Feel the Fear ... and Do It Anyway

Feel the Fear ... and Do It Anyway

by Susan Jeffers


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345487421
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/26/2006
Edition description: Anniversary
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 43,340
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

Susan Jeffers was an American psychologist and author of Opening Our Hearts to Men and Dare to Connect.

Read an Excerpt

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway (r)

By Susan Jeffers

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2006 Susan Jeffers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0345487427



I am about to teach another fear class. The classroom is empty. I am waiting for my new group of students to appear. My nervousness about teaching these classes disappeared a long time ago. Not only have I taught it many times, but I also know my students before I meet them. They are like the rest of us: all trying to do the best they can and all uncertain about whether they're good enough. It never varies.

As the students enter the room, I can feel the tension. They sit as far apart from one another as possible, until the seats between must be filled because of lack of space. They don't talk to one another, but sit nervously, expectantly. I love them for their courage to admit that their lives are not working the way they want them to work. And their presence in the class signifies that they are ready to do something about it.

I begin by going around the room asking each student to tell the rest of us what he or she is having difficulty confronting in life. Their stories unfold:

Don wants to change his career of fourteen years and follow his dreams of becoming an artist.

Mary Alice is an actress who wants to discover why she finds all kinds of excuses for not attending auditions.

Sarah wants to leave a marriage of fifteen years.

Teddy wants to get over his fear of aging. He is all ofthirty-two.

Jean is a senior citizen who wants to confront her doctor; he treats her like a child and never gives her any straight answers.

Patti wants to expand her business, but can't make the required leap to the next step.

Rebecca wants to confront her husband with things that have been bothering her.

Kevin wants to get over a fear of rejection that makes it very difficult to ask a woman for a date.

Laurie wants to know why she is unhappy when she has everything one could possibly want in life.

Richard is retired and feels useless. He fears his life is over.

And so it goes until everyone's story is heard.

I'm fascinated with what happens during the go-around. As each person shares from the heart, the entire atmosphere begins to change. The tension quickly fades and relief is expressed on everyone's face.

First, my students begin to realize that they are not the only ones in the world feeling afraid. Second, they begin to see how attractive people become as they open up and share their feelings. Long before the last person has spoken, a feeling of warmth and camaraderie pervades the room. They are strangers no more.

Although the backgrounds and situations of the class members vary greatly, it does not take long for the surface layers of their particular stories to disappear, opening the way for everyone to touch on a very human level. The common denominator is the fact that fear is keeping all of them from experiencing life the way they want to experience it.

The scenario above repeats itself in each fear class I teach. At this point you might be wondering how one course can accommodate all the diverse fears reported by the class members--their needs seem to be so varied. It's true. They do seem varied until we dig a little deeper and look at the underlying cause of all their fears--and everyone else's.

Fear can be broken down into three levels. The first level is the surface story, such as the ones described above. This level of fear can be divided into two types: those that "happen" and those that require action. Here is a partial list of Level 1 fears divided into these types:

Level 1 Fears

Those that "Happen"Those Requiring Action

AgingGoing back to school

Becoming disabledMaking decisions

RetirementChanging a career

Being aloneMaking friends

Children leaving homeEnding or beginning a

Natural disasters relationship

Loss of financial securityGoing to the doctor

ChangeAsserting oneself

DyingLosing weight

WarBeing interviewed


Level 1 Fears (continued)

Those that "Happen"Those Requiring Action

Losing a loved onePublic speaking

AccidentsMaking a mistake


You might have a few you can add to the list. As I hinted earlier, you wouldn't be alone if you said to yourself, "Some of the above" or even "All of the above." There is a reason for this. One of the insidious qualities of fear is that it tends to permeate many areas of our lives. For example, if you fear making new friends, it then stands to reason that you also may fear going to parties, having intimate relationships, applying for jobs, and so on.

This is made clearer by a look at the second layer of fear, which has a very different feel from that of Level 1. Level 2 fears are not situation-oriented; they involve the ego.

