Susan Jeffers, a psychologist who wrote 18 self-help books, the first of which, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway," became an international phenomenon, died Oct. 27 at her home in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 74.
The cause was cancer, her husband, Mark Shelmerdine, said.
Jeffers’ thesis in most of her books was simple: If we wait to stop feeling scared before trying to do what frightens us, we could wait forever; pressing ahead is the only way to erase fear.
“Whatever happens to me, given any situation, I can handle it," is one of her aphorisms in “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway," published in 1987. Another is: “There’s no such thing as a bad decision. Each path is strewn with opportunities, despite the outcome." Translated into more than three dozen languages, the book has sold millions of copies worldwide.
In “Embracing Uncertainty" (2003), Jeffers wrote, “When we finally are able to let go of the need for control, for the first time we are truly in control."
Her other titles include “The Little Book of Peace of Mind" (2001) and “The Little Book of Confidence" (1999).
In “I Can Handle It" (2002), written with Donna Gradstein, Jeffers offered stories of children dealing with difficulties like fear of the dark, the loss of a favorite toy and their parents’ divorce. In “I’m Okay, You’re a Brat!" (1999), she challenged the thinking in many books that she felt promoted overinvolvement in children’s lives.
A reviewer in The Philadelphia Inquirer praised Jeffers for assuring parents, “You’re OK, even though you go to work (not necessarily because you have to but because you like to) and send your children to day care."
It was an early bout with breast cancer and a difficult first marriage that led Jeffers to become a writer. “These were actually enriching experiences," she wrote in “Feel the Fear."