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6 books to read when struggling with Doubt, Anxiety & Overwhelm -My favorite books to read - Part 2

books to read when struggling with anxiety, overwhelm and doubt

This is a follow up from last week’s post about some of my favorite books for sensitive and creative souls.

Quiet, by Susan Cain

Finally a book addressing the power of introverts!

In our culture, being quiet has become a weakness. I felt like most of my time at school and at work, being an introvert/being quiet was deemed a bad thing. “Oh you know, this person doesn’t talk much, she’s a bit of a weirdo. She probably has nothing interesting to say.”

At school, there was a lot of pressure to fit in and pretend to be what I was not: loud and brash. I have felt that too in some of the jobs I had.

In fact, I discovered this book when I was working as a Professor. I remember my colleagues not understanding that I was drained after 8h teaching to classrooms of 25 students. I loved the communication part, sharing my skills and expertise with my students and encouraging them to pursue their dreams, but having to be “outside myself” the whole day was exhausting to my nervous system.

If you’re an introvert, you might have had a similar experience.

Or you most likely have introverts in your life who went through this kind of experience.

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it's a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers -- of persistence, concentration, and insight -- to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”

I love how Susan Cain gives examples of people who lead their life on their own terms, and made their introverted qualities their superpower.

One of the closing lines of the book is amongst my favorites:

“Introverts are offered keys to private gardens full of riches. To possess such key is to tumble like Alice down her rabbit hole. She didn’t choose to go to Wonderland-but she made of it an adventure that was fresh and fantastic and very much her own.”

The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine Aron

Well, this book is like the “bible” for HSPs! Elaine Aron is the psychotherapist who coined the term “Highly Sensitive Person” in 1995.

Yet, I only discovered it a few years ago, while living in Shanghai.

I find it so interesting that I discovered there was such a thing as HSPs when living in a high rise building, in the heart of one of the biggest cities of the world. A city that never sleeps, that is going faster, always faster, and always taller.

Working in a fast-paced environment, where the motto was “I want it already yesterday”!

Like most HSPs, I have been told again and again that I'm “too much” “too emotional”, “too sensitive”, “too slow”.

So you can imagine my delight when this book fell into my laps! For the first time, I could put a word (well, three words) on what I had been experiencing. I felt validated. No I was not crazy! What a relief!

“You were born to be among the advisors and thinkers, the spiritual and moral leaders for your society. There is every reason for pride.”

We, sensitive people, are often told that sensitivity has no place in the workplace. Deep down, I didn’t want to believe that was true, but given my experience, I was considering embarking on an ermit’s journey!

When I read that book, I realized that it's totally possible to have a career where my zone of genius can thrive.

“In short, you do not have to take the job that will create excessive stress and overarousal. Someone else will take it and flourish in it. You do not have to work long hours. Indeed, it may be your duty to work shorter ones. It may not be best to advertise it, but keeping yourself healthy and in your right range of arousal is the first condition for helping others.”

I felt empowered to finally make it my strength rather than an excuse for not being happy or not being fulfilled in my life.

photo by Linfeng Li photography

How to stop worrying and start living, by Dale Carnegie

Ok, so first let me say that there are many outdated details in that book such as the references to religion. But, there are a lot of great tips on how to shift our perception to worrying.

“Let's not allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. Remember "Life is too short to be little".”
“You can sing only what you are. You can paint only what you are. You must be what your experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. For better or for worse, you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life.”
“Nobody is so miserable as he who longs to be somebody and something other than the person he is in body and mind.”

It’s an easy read, and I like to pick it up from time to time, whenever I feel particularly anxious. It’s full of powerful quotes that instantly reminds me to put back things into perspective.

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon—instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”

The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz

You know how they say “when the student is ready, the teacher show up”?

Well, I discovered that book at a time when I was pursuing a career (yes, yet again) that was not aligned with my true self. I was feeling frustrated and out of alignment (miserable!) On paper, it seemed I had it all great! Living in one of the biggest metropolises of the world (Shanghai), high paid job, lots of vacation time, traveling all over East Asia, eating out most days in all kind of restaurants, enjoying cuisines from all over the world, staying in a beautiful apartment in The neighborhood-to-be (trendy, cosmopolitan, buzzing), having fun…

But deep inside, I was feeling like my soul was slowly dying. I didn’t know then that I was an HSP and couldn’t understand why I was feeling so drained and exhausted. My job turned out not to be that creative after all, and the way it was run was way too rigid and structured for me. It felt like a golden jail. The overall vibe was drama, gossiping and backstabbing, as well as constant fear to get fired. My friendships were quite superficial…

Then, somehow I stumbled upon that book, and things became clear in my mind.