Level 2 Fears

RejectionBeing conned



Being vulnerableLoss of image

Level 2 fears have to do with inner states of mind rather than exterior situations. They reflect your sense of self and your ability to handle this world. This explains why generalized fear takes place. If you are afraid of being rejected, this fear will affect almost every area of your life--friends, intimate relationships, job interviews, and so on. Rejection is rejection--wherever it is found. So you begin to protect yourself, and, as a result, greatly limit yourself. You begin to shut down and close out the world around you. Look over the Level 2 list once again, and you will see how any one of these fears can greatly impact many areas of your life.

Level 3 gets down to the nitty-gritty of the issue: the biggest fear of all--the one that really keeps you stuck. Are you ready?

Level 3 Fear


"That's it? That's the big deal?" you may ask. I know you're disappointed and wanted something much more dramatic than that. But the truth is this:




Let's test this. The Level 1 fears translate to:

I can't handle illness.

I can't handle making a mistake.

I can't handle losing my job.

I can't handle getting old.

I can't handle being alone.

I can't handle making a fool out of myself.

I can't handle not getting the job.

I can't handle losing him/her.

I can't handle losing my money . . . etc.

The Level 2 fears translate to:

I can't handle the responsibilities of success.

I can't handle failure.

I can't handle being rejected . . . etc.

Thus Level 3--simply, "I can't handle it!"

The truth is:




The answer is: nothing!

I know you are probably not jumping up and down for joy just yet, but believe me when I tell you that I have just given you a great piece of news. What I have just told you means you can handle all your fears without having to control anything in the outside world. This should be a tremendous relief. You no longer have to control what your mate does, what your friends do, what your children do, or what your boss does. You don't have to control what happens at an interview, what happens at your job, what happens in your new career, what happens to your money, or what happens in the stock market.




I am belaboring the point because it is so critical. From this moment on, every time you feel afraid, remind yourself that it is simply because you are not feeling good enough about yourself. Then proceed to use one or more of the tools in this book to help build yourself up. You have your task clearly mapped out for you. There is no reason for confusion.

I've often been asked to explain why we have so little trust in ourselves. I don't really know the answer to that. I know that some fear is instinctual and healthy, and keeps us alert to trouble. The rest--the part that holds us back from personal growth--is inappropriate and destructive, and perhaps can be blamed on our conditioning.

In all my life I have never heard a mother call out to her child as he or she goes off to school, "Take a lot of risks today, darling." She is more likely to convey to her child, "Be careful, darling." This "Be careful" carries with it a double message: "The world is really dangerous out there" . . . and . . . "you won't be able to handle it." What Mom is really saying, of course, is, "If something happens to you, I won't be able to handle it." You see, she is only passing on her lack of trust in her ability to handle what comes her way.

I can remember wanting desperately to have a two-wheel bicycle and my mother's refusal to buy me one. Her answer to my pleas was always the same: "I love you too much. I don't want anything to happen to you." I translated this to mean: "You are not competent enough to handle a two-wheel bike." Having become older and wiser, I realize now that she was really saying: "If anything happens to you, I will fall apart."

This overprotective mother of mine was once in intensive care after serious surgery, with tubes down her nose and her throat. When I was told it was time for me to leave, I whispered in her ear--not knowing if she could hear me--that I loved her and would be back later. As I was walking toward the door, I heard a small, weak voice behind me saying--you guessed it--"Be careful." Even in her anesthetic stupor, she was sending me admonitions of doom and gloom. And I know she typifies the great percentage of mothers out there. Considering how many "be careful"s our parents bombarded us with, it is amazing that we even manage to walk out the front door!

Apart from such seemingly obvious connections, the cause of our fear quite possibly lies elsewhere. But does it really matter where our self-doubts come from? I believe not. It is not my approach to analyze the whys and wherefores of troublesome areas of the mind. It is often impossible to figure out what the actual causes of negative patterns are, and even if we did know, the knowing doesn't necessarily change them. I believe that if something is troubling you, simply start from where you are and take the action necessary to change it.

