Choosing courage

The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.
— Brené Brown

My last blog was about resistance. I called it “Combatting the Dragon.” This week, I am going back to that theme, because I want to break down what creates resistance.

Here’s what I believe:

When you are resistant, you are in essence talking yourself out of doing something that you’re afraid to do.

What’s the same thing as talking yourself out of doing something? Isn’t it simply discouraging yourself? I think when you resist what’s hard, it’s the same as saying: “I can’t. I don’t deserve. I will regret it.” It’s whatever excuse you give to NOT do the hard thing.

I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about courage.

Last month, courage was the theme for CreativeMornings, the free morning talks that occur around the world in multiple cities at a time.

Of course, many books have been written about courage, too. Ones I read recently are Brené Brown’s latest book, “Braving the Wilderness,” “The Fearless Mindset” by Peter Scott IV and “Fearless,” by Arianna Huffington.

With courage, I automatically think about fear. We all do, right?

It would be great to not be stopped by fear. I would get so much more done. I would have a richer, fuller and more exciting life.

Courage has been one of those elusive things in my life. The reason why I believe that courage is such an elusive quality is because I feel fear far more often and in a more visceral way than I do courage. It seems to be my default emotion when it comes to taking risks.

I bought a book several decades ago called “A Women’s Book of Courage,” by Sue Patton Thoele, a psychotherapist-turned-writer, because I wanted to stop feeling so scared all the time. It includes meditations and affirmations for empowerment and peace of mind.

After I read the book, I put it aside and didn’t follow through with the affirmations, because I didn’t see how they could help me. Living with fear was a sign of weakness and I thought I was too weak to move beyond fear and into courage. What the heck would a bunch of positive thoughts do for me? It made no sense.

Now I realize that at the time, I didn’t really understand what courage is. I thought that courage is the same as living without fear. In other words, the “fearless” mindset that many talk and write about.

I now see that I was wrong.

Irene Wakefield, one of the CreativeMorning speakers said something quite profound in her talk last month:

The opposite of courage is not fear or weakness. The opposite of courage is discouragement.
— Irene Wakefield

As a language student, this statement makes a lot of sense to me. In the dictionary, discourage is defined as “to cause someone to lose confidence or enthusiasm; to prevent or show disapproval; to persuade someone against an action.”

Sounds a lot like the opposite of taking bold action, doesn’t it?

Courage comes from the word “coeur” or heart. “Des” or “dis” added to a word means “away from” or “expressing the reverse of.” A synonym of discourage is “dishearten.” Courage is living from the heart. Discouragement is moving away from it.

Dis-courage is therefor the true opposite of courage. And surprise, it’s something we DO. It’s not a feeling. It’s an action.

How do you discourage yourself? Irene Wakefield says you do so by creating less certainty, inspiration, or optimism to succeed. You then lose your belief in yourself, lose determination, and lessen your enjoyment and hope.

Courage is a choice. When something hard shows up, it’s about choosing courage or discouragement.

You possess a heart, and therefore you inherently possess courage. You were born with it. You just need to remember:

  • You have the courage to acknowledge your strengths and set limits.
  • You have the courage to love and be loved.
  • You have the courage to create peace of mind.
  • You have the courage to tame and destroy your dragons.
  • You have the courage to be your own good friend.
  • You have the courage to make your own choices.
  • You have the courage to take care of yourself.
  • You have the courage to communicate lovingly.
  • You have the courage to develop healthy relationships.
  • You have the courage to take risks and change.
  • You have the courage to recognize miracles.
  • You have the courage to claim your power.

(Thank you, Sue Patton Thoele.)

All you have to do is not talk yourself out of these things. Choose to listen to your heart. Following your heart always means you are acting from a place of courage.