Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!
“Fear keeps us from experiencing life the way we want to experience it. We can’t escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that will accompany us through all of our exciting adventures.”
Susan Jeffers, PhD, author of Feel the fear and do it anyway
What do you do when you experience fear/anxiety/stress & why?
- Fight? Flight? Freeze? Please? Numb/Seek pleasure? Reach out for connection/comfort?
- We’re all wired to protect (& seek comfort for) ourselves in different ways that we learned in our childhood. There’s no one way that is best. The key is facing and changing your view of fear.
- Changing our view of fear and of ourselves is a tall order. It’s helpful to have a guide like Jeffers because most of us grew up in well meaning families that sent the messages, “BE CAREFUL! Be skeptical. Negative thinking equals realistic thinking. Security is about having things.”
How Jeffers’ book (which has sold millions of copies and translated into over 30 different languages) can help you:
- This book offers practical strategies, exercises and unique perspectives on the experience of fear that may help you finally develop a new relationship with this powerful emotion, so you can live life to the fullest. (Ex. “Taking risks increases your confidence and decreases fear. Security is about believing you can handle anything, then you will have nothing to fear.”)
- Jeffers delivers a message we’ve all been longing for: that ANYONE CAN BREAKTHROUGH FEAR through reeducation and cites numerous examples of breakthroughs by her students and herself (even with her doctorate in psychology).
- While there are plenty of REAL things to fear now in 2020, many of us realize there always have been things to fear historically and that our source of power comes from within. We just need an expert like Susan Jeffers to guide us in unlearning limiting beliefs and learn more empowering perspectives and tools.
I believe Jeffers’ work contributes to stopping the cycle of FEARS BEING PASSED DOWN GENERATION TO GENERATION and busting myths that limit individuals’ potential and positive impact on the world.
In this blog I will cover:
Jeffers’ radical and compassionate views on fear (especially her 4 levels of fear)
A few of Jeffers’ exercises that help individuals change their thoughts & behaviors
How I’ve courageously faced some of my own fears
Before I share some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from Jeffers’ book… I want to share a few other blogs I wrote on this topic because there is no one way to overcome fear:
- “Cultivating Fearlessness through Spiritual Warriorship” drawn from author, Pema Chodron’s Buddhist spiritual teachings.
- “What I’ve Learned from 20 Years of Marriage” (how reaching out to your loved one for comfort & connection & having them skillfully emotionally respond to you is one of the most powerful ways to tame fear and to increase your bond with your partner)
- “Empowerment at the Deepest Level: IMPACT Personal Safety of CO” (12 women’s transformative experiences in a full force self defense class with a video montage.)
- “Find Your Power Within” (my experience in IMPACT’s advanced class with blindfold fights & more)
Please share with me YOUR favorite tip and/or source on this crucial topic (whether it’s a book or experience you’ve had) too.
Jeffers’ Radical and Compassionate View on Fear
4 Levels of Underlying Causes of Fears (the same for all people according to Jeffers)
Level 1: Surface/Concrete story: “I’m afraid of…” illness/Covid, aging, death, living, the political situation, discrimination, assault, public speaking, not doing well in school/sports, not making friends, pursuing a new job, not earning enough money, having too much responsibility or no personal time due to my promotion, moving, change, not getting pregnant, getting pregnant, my marriage falling apart, never finding a life partner who will love me enough, etc.
*What are your most common surface stories?
Level 2: Sense of Self: “I’m afraid of… vulnerability, intimacy, failure, success, helplessness, disapproval, not being enough, incompetence, inadequacy, “being viewed as a bad person”
*Which word best describes your perspective of yourself when you’re struggling with fear?
Level 3: View of self boiled into one sentence: “I CAN’T HANDLE IT!” (likely unconscious)
*Do you think you received this message from significant adults growing up and continue to tell yourself it?
Jeffers asks her students, “If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you possibly have to fear?” Her response, “Nothing!” Jeffers explains that “All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.”
Level 4: Attachment Needs for Survival: [I’m adding this level and imagine Jeffers’ might have as well in more recent books] “I am afraid… I will be rejected, abandoned, and/or viewed as unlovable.”
*Do one of these three words (rejection, abandonment, unloved) resonate with your deepest fear?
It’s helpful to process all FOUR levels by yourself and with a person you trust to become more of an expert on what the CORE issue (of your surface level fear) is for you to be able to work through it and transform it!
Here are a few of Jeffers’ “fear truths”:
EVERYONE has fears, especially when we’re in unfamiliar territory.
You are not alone! It’s just that few people talk about them or even admit them because many people believe that facing fears is more frightening or can even increase them. Also, few of us grew up in families or communities that encouraged brave expression of vulnerability. Thus, most Americans stuff down their fears and view them as weakness.
- The way out: Ironically, “the only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and DO IT.” (It’s that famous Nike ad) Jeffers explains why doing the thing that we’re afraid of is so effective:
“Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”
- Also, the way out: We need to additionally change our inner voice (thoughts) because underlying all of our fears is a lack of TRUST in OURSELVES.
