens that could be used to transform mindset, perspective, and ultimately the relationship or situation.
She brings the reader to an understanding that victim mentality is flimsy but taking full responsibility for one’s choices is empowering. She says, “Love it or change it,” working through potential negative feelings step by step to uncover alternative options that are feasible, and in bite-sized chunks that seem palatable.
The author guides you through levels of anxiety or knee-jerk reactions to find a space within your mind where you may practice new, healthier techniques. Sanderson reminds those of us who are anxiety-prone that our choices are valid and trustworthy. Even if rusty, shaky, or completely new to healthy, mindful practices, she offers you manageable methods for dealing with internal struggle, and leads you to create new habits of self-talk, communication with others, and the tools to find reasonable outcomes for challenging circumstances.
Sanderson, being a perfectionist, overachiever herself, knows the path to anxiety well enough to anticipate the typical objections from one anxious person to another. She repeatedly, gently and often humorously reminds the reader that these kinds of behavioral or life changes require time to acquire and practice to master.
In her words, “Being changeable is a good start, but making the change is another thing altogether. To make a change, we need another skill; we need to be willing to practice. We need to be willing to fail until we get it right.”
Welcoming failure as part of the legitimacy of practicing toward mastery is not an easy concept for the perfectionist. But Sanderson is always one step ahead, offering comfort and cheering you on through the process. Getting support and guidance from someone who is not only credentialed in the science of behavior and psychology, but more importantly—to many of us anxiety-ridden folks--knows that darkness from within her own mind, is just what it takes to gain the golden egg of trust.
If you’re someone who tends toward worrying, depression, OCD habits, or self-doubt, Sanderson’s book has the stuff to sway you to believe in your ability to make intentional choices that lead to a healthier, satisfying way of life. She knows you want to do everything yourself, yet need some help sometimes. Sanderson’s book is a strategy for you to learn how to believe in yourself, your capacity for handling everything you feel you must.
More than this, Sanderson brings you to find hope. For all who worry or doubt, including Sanderson herself, she knows, “Hope is a nightlight for our soul.”
Dr. Tara Sanderson’s book is FREE for 5 days starting TODAY, September 10, 2019! Get your copy Here!
Find Dr. Tara Sanderson at: DrTaraSanderson.com
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Why Should You Dream Too Big & Harness Your Powerful Imagination?
Defeat Fear & Doubt with Your Courage & Capability
How To Deflect Negativity To Become Happier
Believing In The Positive
My Top Tips For Winning Over Your Insomnia
How To Live A Life of Joyful Creativity
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In my INSPIRATION blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.