Special Guest: Dr. Alissa Sasser
""When we embrace our pain and when we are authentic in our humanity, sometimes things have to rupture, bleed, and break into a million pieces so that we can heal them. "~ Dr. Sasser"
Join Dr. Patrice Buckner Jackson & Dr. Alissa Sasser as they talk about overcoming perfectionism.
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Hey, hey, hey friends, this is Dr. Patrice Buckner Jackson. But you can call me PBJ. Welcome to another episode of Heart Work with PBJ, where we are disrupting cycles of burnout and compassion fatigue, so that you can serve from the heart. Listen, friends, I need your help, if you would subscribe and share and rate and comment. Wherever you're listening to this episode, wherever you listen to this podcast, it helps us get this message out to more people. That's how the algorithms work. So do me a favor, make sure you let us know you're listening, say something back to us subscribe, so that we can keep getting this good message out. Friends. I'm so excited about these next few episodes. So as I shared with you all, I had a plan for opening the Heart Work Academy right now. So it's May 1, today would have been our orientation. But I've been led to hold and wait on that as I'm doing other things. But in preparing, I had the opportunity to interview a few ladies who have been a part of the heart work community and Heartwork Academy. And I still want to share these episodes with you. These phenomenal women not only have they experienced transformation, but their stories are going to be a blessing to you, I believe that you're going to see yourself in their story. So I'm not going to wait to share these episodes with you. I'm going to share them now. So over the next couple of weeks, you are going to have the opportunity to meet several members of the Heartwork Academy Heart Work community, and I cannot wait for you to meet them. So hang on to your hats. Here comes the first one. Okay, friends, listen, I am so excited to introduce members of the Heartwork Community to you all these phenomenal powerful women are people that have decided to join the Heartwork community who have allowed me to be a part of their lives in one way or another. And I am excited to see the not just the progress, but the transformation, the transformation in these women. So today, I have the honor of introducing Dr. Alissa Sasser. And Dr. Sasser and I, we've been walking through this thing for a while before you all knew who I was before a podcast, or even the Academy. And that assessor before you before you speak, and I'm going to ask you to introduce yourself. But I want to start by thanking you. Because I don't know if you remember this, but you were the first person to sow a seed into me that coaching was something that I should do. You were the first person to say, hey, you need to do this for more people. Are you? Are you a coach? Do you coach, you need to do this for other people. And when you asked me that, honestly, I wasn't even sure what that meant. But you sowed a seed in my heart that I could not let go of. And because you sowed that seed, I get to do this work. So I'm trying to I knew I was gonna cry. But I want you to know how much I appreciate you seeing a light in me and encouraging me to go forward and do this work. So thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, oh my goodness. So Dr. Sasser tell the people who you are, and how we even met how we got connected in the first place. Sure. I'm so grateful and honored to be here today with you. And I met Dr. PBJ at a women's conference at a small storefront church. And she told her story to a group of women and Claxton. And there may have been about 15 of us sitting in the pew. And then at the end, somebody asked me to like close it out in prayer and I was terrified because this was a new group that I had joined on this day. And then I had just come on the heels of Dr. PBJ telling this dynamic story of her life and those of you that know Dr. PBJ. She is a powerful force and a true warrior for the greater good. I felt so unworthy to close this Question and prayer, following her sharing a real life story. And then after that, I reached out to Dr. PBJ, when she worked at Georgia Southern, and every classroom, I taught in every group of students that I worked with, I asked her, can you come tell your story, these children need encouragement. And she's a tremendously busy woman, and served in executive leadership at, you know, at that time at Georgia Southern University, but she always made time for me. And every time I went to meet with her to either schedule an event or take her a thank you token, I always felt seen, I felt heard. And I felt inspired. And when I found out that she was doing the coaching group, I believe I was in your first cohort. And I want those of you listening today to know that it changed my life. This woman is a true healer, and a powerful mentor to women. So I feel so honored to share space with you today. And I am an educator, I'm a 22 year public educator, and I've served in a variety of roles. I'm also a sister, a daughter and an aunt and a friend. And I want to give space to that because those relationships, were transformation, transformational to my healing from compassion, fatigue, and burnout, because