“All you have to do to change your world is change the way you think about it.” -Susan Jeffers
After strong recommendations by friends and various motivational speakers, I finally decided to read ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. Initially, the enthusiastic title of the book threw me off, as I imagined it to be unrealistic and esoteric. But a few chapters into the book, I realised that I was completely wrong.
‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ is truly a superb self-help book about a lot more than just fear.
With warmth and passion, Susan Jeffers takes her readers on a positive journey from ‘pain’ (feelings of helplessness, depression, low self-esteem, etc.) to ‘power’ (handling fears to making right choices, excitement, action, etc.) through various techniques and light-hearted examples. Jeffers’ concepts and exercises are not clinical and nor do they offer a miracle cure for all of life’s problems. They simply help one to make an attitude adjustment to turn any situation into an enriching learning experience.
As I read the book, I found myself reflecting on how similar Jeffers’ positive ideas were to the positive teachings found in the Qur’an and Sunnah. One, in particular, is the “no-lose decision”; concept, in which Jeffers’ explains that in life, there is never a ‘lose’ or a ‘no-win’ decision. Of the choices we make, the ones we choose or land on, will always be a ‘no-lose’ decision if we ‘simply change the way we think about it’. If something does or doesn’t work out, it’s equally rewarding as it’s an opportunity ’to experience life in a new way, to learn and grow, to find out who you are and who you would like to be.’ The Quran states a similar concept, where Allah (SWT) says, ‘But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not’ (Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 216).
We find the same teaching in the Hadith when the Prophet (SAW) says, “Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it.” (Narrated by Muslim, 2999).
Our fears are essentially born and fed by these four little words: ‘I can’t handle it’. By thinking this way, we become afraid to move forward and find ourselves feeling paralysed and ‘stuck’ in life. When in fact, as Jeffers’ explains, the more we do things, the more we begin to realise that the fears have to do with our ‘inner states of mind rather than exterior situations’ and that we CAN handle it. While reading this, I was reminded of the ayah we regularly recite from Surah Baqarah, Verse 286, where Allah (SWT) says, ‘Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity…to reassure us that we will never be burdened with anything we can’t handle.
It was comforting to read how suggestions of repeating positive affirmations, taking responsibility, having a ‘giving’ mentality, patience and practice are teachings commonly found in Islam as well. One of my favourite chapters in the book is the chapter about ‘Filling the inner void’ in which Jeffers’ talks about how an ‘inner void’ (a feeling ‘of being lost, or off-course’) can breed a lot of negativity if not properly addressed. Although she explains about how this void is created and how it can be filled, I feel that the real answer lies in connecting with Allah (SWT) through tools such as the Qur’an and Adhkar. In seeking to fill this emptiness through many other ways, we only end up numbing the space and moving further and further away from the actual cure. It is only by reconnecting with Allah (SWT), do we feel centred and abundant; and overcome our fears.
The purpose of the book is best summarised in these words: ’To help you handle fear in a way that allows you to fulfil your goals in life’. While Jeffers’ truly achieves this, some of her examples do need to be taken with a grain of salt. As Muslims, we should remember that even though Islam encourages us to work on personal growth and goals, we are strongly advised to act justly with others and keep a balance in all of our affairs. Nevertheless, the book is a definite must-have for some great guidance and tips on how to turn fear into confidence.
Anam Mujeeb Khan is an educator and an aspiring writer in Saudi Arabia with a keen interest in mental health and Islamic counselling. Having completed various self-development and Islamic courses, she hopes to write more and benefit others with her content Inshallah.