Susan Jeffers

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A 'Feel the Fear' Story

Fearless (almost) in Paris

For the first 13 years of my life I had two over-protective parents, then my father, the rock of the family, died. My mother was more fearful than ever, resulting in a loving yet Inconsistent parenting style. I had to be self-reliant early in life and externally I seemed confident and a winner in my career. Yet I always had the nagging fear of abandonment, questioning positive things and wondering if they were really to be enjoyed and trusted, and often finding boyfriends who mirrored my dysfunctional self-image.

I finally confronted my fears when my husband and I moved to Paris on a work contract for his company. I liked the idea of living overseas but I knew that our marriage was in trouble and hoped for a fresh start. Yet we only grew further apart, as we responded differently to our new lifestyle. My husband relished the limelight of being an executive who spoke at trade shows, networked with important people and traveled up to four days out of the week. I struggled to do the simplest of tasks, like buying things for our apartment or food shopping, without knowing any French or even knowing where to buy things or how to get there.

I often ended up cocooning on the couch in the evening, eating dinner alone while he was out of town, and I watched endless shows on the BBC satellite channel. I was living in a fabulous world-class city that others could only dream of visiting, yet I knew no one and was fearful of venturing outside my neighborhood. I felt a mixture of self-pity and self-disgust.

I discovered Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway at an English book store in Paris and read all of it in less than 2 days. Then I put it away, too fearful to put the ideas into action! I read some parts again and one day the ideas finally sunk in. I had to sink or swim. I developed an action plan and made a paper that showed the ''grid of life''. I filled in each section with activities, such as French class, expat networking events, walks in the park, visiting a new place, etc. I made a pledge to speak to three new French people a day in French, even if it was just asking for directions!

Within one year, I had a network of friends, plenty of activities, confidence to go to events by myself taking public transportation (even late in the evening), I had a foundation in French, and I was offered a job at a public relations agency. Then I learned that my husband had begun a relationship with a woman he met through his job and wanted to end our relationship.

Despite counseling, we ended our relationship and I chose to move out into a studio apartment. I moved in on September 11th, 2001! That evening, as I tried to assemble a new bookcase, I listened to the TV reports in shock. Alone in my new apartment, I sat and sobbed. I wondered how much more painful life could be.

I buried myself in my job for the next few months as our divorce was finalized. I chose to stay on in Paris after my divorce was finalized and I began to enjoy my new life as a single woman in Paris. But I still hurt inside. So when I met a charming French man at a jazz club, I resisted any effort to get closer than a casual dating relationship. Of course I was afraid to be hurt! So we dated and over time, I learned to love and trust again. Today this wonderful man is my husband.

I learned to conquer my fear again when my employer lost several clients due to the economic downturn, and myself and four other employees were laid off. I now have my own business as a communications consultant and work with companies in France as well as internationally. Business has been up and down this past year, forcing me to do a lot of cold calls to drum up new clients. But the fear is manageable!

I've gained a lot of insights from Susan's books Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway and Opening our Hearts to Men . I have wanted to write this testimonial for the past year that I've been on Susan's emailing list, but I kept putting it off. Well, I wrote this in exactly 25 minutes! So I'm going to stop procrastinating and 'just send it'. (smile)

Patricia, Paris, France