What I love about this book is how it helps us to keep accountable to ourselves and it shows us how acting and behaving with integrity is so paramount to live a better life.

According to the author, the four agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.

  2. Don’t take anything personally

  3. Don’t make assumptions

  4. Always do your best

“Be impeccable with your word really means never use the power of the word against yourself. When you’re impeccable with your word, you never betray yourself. You never use the word to gossip about yourself or to spread emotional poison by gossiping about other people."

This is relevant to everyone of course, but for us, highly sensitive people, we are so connected to our emotions and feelings that our energy can easily be derailed when we betray our integrity. Small details make a big difference for us. Therefore, if we are not in alignment, if we're not in integrity, it's kind of toxic to our emotional wellbeing. Our sensitivity can very easily pick up on what's wrong or one what's not being true. What's not genuine and what's not authentic. Although initially when I first read that book, I thought the wording was a little bit presumptuous but when reading more of the author’s explanation, it resonated quite a lot. Obviously, it's not to be taken as a dogma. And since we tend to be perfectionists and pay attention to every little detail, I don't think you need to follow everything to the letter. But that being said, being aware, paying attention to this really helps us get more into alignment over time. And honesty it sets us free. Free to create our life story according to our values, according to our truth.

You know, to remove some big weight from that energetic field. Imagine honestly saying, I'm very sensitive. I'm a sensitive person. I have strong emotions. That's incredibly liberating: I no longer feel guilty about it.

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, by Debbie Ford

Aside from its title, which I find absolutely beautiful, I liked that book because it explores how we all have shadows and the principle of light versus shadow which is basically the universe principle of creation: in order to have light you need to have shadow, in order to have fullness, by contrast you need emptiness.

There are two sides of the same coin.

Yin and Yang.

And we, humans, tend to push our shadows aside. We tend to either deny some positive aspects of ourselves because we were told we cannot have them or we are told we will not.

And we become afraid of them.

Or we deny our negative traits. Some people pretend they're perfect, others pretend they’re “better than”. Many of us have said at some point that we are not the kind of person who does “XYZ”.

But this is actually not true. We all have the entire world within us, we all have the entire spectrum of emotions within us. Therefore we have darkness as much as we have lightness. And you know what? When you don't own your darkness, it ends up owning you. Have you ever found yourself repeatedly frustrated and upset about certain things that keep coming back into your life?

“Your life will be transformed when you make peace with your shadow. The caterpillar will become a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly. You will no longer have to pretend to be someone you're not. You will no longer have to prove you're good enough. When you embrace your shadow you will no longer have to life in fear. Find the gifts of your shadow and you will finally revel in all the glory of your true self. Then you will have the freedom to create the life you have always desired.”

The Right Questions, by Debbie Ford

Yes, Debbie Ford again, hehee!

I came across this book at a time when I was very confused as to what path to take.

There were many possibilities (as often), and I knew it was time to take a decision, but was having a hard time discerning what was most aligned with my authentic self. Overwhelm was clouding my judgment once again.

“Remember, all the answers you need are inside of you; you only have to become quiet enough to hear them.”

In this book, the author asks 10 powerful questions that help you go deep into what really matters to you. Not your family, your friends, your boss, but you. Beautiful, powerful, sensitive you.

“This powerful question—“Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?”—challenges us to believe in ourselves and make the daring choice to trust in our innate ability to know what’s in our highest and best interest.”

As highly sensitive people, we tend to shy away from conflict, and so often we try to make everyone around us happy.

And that means, we can let this fear prevent us from doing what’s best for us.

“When we don’t deal with the unfulfilled needs inside us, they continue to drive us to act impulsively, to forsake our long-term vision in favor of short-term gratification. Then our unfulfilled needs, not our vision, drive our behaviors.”

To sum up:

  • All the answers you need are inside of you

  • Quiet is a superpower

  • Use your natural powers to your advantage

  • Life is too short to be little

  • Be present

  • Focus on what you can change, let go of what you have no control over

  • Listen to your needs

  • Trust your inner voice

  • Embrace all of who you are, the beautiful and the not so beautiful

  • Take time to discern your priorities

  • Think about your long-term vision instead of short-term gratification

  • Integrity is paramount for inner-peace

Now, I'd love to know: what is your top take-away from this article?

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