Fear is like a dirty little secret we all carry around with us. To acknowledge it is to admit weakness and vulnerability, so many of us never do. Instead we try to cover it up with false bravado, mean behaviour or drugs and alcohol. But none of these things makes fear go away.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
A few weeks ago, in my post Do Self-Help Books Really Help?, I promised to share some of my favourite self-help books with you starting with Susan Jeffers’ classic Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. When it comes to dealing with fear and indecision, I really can’t think of a better book.
Feeling the Fear
The first time I read Feel The Fear I was living in a bedsit in Chiswick. My relationship had ended, the friends I had in London had all left to travel or return home to South Africa or Australia and I was broke. I felt alone and afraid. I wanted to live in London but it was tempting to give up on my dreams, borrow money for an air ticket and return to South Africa and the comfortable life I had left behind.
Then I found a copy of Feel The Fear my room-mate had left behind when she moved out. Reading it changed my life. With each page I felt my courage return and my confidence grow. It was such a relief to read about the fear I was feeling, to acknowledge it and to realise there was something I could do about it.
Different Types of Fear
I have learned over the years that there so are many situations in life that inspire fear. The fears that I have encountered include things like fear of public speaking (apparently the most popular fear in the world), job interviews, confronting people when they have upset me and cold calling. The more I think about it, other fears come to mind; fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of dying young – I could go on and on.
My usual response to fear is paralysis. In other words, to do nothing, or to avoid any situation in which I might have to confront my fear. This is a very limiting approach to life.
How to Deal with Fear
What Feel The Fear makes so clear is that fear is simply a fact of life. It is not a barrier to success and by simply re-educating your mind, you can take action and overcome fears that are holding you back. And the key point in all of this is taking ACTION.
Susan Jeffers teaches that the way to overcome fear is to develop trust in yourself until you reach a point where you can say:
Whatever happens to me, given any situation, I can handle it!
Those three words, I’LL HANDLE IT, are the most important words to remember when it comes to dealing with fear and can be truly life changing.
The Five Truths About Fear
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway teaches Five Truths About Fear. These are:
- The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
- The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out …and do it.
- The only way to feel better about myself is to go out …and do it.
- Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
- Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.
My story had a happy ending. I stuck it out and this October I’ll be celebrating 20 years in London. I found a job, made new friends and fell in love. And over the years I’ve had to confront many of my fears – I’ve done a little public speaking, I’ve failed at things, been rejected, been ill, gone for job interviews, challenged those who’ve upset me, picked up the phone and made that call. I’ve done all those things and survived.
But there are times when those fears return or new ones take their place and so every few years I take Feel The Fear off my bookshelf and re-read it. It’s always useful to remember those three magic words ‘I’ll handle it’ and to counter my fear with action.
And, I keep telling myself, when in doubt just feel the fear and do it anyway!
What about you? If reading Feel The Fear has helped you I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to drop me a line in the comment box below.
Photo: Thanks to thriol on Flickr.com