Posted by Suzie Doscher
Adapted from Susan Jeffers Ph.D's writing in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and I Can Handle It!.
One of Susan's most important teachings was learning to trust yourself and the corresponding affirmation, "I Can Handle It." Learning to trust ourselves, with the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, we will be able to deal with it, is a powerful tool for overcoming fear. Susan was a great believer in affirmations and felt that their use was perfect for any situation and any age. . . including children!
I am a strong believer in the use of affirmations to help us change our negative thinking and help us feel more powerful and loving in our interactions with the world around us.
Susan first introduced the concept of "I Can Handle It" in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and it became one of her landmark concepts. "I Can Handle It" is an affirmation that inspires confidence and trust in ourselves, especially when we feel like the world is spinning out of control.
Around this central affirmation, she created a self-help book for children, co-authored by her friend Donna Gradstein, to help small children deal with new situations in their lives. The book, titled I Can Handle It: 50 Confidence-building stories to empower your child, is a wonderful way to help kids understand and deal with the sometimes scary, sad, out-of-control, or embarrassing situations they may experience as they grow.
As Susan said in her introduction to the book, "I Can Handle It! is a powerful, yet simple, affirmation that can give us all...young and old...a wonderful feeling of confidence and peace of mind."
And while the book is meant for kids, it can be a great reminder to adults too that there is nothing that we cannot handle if we put our minds to it. "It is a powerful tool to help us push through even the worst of our fears."
There ten topics in the book - fear, frustration, pain, sadness and loss, big big loss, anger, embarrassment, responsibility, guilt, and the world - and fifty stories. Many of the stories won't really apply to adult situations but the topics can be as meaningful to adults as they are to children. Guilt, responsibility, fear, sadness, pain, all of these things we adults experience too. Certainly, sometimes we adults lose trust in ourselves and don't handle worrisome situations in a positive and loving way.
Guilt over missing a child's sports game, sadness over the loss of a friend, feeling overwhelmed by all our daily duties, an illness that is taking its toll, or the fear of losing a job or an important relationship - all of these things we experience as adults every day and result in a feeling of losing control. This is no different than what a child feels, except that we ought to be able to deal with it better.
But how often do we forget that we can "handle it" and allow ourselves to wallow in our fears and sadness, letting things get out of control instead of trusting ourselves and our ability to deal with negative situations? That is exactly what "I Can Handle It" endeavors to teach children - trust, confidence, and a willingness to face our fears and worries.
For example, in the story of Zoe, the little girl says something nasty to her friend while in a bad temper and feels guilt about it later. Who of us can honestly say that we've never done that? Young Zoe is lucky enough to be able to turn to her mother for advice, however, as grown-ups we need to take responsibility for it ourselves. Yet how often do we let our nasty comments stand without apologizing, thinking that the person we've hurt will "just get over it." That is not "handling" it. That is putting off what we are too scared to admit and face up to. Remembering that "Whatever happens to me, given any situation in my life, I will be able to handle it," we should overcome our fear and own up to our mistakes.
Then there is Andrew's story. He witnesses a car crash and is scared that it will happen to him. As grown-ups how often do we fear things thatmight happen, that could happen, but have not happened? We might get into a car accident, we might lose our jobs, our partner might leave us, our children could get hurt or sick. If you consider how much time you spend on these negative, useless thoughts, you'll see the wisdom of being able to say "I Can Handle It" to any situation that you may face and let the worries go.
Susan advocated for affirmations for a reason. They work!
The frequent repetition of an affirmation can eventually quiet that inner "Chatterbox" that makes us feel insecure, frightened, and weak.
Just as children need encouragement to be able to face their fears, adults do as well. And affirmations are just the right tool to help us all get a hold of the fears and worries that make us feel like our lives are out of control.
So take a moment to think about what is worrying you right now. Then consider the different ways you can take care of the worry. Are you worrying about paying a bill? Are you worrying that your child is getting a bad grade? Are you worried that you'll be passed up for a promotion? Are you worried about a sick family member? There are some things that you can do to mitigate each of these worries and other things that you have no control over. But understanding that you have a choice in your worry is empowering. Knowing that whatever comes your way, you can trust yourself to make the right decision and take the right action is as powerful as it gets.
So we must remember to trust ourselves, and repeat our affirmations. And none are more effective than:
Whatever happens to me,
given any situation in my life,
I will be able to handle it.