In this case, you know that you don't like the fact that lack of trust in yourself is stopping you from getting what you want out of life. Knowing this creates a very clear, even laserlike, focus on what needs to be changed. You don't have to scatter your energy wondering why. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you begin now to develop your trust in yourself, until you reach the point where you will be able to say:



I can hear the doubting Thomases out there saying, "Oh, come on now, how do you handle paralysis, or the death of a child, or cancer?" I understand your skepticism. Remember that I was once a doubting Thomas myself. Just read on and let the book unfold. Give yourself a winning chance by using the tools provided throughout this book. As you do, you will find yourself coming closer and closer to such a high level of self-confidence that you will ultimately begin to realize that you can handle anything that comes your way. Never let these three little words out of your mind--possibly the three most important little words you'll ever hear:



Excerpted from Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway (r) by Susan Jeffers Copyright © 2006 by Susan Jeffers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword to the 20th-Anniversary Edition     ix
Introduction Opening the Door     xv
What Are You Afraid of...and Why?     1
Can't You Make It Go Away?     11
From Pain to Power     23
Whether You Want It or Not...It's Yours     39
Pollyanna Rides Again     59
When "They" Don't Want You to Grow     77
How to Make a No-Lose Decision     99
How Whole Is Your "Whole Life"?     123
Just Nod Your Head-Say "Yes!"     141
Choosing Love and Trust     157
Filling the Inner Void     177
There Is Plenty of Time     201
Bibliography     211
Acknowledgments     215