my isolation and my sole focus on performance and work made me very sick, also. And I learned to say this out loud, I'm also a grateful, recovering perfectionist, and I have also in my journey to recover from compassion, fatigue, and burnout, learn to say out loud that I'm also recovering from an eating disorder. And you know, our secrets make us sick. And I, again, was so performance oriented, that my, my secret kept me sick for over two decades. So, again, I just feel so thankful to be here and to be able to connect with you all in to you, Dr. PBJ, thank you for the way that you have helped me on my journey, and so many women just like me, Listen, can I call you Alissa, that's that, okay? Of course, I need to take a moment and say how proud I am of you to be at a place where you are owning your truth. And not just owning your truth, but where you say it out loud, so that other people who are in the midst of that storm can hear your call. And they will know that there's a way out that it's possible that you keep working on it, like you keep striving, but they're not alone. They're not alone. I've watched you walk through the path. And even when we had this conversation, like, Look, you don't have to say any of that. But for you to respond and say no, I'm ready to say it. Like I'm in a place that I can say it out loud. Now. It just fills my heart. And I've got goosebumps, because so often we're taught to wear the mask, use your title, get the degree, talk about the professional, and you are an accomplished educator, Let's not mess this up. You have done miraculous work and communities that needed you. You don't flock to the popular, you don't flock to the places that a lot of people go to when they just want to be known. You go to the places where you are needed, and you have the heart that it takes to serve in those places. So we won't take any of that away from your journey. But to add to it, to add to it to say, I am this. And I've also been that. And I also struggled here and I still work through it, the freedom. The freedom that you have now, to speak truth to power is just a beautiful thing. Talk to me a little bit about the path that you've taken to get to this point. Sure. Well, when I was working on my dissertation, I worked in school leadership, I changed jobs in the middle of it which they tell you not to do. And I drove myself relentlessly. I moved to a bigger position and a bigger district but people didn't know me and I struggled with imposter syndrome. My family of origin is very blue collar. And most of the tables that I've sat at professionally, both as I've obtained degrees, and as I've pursued professional growth and advancement I felt in my heart like I didn't belong there. And because of that, I drove myself relentlessly answering every email, every text message, every phone call didn't matter time of day, time and night, every project I got that I got to every boss that I worked for. I mean, you know, I was a very loyal employee, but to my own detriment, and I also, so I drove myself relentlessly to prove myself, grief, I was not able to have children. And I that was I discovered that in 2014, and instead of getting some counseling, in mourning, the loss of the role that I so desperately wanted to have, as part of my life journey, I threw myself into my work. And I mean, those of you out there, I mean, I buried myself up to the top of my head, so that I didn't have to feel anything, and I didn't. And it was a long, you know, five years just work, work work, all I did was work, and I lost relationships, I lost my marriage. And at the end of that journey, I lost connections with my family, because it was go to work, work a 10 hour day, stay on your email, and then drink a glass of wine and go to bed. And then on top of that, my stress level was so high, I started first I started restricting my food. And then I I'm a recovered bulimic, and then it transitioned into that. And I struggled with bulimia, in college, I was a college cheerleader, which is also very performance oriented. But between the dissertation not grieving and fertility, and trying to prove myself professionally, I mean, I just did not take care of myself and I was over responsive to other people, and to prove myself, and in 2020, I had to go get some help. And it was very embarrassing, but humbling to be able to go to my HR director and say, I'm gonna have to get some help, I need to go out on FMLA. And I spent most of my career trying to be perfect, and trying to not look like I had any humanity. I thought people with the initials after my name, didn't struggle with disorders, addictions, afflictions of any kind. But I want you to know, when I saw I went to 21 days of rehab to get some assistance with my eating disorder. And when I came out, people were more. I feel like being real in my skin made me a better human made me a better family member. And it made me a better leader. And people came to me and talk to me about things, and they were more receptive. My greatest fear was when I finally surrendered the outcome, and I admitted that that what I was struggling with was bigger than me, that when I came out of, you know, getting some help with that, that people wouldn't respect me and that my work wouldn't have value in anymore, but