Courage: What Does it Look and Feel Like?

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Courage and Fear

It takes courage to lean in to our trauma, scars, fear, and discomfort and work through the healing. It takes courage to hold hope that things can and will change. It takes courage to believe that you are capable of taking new actions that will result in you living and feeling differently. There is uncertainty in trying something new or different, and uncertainty causes a lot of fear.

Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion that creates very intense feelings within us. Fear and the ego are an extremely powerful force. Many of us want to avoid fear, get rid of fear and be fearless. However, we cannot experience courage, growth or change without fear. Brene Brown explains in Dare to Lead, “Courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. Most of us feel brave and afraid at the exact same time.”

Courage in Everyday Life

We’ve been taught that courage entails big, grandiose acts and super heroes scaling walls and fighting monsters in the streets in front of everyone, but courage happens much more often on a smaller scale for us in our daily lives. Courageous acts include initiating or staying present in a hard conversation, admitting you don’t have all the answers, asking questions, healing, saying I love you, initiating intimacy, breathing, sitting in stillness, walking into a room where you don’t know anyone, trying a new yoga or exercise class, continuing when you want to quit, telling a stranger they dropped something, saying I’m sorry, saying thank you, accepting gratitude; the list goes on.

Courage often happens during the in-between. In between actions, there is often an act of courage. The courage of the super hero fighting off the villain happens before the midst of the fight. The fight is the outcome, choosing to go out there and fight and then taking the first step toward that, that’s where the courage lays. Right before you start that hard conversation or say thank you or I love you, there is an act of courage in the works pushing the words out of your mouth. When you want to stop a run or workout so badly that you want to cry but you continue with the next rep or step, there is courage in that moment when you decided to not stop. Courage comes in the wake of fear, so if we become fearless, we will not experience courageousness.

Courage as a Skill

Brene Brown goes on to explain, “So often we think of courage as an inherent trait; however, it is less about who people are, and more about how they behave and show up in difficult situations.” Courage can be cultivated, and the more we practice courage, the better we get at pushing through the fear, uncertainty and discomfort. If we want to show up more courageously in difficult situations, we can hone our behaviors by practicing in less difficult situations. For example, you want to thank someone close to you for something that really touched your heart, but you feel uncomfortable with expressing gratitude. Start with thanking strangers for acts of kindness like holding a door open or serving you at store or restaurant. Start small and build up your ability to be courageous in more difficult situations. Use visualization to see yourself taking courageous action, or role play a difficult conversation in your head or with someone you trust before having the conversation. The courage is within, it just needs a little help to stoke the fire.

Can you think of some examples of courage that you have witnessed recently?

I would love to know, what does courage look and feel like to you?