I listened to this book as an audio cassette. That's right, on TAPE. At the risk of sounding older than I am (ahem) even at the time I knew it was an outdated technology. I mean we were all happily downloading music and burning CD's at the time. I don't remember if the iPod had made its debut. Anyway I was in my early twenties, cruising the highways of Southern California. The Pacific Coast Highway stretched before me, as did the boundless expanse of the Pacific Ocean.
Bright sun, happy little palm trees and my sweet Toyota Camry were not enough to feel satisfied with life. I wanted more. At the same time, I was often paralyzed with anxiety and fear. I had little confidence that I could survive at life. As a young adult embarking on an art career (gasp!) I was terrified of what the future held. And it was listening to this book, and Susan's calming voice, that a tremendous realization dawned on me.
Fear was never going to go away.
It would always come back, for every new thing I tried to accomplish or new experience I wanted to have. Fear was a feeling I had to come to terms with.
"We fear beginnings; we fear endings. We fear changing; we fear “staying stuck.” We fear success; we fear failure. We fear living; we fear dying."
Feel the Fear and do it Anyway is self-help canon. Nobody has cruised through life without experiencing fear, feeling held back by it, or trying to make it disappear.
I spent so much time waiting to feel confident before I would take any action towards my goals. I was always prodded by deadlines and anxiety rather than motivated by excitement and enthusiasm. I waited for that feeling of being ready, waited to feel sure of myself, waited to be given permission to take a chance.
That was all waiting in vain.
This might be a good time to mention I had 3 cassette tapes in the car that were in constant rotation. One of them was Bob Marley's Legend album. And as I drove up and down PCH I alternated between Dr. Jeffers and belting out the lyrics "tears in my eyes burn, while I'm waiting for my turn!! OOOH Girl OOOH Girl"
In fact you could say, I was waiting for an imaginary version of myself: this super confident persona that had it all figured out. I waited for others to see her first, then I might recognize her too. I waited for her to wake up as me one random day. I waited for her thoughts to be my thoughts. I waited and waited for the fear to go away.
“The phrase 'say yes' means 'to agree to' those things that life hands us. Saying yes means letting go of resistance and letting in the possibilities that our universe offers in new ways of seeing the world. It means to relax bodily and calmly survey the situation, thereby reducing upset and anxiety."
Let me be clear that in no way do I have this fear thing figured out. If anything, writing this blog entry has me curious what else I might learn reading Feel the Fear again. And being fearless in one area of life does not mean being fearless in all areas of living. Relationships, career, creativity, parenting, money and finances, spiritual practice, body health, mental health and healing, all have their own flavors of fear.
“Security is not having things, it’s handling things.”
Energetically this book addresses the lower energy centers. Fear is located in the root chakra. It tugs at the primal need for safety. When we feel fear it's because it feels in our body and nervous system that we are not safe. We must be alert: we are in danger: at risk of annihilation. If you've ever stood in front of a group of people and had to speak, and instead wished you could crawl into a hole and disappear, you know what this means. What Jeffers does is remarkable, de-mystifying this strange and primal response and putting it squarely in the realm of the ordinary and the manageable. The dark and looming thing becomes illuminated, and a path forward and through becomes visible.
Overall I found Feel the Fear to be indispensable. If somewhere along the way you missed the message that fear is an inescapable part of being alive, that success happens when you move through fear rather than try to avoid it or numb it, then this book will align you to a very radical concept.
Jeffers book is a grounded, practical approach to shifting the frame around fear that we inherit from parents and social conditioning. She shows the way to building trust and confidence that facing fear is not so bad. And actually, gives way to deeper confidence and trust in navigating the unexpected turns of life. I especially recommend it to anyone in a phase of growth, challenging themselves on any new project or endeavor.
"The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is the key to allowing yourself to take healthy, life-affirming risks."
-- Susan Jeffers