the opposite happened. And I, when we embrace our pain, and when we are authentic in our humanity, and sometimes things have to rupture, and bleed and break into a million pieces so that we can heal them. And when I allowed that to happen, the making was in the breaking for me. But it took a long time to get there because my fear and my shame paralyze me. And I praise God today. I give him all the glory today and every day and I end Dr. PBJ was there and every she seemed to come in my life at various times along the journey, and she encouraged me to follow my purpose. Through the coaching sessions, I was able to really look at some of those root causes of my compassion, fatigue and burnout that stemmed from a dysfunctional childhood, and dismantle some of those false belief systems. In that coaching group, along with other steps I took to address my eating disorder in my workaholism, it saved my life. And I just I would be remiss, Patrice, if I did not say thank you for being a conduit of healing for me. You you change the course of my life forever, and I'm so grateful. I feel so honored to be able to share this time with you today. My goodness, oh, my goodness. I'm so many things. First of all, is my honor. It's my honor. And you know, this this work is not about being known or being famous or none of the things this is about healing. This is about healing and so many people need it and they deserve it. So just to be here now Now, it's been my honor to be a part of your life and your journey. And you said so many things, I want to connect back to what you said about acknowledging and grieving of infertility. That is not something that I have said publicly. But in this moment, I want to stand with you. As you all know, I do have my baby girl who is my husband's daughter from a prior marriage, and I'm so grateful for her, and I call her my miracle baby. But the truth is, I've never been able to conceive. And just like you that was, that was the goal of my life. I would have given away every title and every degree and every position, if I could trade it for carrying and delivering and raising a baby that is mine. But that did not happen for me. But what I want to highlight in what you're saying is, it is so important for us to acknowledge and grieve losses. If someone loses a person to death, we have understanding, and we have grace for that. Because we can connect to what it feels like to lose somebody to death. But death is not the only thing that we grieve, able to conceive as a loss, it's a loss of a dream. It's a loss of a desire. Losing a marriage is a loss, losing relationships with people that you love. All of that requires us to grieve. And to allow ourselves and give ourselves grace and space to grieve and to heal. So thank you for acknowledging that. Thank you for sharing that. And because so often, I think, being a woman who struggles with infertility, especially a professional woman, a woman who has degrees a woman who has the career, people say some of the most hurtful things, they assume that because it didn't happen, you didn't want it. That's trying, they assume that the career is first or this is first or she's doing her her thing. But what I would encourage everyone is don't make assumptions. That's trying what somebody's path is. You don't know what they've been through or what their heart's desire is. So make space and give grace, make grace for people in their path, and also just sharing the all of the professional accolades and all the things that people Pat, us on the back for. Sometimes it's destroying us. Hmm, you can say that twice for the people in the back. Sometimes it's destroying us. And you saying, I think you said it this way the making was in the breaking. I don't want to put words in your mouth. But that is so powerful, because we don't want to break. We don't want we don't want to fold. We don't want to sit because if I stop, I may never be able to start again. That fear. That fear of is if I pause if I acknowledge this thing that hurts. If I stopped to acknowledge this thing that hurts, it might just It hurts so deeply, it might destroy me. Yet stop. So work is my drug food is my drug, alcohol is my drug relationships are my drug, perfectionism, the pursuit of the next thing, then the promotion is my drug, we all of us have a thing that we use as a sound to rub on where it hurts. But the truth of the matter is, until we deal with the root, we're never going to affect the outcome that all of those things are symptoms. All of those things are symptoms of what's really, really going on and, and that's why we talk about checking our baggage and we did that as a hard worker Academy and you're you're checking our baggage to understand where this came from. And how did we get to this point? So if you would, and I know you mentioned the coaching program and some other resources, are there any practical steps or resources or things that you would to share today that you would say, Yeah, this made it this made a difference for me. Sure. I reinvested in my friend tribe, I had isolated myself for a long time because I was chasing the wrong things, first of all, and I also, you know, spiritually sick, and I didn't want people to know struggling. So I reconnected with my friends, I made a point to reach