One of my favorite beliefs Jeffers teaches is that:
“Fear will never completely go away whether you continue to grow (stretch your capabilities and pursue your dreams) or refuse to grow.”
I have been on both sides of trying to play it safe to avoid pain and STILL experiencing fear and boldly stepping into “the arena” to experience some wins and some losses. I have always felt more empowered and grown from having pursued a goal.
“The more you step outside your comfort zone, the more POWER and less fear you’ll feel.”
While I love this message, I have to admit that, for me, the power I will experience is not just related to having the personal courage to have stepped outside my comfort zone. It also depends on the level of support I have as I venture outside my comfort zone.
- As is said in EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy), if our partner is our “safe haven, secure base”, we can easily explore beyond our comfort zone and feel less fear because we know that we have our loved one to return to for reassurance, connection, encouragement, comfort, love, etc.
- Another example relates to a self defense class I took (I share this later in this blog). It made a HUGE difference when my classmates had their “toes to the mat” (full focus on me as they shouted “NO!” with me as I fought the “assailant”)
Jeffers’ book includes several exercises and daily growth practices for readers to increase their confidence and work through their fears.
Some examples include:
- Pain to power, Whole life grid, consciously move from the “chatterbox” to my “Highest Self”, connect with your Higher Self unconsciously as well (through meditation, visualization, positive self talk), say “Yes” to life, lighten up/laugh at yourself, “no lose” decision making, get support so you’ll stay on track (self help group, growth buddy, professionally led group), etc.
Here is one of Jeffers’ exercises called “Pain to Power”:
- Write the word, “Pain” on the left side of your paper (& the words: helpless, depressed and paralyzed).
- Next, write the word, “Power” on the right side of your paper (& the words: choice, energy and action).
- Add different areas of your life on your chart: work, physical health, emotional health, intimate relationship, parenting, money, etc. or just focus on one area.
- Post this “chart” on your wall and continually monitor where you are regarding how you hold fear. Awareness is half the battle.
- Decide what direction you want to go in, and before you take any action in life, ask yourself: “Is this action moving me to a more powerful place?“
- When deciding each day where you are on your chart, keep in mind that it is a feeling totally within. Although your life may look exactly the same to the outside world, it is your own sense of internal peace and growth that determines where you are on the chart.
What else moves people from pain to power (besides awareness & monitoring)?
1. Using empowering language versus destructive language: Post a second chart with these different words in the columns pain to power. Ex. “It’s not my fault.” vs. “I’m totally responsible.”, “I hope” vs. “I know”, and “It’s terrible.” vs. “It’s a learning experience.”
2. Taking risks outside your comfort zone. With every risk, you’ll feel more power. When you feel more power, your confidence will increase. With more confidence, you’ll find it easier to take another risk.
3. Accepting responsibility for everything in your life (without blaming yourself) maintains your power. Life is a learning and unlearning process. Many of Jeffers’ students realized they needed to unlearn many patterns of thoughts and behavior and repeatedly read/listen to new messages to step out of victimhood and into a healthy sense of power.
I really appreciated how Jeffers reassures us:
“You may wonder if you really need to go to such lengths to get yourself moving. Trust me—you do! In the beginning, you need all the gimmicks you can get to remind you of where you want to go. You don’t become powerful without concentrating on power.”
Here is a second exercise called the “Chatterbox versus Higher Self”:
Jeffers defines the Chatterbox as “the part of us that tries to drive us crazy. It is the repository of all our negative input, from the time we were born to the present moment. It contains our ego… which is filled with fear and can shrink our life. The Chatterbox dwells on the petty things that cause fear, hate , and scarcity.” Its main belief is “I am a weak and unworthy person.”
On the other hand, Jeffers describes the Higher Self as “the part of us that believes in abundance, infinite possibilities, is a remover of obstacles, creator of expansion of our lives, feels powerful, protected, on the path, filled with love, peace, creativity, generosity, is able to let go, accept reality, be present and forgive. Its main belief is “I am a strong and worthy person.”
- Identify a surface level fear you’re struggling with.
- Write down or share the voice of your “Chatterbox” related to the surface fear.
- Next, write the dialogue of your “Higher Self’s” perspective on this fear.
- Reflect on how each voice affected you (in your body, emotions, thoughts, impulse to act in a certain way or not do anything), visualize the consequences of listening to both of the voices and finally decide which voice you want to consciously (& unconsciously) listen to.
One of Jeffers’ examples in her book: Choice Point: To take a new job or stay with your current one
Chatterbox/No win: “If I stay here I might be missing a very good chance to move ahead. But if I go, maybe I won’t be able to handle my new responsibilities. What if . . . ? Oh, I don’t know what to do! I could ruin my whole life if I make the wrong decision!”
Higher Self/No lose: “Isn’t it fantastic! I’ve been offered a new job. If I take it, I’ll have an opportunity to … If I stay, I have an opportunity to… It’s all an adventure, no matter which way I turn.”
The example above illustrates the distinction between “no win” and “no lose” decision making processes. The “no lose” concept seems like another radical perspective of Jeffers that can liberate many people!
