We all have values, whether we shout about them or quietly live our lives by them. Courage is one of mine. And yet, I’ve always seen courage as more of an ‘aspirational’ value rather than something I am living day to day. Being courageous is like a mountain that I’m climbing; I’m on my way up but there’s still a long way to go. Sound familiar?
Someone recently complimented me on my courage, and not surprisingly it was at a time when I felt vulnerable, weak and fearful. In fact, I felt pretty pathetic. I probably felt about as far from courageous as a lifelong vegan from declaring they want to ‘eat a horse’.
So what does it really mean to be courageous?
‘Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty’.
Where venture means;
- to go somewhere that is unknown, dangerous, etc,
- to start to do something new or different that usually involves risk, or
- to do, say, or offer something (such as a guess or an opinion) even though you are not sure about it
How do you rate your own courage on a scale from 1-10?
Are you a top of the range, superstar, courageous individual – scoring a 10? or do you find yourself thinking that if we all lined up in courageous order you’d be shuffling towards the 1?
Maybe you are more courageous in some situations than others. Which of these, if any, raise your heart rate?
- Walking a worn out rope bridge across a 100m sheer drop.
- Telling someone you love them.
- Trusting someone with your deepest secret.
- Going to a party where you don’t know anyone.
- Standing up to a bully.
- Spending a big sum of money.
- Going into hospital for an operation.
- Handling a snake or a spider.
- Asking someone to give you feedback on your creative work.
- Doing something difficult in public.
- Facing your past.
- Getting into a 2-seater light aircraft with a newly qualified pilot.
- Stopping this list at 13.
- Learning to drive.
- Owning up to a mistake.
Maybe you are better at facing some fears than others? Which is harder?
- Starting something or carrying on when things get tough?
- Tackling big climbs or deep emotions?
- Not knowing what is behind the door or facing a known risk?
- Having to go it alone or having to work with other people?
- Saying the wrong thing or not being heard?
It is absolutely possible to be courageous in the face of physical danger but not at all courageous when facing our feelings.
Practicing People Voodoo is about being compassionate with yourself and others, but that doesn’t mean not taking any risks and avoiding the unknown; it’s about being kind to yourself when you are afraid and not just when you are strong.
It is important to acknowledge that it is just as courageous to seek out risk and face it as it is to tackle what life throws at you against your will.
And yes, no beating yourself up when you’re not quite there yet but you are at least trying. You know who you are.
As always, here are a few ideas to help you practice People Voodoo in the area of courage.
Be careful with comparisons
It is so easy to say ‘I wish I was a strong as you’ when we see someone doing something we find scary. That person’s deepest fear might be something that comes easily to you. There are some situations that we are innately programmed to fear, but tiger attacks aside, in day to day life, fear is very personal, and what gives you a fight/flight/freeze reaction might be very different to the next person.
Listen for and support acts of courage around you
Next time someone says they wish they had the nerve to do what you do, they are judging themselves as lacking courage. If it’s something that comes easily to you, or you’ve already faced it yourself, then this is your chance to offer support. It may seem terrifying to them, but only because they don’t know how to tackle it. With tactful questions you can get to the root of what they are afraid of and help take some of the fear out of it for them, with either practical or emotional support.
Recognise and reward courage in yourself
It’s easy to say that we should do something every day that scares us. If I faced a really deep fear every day, I’d be emotionally exhausted by Thursday. Life is not a competition to see who can scare themselves the most. BUT when you do consciously face your fears, reward yourself for your success, whether it was telling your boss how you feel or stroking a tarantula.
If this subject is close to your heart, I can also recommend a great book on the subject.
Good luck and please do share your success stories.