Feel the Fear: Taking Responsibility

Following my review of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, I wanted to share some of my notes from reading the book. In the quest to overcome fear, one of the things that stands out is the need to change how you see yourself. As Susan Jeffers explains, there’s only really one fear that underpins everything else: the fear that you won’t be able to handle whatever happens.

This baseline fear comes from not trusting yourself so the obvious thing to do is find ways to increase your self-confidence. But it’s not as simple as just changing your mind.

You can expand your comfort zone by doing scary things, or practice positive thinking and create a more empowering reality for yourself. But if behind the brave face you don’t really believe in or trust yourself, it’ll probably backfire. The underlying fear will keep coming back – especially if it’s buried deep in your unconscious. You can’t just oppose fear with courage, grit your teeth and hope for the best. You need to develop real trust in yourself.

The biggest obstacle to developing trust is the belief that you’re helpless or a victim of life. Seeing yourself this way leads you to give away your power. And when you give your power away it reinforces the feeling of victimisation in a horrible vicious cycle.

To develop trust in yourself you need to take responsibility for the reality of your life. But you can’t take responsibility if you see yourself as a victim. The feeling of powerlessness will make you blame others for your situation. Even if you have been victimised, your perception of it will make it worse and lead you to give away even more of your power. It’s a bit of a pickle.

However, there is a way to break the cycle because, as Susan Jeffers says:

“The truth is you really are in control – in total control.”

On some level, you’re choosing the circumstances that you’re in. This may seem like a bad thing but it means you can choose to change things. If you can create your own misery, you can create your own joy too. You may not be responsible for all your experiences in life, but you are responsible for your experience of life. You are the cause of your reactions to everything. Once you understand this, you can choose to change your focus. Why choose to see yourself as a victim if there are things you can do to make yourself feel better?

For example, rather than sitting on the sofa feeling sorry for yourself and beating yourself up for the state of your life, you can choose to go outside for walk. As someone prone to dark moods, I can vouch for how hard that is at times. But I also know that if I can get outside, even for ten minutes, I’ll start to feel better. And once my mood lifts, positive solutions to my problems pop up out of nowhere.

Obviously, many of your reactions will have been conditioned into you as a child. So to take full responsibility for yourself and the life you’re living, you’ll need to break free of any conditioning that doesn’t serve your highest good. This might take a while and it can bring up some uncomfortable and difficult material. But it’s worth persevering because it will transform your life. It is possible to change how you see the world by changing the way you think about it, but it has to be done at the deepest level. It’s not enough to simply change what you think – you need to change how you feel. When you do that, it’s almost impossible to make a mistake because, whatever happens, you always learn something about yourself.

Here’s a list of 7 facts about responsibility from the book:

  1. Taking responsibility means never blaming anyone else for anything you’re doing, being, having, or feeling.
  2. Taking responsibility means not blaming yourself. (Important!)
  3. Taking responsibility means being aware of where and when you’re not taking responsibility so that you can eventually change.
  4. Taking responsibility means handling your inner self-talk.
  5. Taking responsibility means being aware of payoffs that keep you stuck – i.e. how you benefit from being stuck.
  6. Taking responsibility means working out what you want in life and acting on it.
  7. Taking responsibility means being aware of the many of choices you have in any given situation.

Some of these facts can be hard to accept – especially the one about how you benefit from being stuck. It means that when I’m depressed, part of me is choosing to feel that way because I’m avoiding something else. It’s a pattern of behaviour I’m thoroughly fed up with, so it’s a good thing Jeffers includes some exercises to do on taking responsibility. Here they are:

  • List all the ways you benefit from staying stuck in some part of your life. Be as honest as you can. When you see what you’re doing, a lot of your bad habits will fall away.
  • When you’re confronted by a difficult situation, write down all the various ways you can act and feel about it.
  • Notice how much you complain to others and to yourself. See if you can learn anything from your common complaints.
  • Look at the gifts you’ve received from apparently bad situations.
  • See if you can go for a whole week without complaining about anything. (This one is really tough!)

Taking responsibility for how you create the experiences of your life will help you to feel more empowered. The more you do this, the more you’ll trust yourself. And the more you trust yourself, the more empowered you’ll feel – a virtuous cycle!

To finish, here are 7 Ways to Reclaim your Power:

  1. Avoid blaming anything external for your bad feelings about life. Nothing outside yourself can control your thinking or your actions.
  2. Avoid blaming yourself for not being in control. You’re doing the best you can and you’re on the way to reclaiming your power. (Besides, you can’t control everything anyway, so quit worrying about it and let it go!)
  3. Be aware of when and where you’re playing the victim. Learn to recognise the clues that you’re not being responsible for what you’re doing, being, having, or feeling.
  4. Get to know your biggest problem – your inner self-talk – and work on changing your inner voice so it’s more positive and supportive.
  5. Be honest about the benefits you get that keep you stuck.
  6. Determine what you want in life and act on it. Stop waiting for someone to give it to you – you’ll be waiting a long time. (Also make sure your goals and dreams are realistic, not just a fantasy you’re using to make yourself feel better.)
  7. Be aware of the choices you have, in both feelings and actions. Choose the path that contributes to your growth and makes you feel at peace with yourself and others.

Next we’ll look at how to make a Whole Life Chart and why you would do such a thing


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