Courage is in the choosing...
A couple of weeks ago I was very privileged to be invited into conversation with a good friend - a wonderful coach and fellow creative Ann Skinner a.k.a. The 'Heartworker'. She was leading a 7-day challenge called 'Awaken Your GREATfullness' ahead of the launch of her Heartworkers Academy. I was invited as the very first guest speaker on the theme of courage!
So many things running through my mind when she reached out to invite me, namely the first being; "but I'm not courageous". I had to sit with that thought for quite a long time, and reflect on what courage meant to me, before admitting that it wasn't true- I have indeed shown a lot of courage.
If you'd love to watch the whole conversation here it is below, it is a wonderful exploration of what courage means (I join in the conversation around 25 minutes in).
Upon reflecting on courage what first came to mind is whether there is a difference between courage and bravery. My conclusion is that there was. Bravery is facing a physical fear where is courage is facing an emotional fear. These are the two extremes and in reality, there are huge overlaps but I feel these are the subtle distinctions.
A moment of courage might be very insignificant to others yet holds huge meeting for us. Courage is a personal recognition and is often present in life's small moments. Whereas bravery is typically something that everyone could recognise- a physical act that we could all relate to being tough to deal with.
I then took to Google to see what there else there was to say. This idea stood out to me:
Courage and bravery are generally considered to be synonyms, yet philosophically, the two nouns differ in meaning. Courage involves the presence of fear, while bravery lacks it. Courage entails a cause, most commonly love, passion, compassion, concern, etc. Bravery maintains its essence even without a cause. Courage is a result of mindfulness; it is one’s decision to fight despite one’s fears. Bravery is an inherent characteristic; it doesn’t involve much thinking and manifests itself as second nature in those who are brave.
I love these distinctions between the physical and emotional fears. There is a much greater emotional risk attached to courage, which is why it feels easier to be courageous on behalf of others instead of ourselves.
There is also an intrinsic link between vulnerability and courage, indeed one of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown, a wonderful pioneer in the realms of vulnerability, is:
I have long found the studies around vulnerability fascinating, having written about it before. For me, showing vulnerability has become quite familiar, a daily practice. As such, to an extent it has become part of my comfort zone and the vulnerability around sharing those parts of me has subsided.
In my conversation with Ann, we discussed that initially when we do difficult things we feel the fear, yet after we have done it, it becomes the new norm and therefore we don't even think we have courage. We forget that we are courageous. Looking back and recognising that we have shown courage throughout our lives helps us to reclaim it as we go forwards.
One thing I have become very aware of in recent times, is that when someone else sees something in me, I don’t dismiss it. Who am I to say ‘I’m not courageous’, If you see that in me then it holds truth. It’s not for me to cast away your perception. Just because I can’t see my greatness, it doesn’t mean it's not there. I have slowly learnt to allow that in despite my inner dialogue often telling me otherwise! It is having an incredibly powerful impact on my life and my perception of self.
I still find myself with a battle in my mind "people don't wanna hear this stuff, I'm just a recipe blogger", ...no, "I'm a life architect and I help shift peoples thought processes and awaken creativity".
I do that mental dance back and forth every day and it takes courage to choose the latter.
Courage is in the choosing.
...This is what is expected of me, this is what society dictates, this is what has been done before BUT actually this is what my heart is telling me.
There might not be obvious reason and logic, the decisions that you take are often ones that don't make sense to somebody else. This takes huge courage, to forge ahead regardless.
This feels very true for me and my vegan story. I shifted to a vegan diet whilst in a previous relationship, so when that relationship ended and I fell back into my old life and routines, everyone around me expected me to snap out of that 'phase' of my life. It took huge courage to stand up and say 'this is who I am now'. The need for courage kept on growing- the first time I ate out at a restaurant, my first Christmas as a vegan, gifts from friends and family that didn't fit into my new life perspective. It was a huge act of courage in those moments which has become easier and easier over time.
Every time we wake up in the morning, whether we are conscious of it or not we have a choice, and one path is always going to require more courage than another. It’s about what we choose to lean into that in any given moment.
It also takes courage to recognise and own the times where we didn’t choose courage and accepting that.
Thinking back to the 'crossroads' - we might not choose the path of courage every time, we might only choose it 1 in 10 times. But, that doesn’t mean we are not courageous. If in every moment there is some aspect of choice, and courage involved in that choice, then of course we are not going to choose courage every time- we are not super heroes- we are only human.
We all have days where we choose no courage at all. It's not about all the times we didn’t, it’s focussing on all the times we did and recognising that.
Like vulnerabilty, courage has a ripple effect. It is permission giving. If you recognise and share your own courage it enables people to step into their own. This is so incredibly powerful for me in my work as a coach.
I will end these thoughts on a final quote on vulnerability by Brene Brown, something I'd love you to consider and to reach out to me if you'd like to explore more how this might be showing up in your life.