No Lose Decision Making Process (if you’re terrified of making the wrong decision)
Jeffers explains that there are NO wrong decisions, only different ones! She reiterates that if you believe you can handle anything, it doesn’t matter what decision you make. Of course, she also believes that individuals will find the most satisfaction in listening to their Higher Self. Thus, if you feel “off course”, she advocates that you (let go of your ego and) correct that decision.
Here are Jeffers’ Decision Making Steps:
- Focus on the “no lose” model: “Affirm to yourself, ‘I can’t lose—regardless of the outcome of the decision I make. The world is a place for opportunity, and I look forward to the opportunities for learning and growing that either pathway gives me.”
- Do your research
- Establish your priorities
- Trust your impulses (intuition)
- Lighten up: Jeffers explains that if you are willing to try on the belief that you can handle anything and that life’s challenges are all learning opportunities, you can roll with anything that happens.
After you’ve made a decision:
- Throw away the “picture”
- Accept total responsibility
- Don’t protect (a decision that you learned wasn’t right for you), correct it
How I’ve Courageously Faced Some Fears
As Jeffers normalizes, “We all have fears” and I am no exception. I believe what makes our lives exceptional is what we do with our fears.
In 2017, I faced my fear of assault toward me and my son. That was the year my son was beginning Kindergarten and unexpectedly I felt anxiety bubbling up in me at the thought of not being able to protect my “little boy”. For the first time, I had to let him walk through the doors of a place (his elementary school) and I could not follow him. My son also started to ask me if he could go into public men’s bathrooms himself. Simultaneously, my husband began traveling for work. I recalled one of my clients telling me about her powerful experience at IMPACT Personal Safety of Colorado and I decided to sign up for the Women’s Basics class.
Along with 11 other women, we had an experience that changed our lives forever! All of us admitted that at the end of six weeks, we were transformed from the inside out in ways we had not anticipated. At IMPACT, I got to yell, “NO!” 1200 times, engage in full force fighting, verbal boundary setting, and later in the Advanced class I took in 2018, blindfold, bedroom, and elevator fights. Although I was initially just seeking self defense techniques for myself and to protect my son in the community, I received a growth experience of a lifetime in an extremely supportive container; a rare combination.
What made IMPACT’s program transformational is its experiential component. Participants re-experience the INTENSE fear (or imagined fear of being attacked or feeling powerless) and instead of freezing, fleeing, or submitting, you are coached and supported to FIGHT back with full force and reconnect with your TRUE POWER. My fellow students and I were all amazed at how practicing verbal and physical boundary setting at IMPACT transferred into our real lives.
If you’re interested in learning more, here is a link to their website.
In 2018, I faced my fear of public speaking. While I generally agree with Jeffers’ mission of “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” I also know that just doing the thing that scares you doesn’t necessarily help lessen the fear. I started presenting at counseling conferences in 2016 and my fear wasn’t abating. Since I had such a strong desire to continue sharing my ideas at conferences and was about to begin leading my own couples workshops, I realized that I needed to LEARN some public speaking skills and receive support in order to lessen my fear so I could more fully enjoy these events as well.
On January 3rd, 2018, I walked into my first Toastmasters meeting. I will never forget the “Table Topics” portion that is impromptu speaking practice and saying to myself “TT stands for terror and torture! I will never participate in this part of the meeting. Thank goodness this is all optional as I am an adult.” Eventually, I got myself a wonderful Toastmasters mentor and actually did a great first speech! I even incorporated the “word of the day” (ubiquitous) into it. Just a few months into Toastmasters, I became the Vice President of my club! My leadership position was not earned because I was a gifted speaker. It was simply a position (with A LOT of responsibility) that needed to be filled. I jumped in because I was serious about immersing myself in learning and overcoming this fear. It worked!
Just living by the mantra of the title of this book, Feel the fear and do it anyway, would transform many of our lives for the better! While today there are multiple different views of what helps people grow, what I most appreciate about Jeffers’ book is that it was one of the first mainstream self help books on the bold topic of facing one’s fears and has EMPOWERED people around the world to breakthrough (still relevant) limiting beliefs in order to live their best lives. I also love the quote below that reflects Jeffers’ sage belief in our unlimited potential to handle any challenge and continually grow from it:
“We live in a world where most people take themselves and their decisions very seriously. I have news for you. Nothing is that important. Honestly! If as a result of a decision you make, you lose some money, no problem—you learn to deal with losing money. If you lose a lover, no problem—you find another one…”
“Start thinking about yourself as a lifetime student at a large university. Your curriculum is your total relationship with the world you live in, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die. Each experience is a valuable lesson to be learned. So—lighten up! Whatever happens as a result of your decision, you’ll handle it!”
Even with this book being a bit dated, it’s still an outstanding, uplifting resource that I would recommend to anyone who would like to unlearn the fear, anxiety and limiting beliefs that are prevalent in our culture in the form of the “chatterbox” and instead step into your “Higher Self” to cultivate a deep trust in yourself and the Universe in order to live your best life!
“And for you “beginners” who are opening this book for the first time, trust me when I tell you that fear doesn’t have to hold you back. You, too, can learn how to push through your fears—all of your fears—with a sense of power, excitement, and love.” – Susan Jeffers, PhD