Do you think of yourself as fearless? Courageous? Bold?
Well, I never did either. I saw myself as rather timid and shy, backing down in the face of conflict, and certainly never deliberately stepping into dangerous situations.
I wanted to feel fearless … as long as that didn’t involve physical pain or getting yelled at.
(I still don’t particularly like or welcome either of these, but now I have some tools for managing their inevitable appearance in my life.)
For decades I used this self image of ‘wimpy’ as another reason to beat up on myself, to compare myself to bolder ones and come up short, and ultimately to forego even trying something that didn’t fit into my tidy list of ‘what’s possible for wimpy me.’
And then, a couple of years ago, a new friend exclaimed, “Wow! You have so much courage! I’m in awe. How do you do it?!”
Wait… what? Me?
If we hadn’t been on the phone I would have looked over my shoulder to see who she was really speaking to.
I protested, trotting out my story of a lifetime of wimpy actions and non-actions.
She countered that story, repeating back to me some of the life accomplishments and decisions I’d just told her about.
Leaving home at 17 and moving across the country. Starting a business at age 24 with minimal business knowledge and even less money. Leaving a 22-year marriage at age 50 and moving to a new state with scanty savings.
Suddenly there crept into my consciousness the tiniest peek at a new way to view myself and my own courage.
It was just a chink, a crack in that sturdy edifice of belief that had been built with thousands of thoughts.
In that moment a door opened.
Now, I regularly get told I am brave or courageous.
Now, I often look in the mirror and commend myself for my bravery, among my other positive attributes. (Just doing THAT takes a form of courage!)
I’d always thought “courage” meant jumping out of airplanes, or publishing an expose on corporate corruption, or standing on a stage in front of a huge crowd.
And yes, all those are courageous acts.
But they are not the definition of courage.
Courage comes in many colors. We ALL are brave in our individual and unique ways.
Here’s two cool things:
1. The more I acknowledge my own particular form of courage, the less daunting some of those formerly terrifying actions seem to me.
2. It’s never too late to cultivate (and acknowledge) your own particular brand of courage.
What are three ways that you have shown courage in your own life?
Write these down! It will begin to rewire your brain to see yourself differently.
And share one or more in the comments below. Let’s egg each other on in writing our new stories!