Having courage doesn't mean you are no longer afraid. It just means you don't let fear stop you from trying.
I didn’t know I had it in me
Like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, I was lacking courage. I think the Lion discovered that courage was in him all along, which is exactly what happened to me, too. Courage is a natural resource within us, just like love. We can choose to tap into it whenever we need it. It is being constantly replenished and is always available.
Fear by default
After burning out and experiencing depression I had become afraid of so many things, it had become my default setting. Everything felt too much, too scary. The fear of being rejected or criticised was so great, I had lost my voice and kept myself as small as possible, making myself a little invisible.
A conscious decision to be brave
Luckily I can tell you this is no longer the case. It was something I actively worked on. I started to understand (through YouTube, TED Talks and podcasts with Martha Beck, Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle to name a few) that successful and confident people also feel fear, they just know that they have courage and cultivate the courage so that they can feel the fear and do it anyway.
Don’t let the fear drive!
Elizabeth Gilbert writes it very vividly in her book “Big Magic” (I think), that fear will not be driving the car. It can come along, but it must get in the back seat, it will be quiet, it will not be allowed to navigate nor will it be dictating what music will be played. I find this very useful to remember when feeling the fear.
The fear may try and persuade you to not try new things, to keep your mouth shut, not to step out of line or not to show up in the world as who you really are and it can be sneaky about it, too!
I needed time to figure out that it was the fear, together with the accompanying thoughts, that was holding me back from making decisions that would actually help me feel happy and free.
Show yourself what you are made of!
Doing things while at the same time being afraid of them is how you cultivate your courage. It is practise! It’s when you try out new and scary things that you find out what you are made of and what you are capable of. Even if it feels like a disaster the first time you do it, you live through it and you get to try it again.
At some point in my life, I started to believe I had to be able to do everything well from the outset, otherwise it would be too hard and I would probably give up. The fear of starting something new that I might not be good at was holding me back from even trying. Oh my! So sad and such a shame when I look back.
Courage feels like joy
BUT I got through that. At the beginning of last year I decided to be courageous. I just decided. I started on a small scale and built it up until it became a habit. I increased my capacity to be seen on social media, to speak out for my own beliefs and my wishes. I started swimming in the Baltic Sea and in lakes, which I hadn’t dared do for such a long time. I had the courage to go to a residential rehabilitation center for five weeks although I really didn’t want to! It was way out of my comfort zone.
And of course I have come out stronger than when I went in. All these little wins have built up to big wins and bigger amounts of courage available to me.
I can tell you too, courage can feel like joy. Having the courage to try something out, something your system is telling you not to do, feels like joy. It feels expansive and fun and just down right lovely. I highly recommend it! I just heard Tony Robbins saying “progress will make you happy,” I can confirm this to be true.
Do you remember the last time you decided to be brave and it felt great that you tried? At that moment, you grew, you expanded and you had a completely new experience.
Let’s celebrate and integrate!
This year I am looking for adventure. I am saying yes to new experiences and seeing where it takes me. I will celebrate these steps to integrate these new experiences, which will help my nervous system record that it all went well and it doesn’t have to react with fear next time.
That is the theory anyway…
If you would like to change your attitude towards fear, what small step of courage can you take today?