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Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Susan Jeffers has helped me so much. Her wonderful words have changed my life for the better.
Steve55 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book provides an insightful and engaging look at the destructive effects of fear in all aspects of our lives and guidance on how this fear may be overcome.Anyone engaged in creating change will face their own fears and those of others and this book provides both an understanding of the roots for people¿s fears and an understanding of how people may be helped to understand and better deal with fear.The book highlights the paradox that whilst we seek the security of a fear free life, this creates an environment in which we are denied the satisfaction of achievement or advancement. The result is the catch-22 of fear of change and fear of staying the same.The conclusion is that fear is a necessary and essential element of life and pushing through fear is actually less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness, hence `feel the fear and do it anyway¿.The first part of the book creates a picture of the widespread and damaging effects of fear, in its many forms such as fear of changing jobs, fear of illness, fear of failure, etc. It introduces a progression of truths which serve to illuminate the effects of fear and build the case for the active choice of how fear is addressed. A simple but powerful picture presents the option to address fear through positive power rather than as a victim of passive pain.As you work through the book the emphasis shifts towards the actions that you can take to change your attitude and approach. A number of simple models and techniques are introduced which are presented in an easily understood form. When strung together these provide a structured programme with which to set about changing your attitude and behaviours.The book benefits from a liberal scattering of first hand accounts of people at various stages of succumbing to or addressing their fears. These stories do much to help explain the approach and provide an engaging dialogue and encouragement that lightens up the message and creates the feeling that improvement is possible.The book rightly confesses that though the message and techniques are relatively easy to understand their application presents more of a challenge, not because they are of themselves difficult but they have to be applied and sustained. The challenge therefore for any such book is to leave the reading list and bookshelf and become embedded in the actions of the reader.Does this book meet the challenge? I have adopted some of the techniques and recognise that others will be of benefit. Having read the book I know that I will return to read it again and I hope will have felt the benefits of conscious active use of the techniques over the next few months. Time will tell as to whether the book helps create change so I hope to return to this review in a few months time.In the meantime I recommend this book for its insights into a topic that affects us all. My personal perspective is that the effects of fear can become so ingrained in our lives that we fail to recognise the fear and simply feel the numbness of dissatisfaction and a vague inability to focus on doing anything about it. This book will help create focus so you start to question the way things are and why you allow them to remain so. The challenge of addressing them is by definition a life long journey and this book will provide an excellent platform from which that journey can begin.
john257hopper on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is marvellous, life-transforming stuff. In the month since I started using it, my self-confidence has improved in leaps and bounds. I genuinely feel like a new person.
gibbon on LibraryThing 8 months ago
More than ten years ago I gave my copy of an earlier edition of this book to a young dental assistant who was having trouble asserting herself at work. She later told me how much it had helped her. She left dental work and helped her husband set up their own company in a completely different field. I have just bought two copies of this new edition knowing that at some time in the future they will be equally helpful to someone who needs just the sort of encouragement and practical assistance Ms Jeffers provides. If she had not had the perseverance to get the book published against discouragement and lack of interest, thousands of people would have been worse off.
LheaJLove on LibraryThing 11 months ago
My favorite quote was written by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones. In an essay on "Obsessions" she stated, "I used to think freedom meant doing what you want. It means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it."That single quote has allowed me to be a little more fearless, a bit more daring. That quote helped me finish college. That quote helps me complete morning writing in my journal each day I awake and helps me face the blank page in my typewriter before I slumber at night.I recognize, however, that the adjective "fearless" is a misnomer. There is a false idea that the powerful, the wealthy, the successful and the brilliant do not experience fear. Many of the divisions of life between those that beg and those that earn, those that ask and those that demand, those that wish and wait and those that expect and acheive are not formed by the boundrary between the presence and absence of fear. The primary question is, when you feel the fear can you do it anyway?It matters not what you "it" is. "It" is your dream. And regardless how common or strage this goal is... you will only reach this ambition, if you can face what Steven Pressfield (the War of Art) calls Resistance. Susan Jeffers published a wonderful text on how to change your life. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. She reminds us, "At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can't handle whatever life may bring you." When people say that they are scared to lose someone, some job, some position, they are indeed saying that they would not be able to handle the situations that result from that loss. People often ask what would you do if you knew you could not fail. Like wise, what would you do if you know that you could handle it? You can. You can handle failure, you can handle success. Jeffers's text explores the Five Truths about Fear that must be acknowledged and understood. Then, Jeffers gives you Seven Ways to Reclaim Your Power. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a book filled with the life stories of your parents, your friends, your co-workers and your past... You will find yourself in this book. You will find your fears. It is your choice and if you choose you will face your fears and finish reading, you will face your fears and begin your goals, you will face your fears and finish. George Benard Shaw summed it up beautifully in the quotation below. Reading these words daily will greatly help you to put things in perspective and give you the courage to move beyond your fear so that you can be of greate use to the world: ...I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I've got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.Love,Lhea J
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book twice & I carry it with me everyday to work. This book changed my entire way of thinking and has improved my inner confidence so much while I was rock bottom. I recommend this book to everyone of all ages!! I promise you, it will influence you, too. I am ordering her next book, Feel The Fear & Beyond!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a wonderful book! I am a 40 year old male, and I suffered greatly in life due to my lack of confidence in myself. This book really makes you feel better about yourself, and makes you want to change for the better. The author really touches on things that force you to question the way you perceive things in your life. You learn to be more positive, and question what things in your life are truly "your own fault" due to your fear, and lack of action.
theleakypen More than 1 year ago
I was a college student suffering from Lyme disease for the third time and oscillating between bouts of paralyzing terror and doubt and hopelessness. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway was in the clearance rack of the university bookstore. I was caught in one of the terror-bouts and the book's title caught my eye. When I read it, I knew instantly that I had done the right thing by purchasing it. Susan Jeffers gives clear, simple advice on how to deal with even the most hopeless situations by changing your perspective. The main tenet of the book is realizing that every bit of fear and stuck-in-a-rut-ness of our lives comes from the niggling doubt that we can't handle whatever the future throws at us... and then figuring out that we can! With this book's help I crawled out of my rut and finished the semester as a relatively functional human being, something I wasn't sure I'd be able to do before I grabbed the book.
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This incredibly inspirational book transcends what the cover claims it will help the reader to accomplish. I picked up the book in the psychology section of B&N looking for something to help me overcome my fear of disapproval. What I found was another way of looking at life and my place in it. The book made for an inspirational read - I felt better about myself every time I put it down. It is also practical in the suggestions it makes in accomplishing your goals and making your decisions. I highly recommend it.
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TRP More than 1 year ago
In todays very challenging times this is on my must read book list for my team members, and a strong recommendation for close personal and business relationships. Some of us may be, or have recently experienced anxiety with the personal and financial situations we have faced. I feel Dr. Jeffers book can be an excellent support tool and guide for helping each of us out of the the "dark place" we feel we may be in. I will introduce this book to others with the hope they will pass it along to people who could use good, uplifting, supportive information.