Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers is one of the best books I’ve ever read. End of story. It’s the Holy Grail of self-help books. And yet I can’t remember where I was when I first read it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book had a transformative impact on me. I can be quite a fearful person and I struggle with my own anxieties (as we all do). There are no two things that will limit your life more than fear and anxiety. They are paralysing, self-sabotaging emotions that keep us ‘stuck.’ Fear teaches us that stasis and regression are better than progression. It’s a trap and it’s all too easy to fall into it, and incredibly hard to escape.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a book that I like to keep around because it has helped me to break out of the traps that fear and anxiety have set for me in the past. For this reason, I am constantly re-reading passages, ensuring that the books message sinks in repeatedly. Reading this book has helped me have the confidence to travel the world, go for job interviews and visit the dentist after a long hiatus (it’s a phobia of mine…)
I still get scared (terrified in fact) but I make myself go as I don’t want to live a life ruled by fear. Fear might hold me back sometimes, and that’s okay, but I won’t let it hold me back all the time and certainly not from the things that matter.
It’s a potent, profound read that is just as necessary today as it was when it was first published and in my opinion, no other self-improvement guide comes close to this brilliant book.
In a nutshell, here are the lessons that resonated with me most deeply:
- Susan theorises that fear can be categorised in one of two ways. There are fears that ‘happen’ to us, such as old age and death and fears which require action such as ending or beginning a relationship and public speaking. Fears that ‘happen’ to us cannot be controlled, only managed. Fears that require action are tied up with ego. We may fear success, failure or happiness. These fears and anxieties around taking action, prevent us from doing so, which causes fear to fester.
- Susan argues that the root of all fears is the same even if the ways in which it manifests is different. We think we can’t handle what comes our way. If we thought we could handle whatever came our way, what would we have to fear? If we tell ourselves that we can handle absolutely anything and believe it, then fear loses its power over us.
Susan then lists 5 fundamental truths about fear.
- The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow . If you’re not afraid, the chances are you aren’t doing anything. Fear, though uncomfortable, is our natural state. It’s thanks to fear that we are alive. When life is safe and sound, fear can feel counterproductive but actually in many ways, it is our ally. If you are growing, if you are putting yourself out into the world, if you are learning or if you are experimenting, you will probably feel some fear. If you are afraid, chances are you are growing.
- The only way to get over the fear of doing something is to go out and do it. This is a hard truth to swallow, is it not? Most of the time, when I’m afraid I want to do something to stop feeling afraid before I do anything. Sure, there are things we can do to mitigate fear. We might have a calming tea or go for a run, but ultimately fear remains with us. Susan hits home the point that the only way out of fear is through. The fear will pass as you do what you need to do, not before. If, like me, you are deathly afraid of interviews and dentists, you will feel afraid over and over again most likely but you’ll probably find that it’s the anticipation rather than the scenario itself that is responsible for generating fear.
- The only way to feel better about myself is to go out and do it. Do you feel a tremendous sense of pride or a surge of ecstasy whenever you do something beyond your comfort zone? For an agoraphobic, that something might be walking to the end of the road. For someone with a fear of public speaking, it may be getting through the job interview. Whenever we do something that we are afraid of, we feel a short sharp jolt of invincibility afterwards. It’s this feeling that is so addictive, encouraging and rewarding and what makes facing fear worthwhile. Cowing to fear makes us feel weak, disappointed and depressed. When we step up to the plate, we feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Not only am I going to experience fear when on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else. The great thing about fear is that it is part of the human condition and therefore, we are all susceptible to it. You aren’t alone in fear, although it can feel like it. Sure, we may find different things scary and some of us may have greater resilience than others, but we all worry and largely about the same things too. There’s a reason why so many of us fear aging, death, rejection, failure and heights. These fears are perfectly normal. So, it sounds like we are all in good company! Knowing that even our role models and greatest inspirations have felt fear should be motivational. It goes to show that we can conquer our dreams despite feeling fearful.
- Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness. The more I think about this rule, the more truthful it feels. The more we do, the more competent we feel. Taking action builds confidence and self-esteem as well as resilience and hardiness. Passively allowing fear to thwart us, inevitably makes us feel weaker, less confident and less able. We need to be wrapped in cotton wool. If we don’t have normal fears to face, we can develop warped fears. We can become victims of our own thought processes. There is no way to avoid or fight fear, we must accept it. The sooner we do so, the sooner we can live.
Reminding yourself of these 5 truths on a daily basis is a great way to remind yourself that if you’re feeling afraid, you are doing something RIGHT. Try to embrace fear as a friend. Listen out for fear. When you feel it’s presence, take it as confirmation that you are about to do something magical. Don’t avoid situations that make you afraid. Charge towards them and take this attitude with you into your travels.
All my love