out to my family. I'm the oldest of five kids, I talked to all my siblings every week. And I also write gratitude and affirmations every day. And I write one thing, just one that I'm gonna do every day, because I can't do all the 10 things on my sticky notes all over my office, but I can start my day with the one thing, but that Gratitude Game Changer. And then I also use something called a god box. In in my god box. It's like, it's like this Kate Spade, God box, but I write every night things that I'm worrying about on a sticky note, and I date it. And when my god box gets full, I dump it out. And it's amazing for me to see how God answered every prayer. I mean, every prayer, but the whole act of like turning that over. It was really, really important. I also stopped wearing an iWatch I stopped answering emails and sending emails after five, I stopped working on Sundays, and I found a hobby. Music is really important to me, I plugged back into doing that with my church, I plugged back into service work, like things that I really cared about in the community. Those were really, really important to me, but the boundaries around my work, and I worked really, really hard. You know, my, my people pleasing, I thought was me being nice. No, that was me being dishonest, dishonest, because I would betray myself, because I was scared of you. And so I've been trying to not do the dirty Yes. And when I say no, I can't do that, not overexplaining, because I've learned that that's a trauma response. And I'm a grown up and if I say I'm sorry, I'm not able to do that, that's deficient. That. But I've been really working on that. And then trying to be very specific about what I need with things. You know, that's to be when I can communicate with clarity with people, I can uphold my own boundaries and my own values. But first, I had to figure out what those things were. Because, you know, before I was just, I wanted to please everybody, I wanted everybody to validate me, I also say I'm a recovering validation junkie, too, you know, but I had to learn to put a fence around, you know, grass only grows if we protect it and nurture it and let it you know, cultivate properly, but you have to have boundaries to do that. But work did not become my everything. And, and, and I love the work I do today it is incredibly rewarding. But I have boundaries on it. And I also because I'm able to respect my time I respect the time of other people. There were times in my life where I was relentless. Like I had to get this test done, I had to get you to answer my email. And I mean, I rode myself hard, and I had unrelenting expectations on other people. And today, I don't do that I realized when I had been able to be in relationship with myself, getting quiet every day for a little bit, whatever that looks like, for me, sometimes it's meditation, a body scan, prayer, sometimes it's writing, but I have to get quiet every day and have a relationship with myself so that I can have relationships with other people. And the last thing I did and this has been very new. I started getting my eating habits in check. And you know, just like I was a workaholic, I was a binge eater. I'm a recovering binge eater. So today I eat with intention. I don't let myself get too hungry. I have somebody I'm accountable to with my food I write my food out every day I send it to somebody they tell me and I eliminated sugar, flour and wheat from my diet. I had no idea how much sugar was contributing to my anxiety but at night like you know 44 I'm gonna be 44 So I can all the time right? But that's sugar getting rid of that was a game changer but I'd say if I've said a lot of things in the past few minutes but if I had to say anything the two top things were relationships because we heal in community and gratitude every day right in gratitude game changers. Alissa Sasser, I am trying not to scream in this microphone. Okay. I literally holding myself together because you can screech the whole word. I mean a whole word. We can say the benediction. Shut it down right here. I'm so Okay, first of all, to hear where you are now, like, I remember having conversations in the academy about your connections to your family, and now hearing that you're talking to them every week, and then you your, your god box. So what you have done is you reconceptualized prayer, and you taking the mystery out of it, because I believe the church has led us to believe that prayer has to be this deep mystical, kinda only really fancy people can do it. But I love the idea of your god bots, where you just take a care, you take a concern, and you put it in the box, technically, put it in a box, and then you hold yourself accountable to come back and look back to look back, kind of like your monuments. That you know, there are several times in the Bible where God would tell the people of Israel, like Mark this, Mark, that I did this for you. You didn't tell generations to come about it. And you're marking all those things that you've done. And then you don't come around and talk about the dirty Yes. Listen, you, it was a whole word just now, e verything that you said I'm about to explode. I hope you all I hope you all are hearing this. I hope you're hearing this, I hope that you're hearing the tips and the encouragement and the specifics, the practical ways that you can walk these things out putting boundaries around your work, having, you know, you may or may not call it Sabbath, you don't have to call it that, but a day when you don't work. And for many of us, that's foreign. And I remember the day that I would tell myself, I can't do that. I can't do that. I will tell people who love me, I can't you don't understand, you don't understand my work, I can't do that I can't take a day off, I can't turn my phone off. I can't, you know, leave it at home, I can't do that. And literally it was it was abusive, it was traumatic and it was dysfunctional. It catches up to us, I always tell you that overwhelm is the Whisperer, but burnout and compassion, fatigue is the demand you will stop. You will, your body will make you you won't be able to continue. So let's work through it before you have to hit that rock bottom. And even if you have and you want the community to walk through it with you to dig out of it. Let's do this together in community, we need community. We need connection,Alis, all all of what you are saying today and what you're sharing. There are women who have been in their professions for years, they have the top degrees, they have the top positions, they have done all the things so all the things, if I get to the next one, I'll feel better. If I make it to the next promotion, then everything will be okay. If I can get to the next salary level, then everything will be okay when I finished his doctorate degree, then everything will be okay. And you and I did all those things. And we'll find ourselves in rock bottom burnout, different ways, different stories, but the same. So what would you say to the woman who is checking all the blocks, doing all the things, always showing up? Carrying all the things, but she will hear our conversation today. And she will hear herself? And she will know that we are speaking to her heart? What will you say to her just in general? But then also concerning the heart work Academy? What would you say that? Ooh, if something that I've shared today, and look, I was scared to share, you know, this is not you know, this is a really vulnerable stuff that I don't talk about with most people. But if something that I've said today resonates with somebody, the first thing they need to do is just admit that it's bigger than them that and and I'm telling you, the HEartwork Academy sitting with other women getting, you know, really honest and open so we can heal together but that connection is key. And I know in the height of my perfectionism and my eating disorder I was isolating so I would tell somebody who's hearing this and resonates you know part of our story you know resonates with them. Get in the ring, but part of getting in the ring is Throwing all your junk in the middle, and then holding hands with your sisters around it and fixing it together. That is the only way but don't be it's scary, but it's worth it and you're not alone. And I would encourage anybody struggling with you know compassion fatigue and burnout to join the HEartwork Academy, you will leave a changed woman for sure. I am, I'm beyond proud of you have always been proud to know you and always been honored to connect with you and your work and speaking with your students. But I am so proud of the freedom. I am so proud of the courage. And I'm going to tell you in front of all these people, and whoever's listening, y'all can mark it down. There is a powerful ministry, message work that is coming forth, out of all of you all that you've been through. And all that you have fought through Dr. Alissa Sasser, the work that you're going to do next is your life's work. It is the work life. I felt that Dr. PBJ and I felt that in a big way. Whoo. Yeah. There will be glory. There will be glory out of this. And I know it's already starting you were already sharing good news and things that you're doing. But since you ain't seen nothing yet. Well, thank you for being a conduit. For so many women just like me. I mean, using your gifts, your talent, you're in the Holy Spirit to heal. I mean, I echo those same sentiments back to you for sure. And thank you so much. I'm changed today because you let God use you. And I know you'll continue to do so for so many others. Thank you. Thank you for calling it out of me. Thank you for naming it before I knew what it was. I don't take relationships for granted. And yours is definitely one that I'm honored to hear. So thank you for being with us. Thank you for sharing today. You all thank you for listening. Thank you for giving us space to share and honoring our journeys. But we call on you. If you hear yourself, if you can connect to what we're saying if you heard your language, it through this conversation, we are calling you out. We're calling you in. We're calling you in. We're not gonna call you out. Because this is not a place of judgment. This is not a place where you have to perform. This is not a place where you need to wear your mask. You can lay all of that down. You can put it all down as my sister said, lay it down in the middle of the ring. And we'll all hold hands around it together and we're sort to through it together. As always, you are powerful. You are significant. And you are loved. Love always PBJ.