I can feel the butterflies in the pit of my stomach. My heart is pounding as I'm sitting at the top of a skate ramp that seems way too high for me. It's a beautiful summer night 25 years ago, and I've just watched my friend slide down the ramp. But I'm unable to muster up the courage to let go and trust. I end up climbing down the same way I came up. I felt so disappointed and angry that I still remember it.
How about you? You might be at the front door of an apartment that you really, really want to buy. You are considering the risks, dreaming about how wonderful your life would be at this new place, worrying about how on earth are you gong to make the payments and these thoughts keep going on in your head... Then you just make the decision and bang, you sign the papers. What happened? This decision required faith in the future, possibility for a big ass loan and some financial courage.
You may hear courage to be referred to as an element you either have or don't have. But I believe we all have courage. It may just come in different forms and it for sure can be developed.
What lies at the heart of courage? The word courage is derived from a latin word cor, which means heart. And the original meaning was “to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” This implies, that a person with courage will put herself "out there" and be vulnerable for others opinions, praise or judgement.
The definition of courage by Merriam-Webster is: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. I believe that at the heart lies this thought: what if something goes wrong?
So courage is moving onward together with your fears and taking that risk. It's accepting that fears will be a part of the choice you make.
I always used to think that my mom sucks big time. Every summer my parents took us to an amusement park for the whole day. I loved the roller coaster and wanted to go on it as many times as I could, until I had to be carried kicking and screaming out of the park. But my mom never went to any of the rides. Her reason was that she did not want to. Who does not want to go into the wildest rides in an amusement park?
A mom. Because she is scared.
Something happens to most women when they give birth. Their physical courage drops. We went biking last summer with a good friend of mine, a mother of two, and I was starting to lose my nerve because she was driving SO SLOWLY. And stopping at every red light…as a comparison, before the kids she used to drive carefree and at a pace that I was not comfortable with. She is scared that something will happen to her, and she is minimizing the risks. Something in the "mama brain" makes us take it easy. Which, I might say, can be wise at that point...
So courage and fears are bundled up together, but don't come in just one form. There are different types of courage we can identify:
Physical courage is taking bodily risks such as running a marathon, or doing parachute jump.
Social courage means not conforming to the expectations of others, being willing to show your true self even if it means risking social disapproval or punishment. It means being able to express opinions and preferences without checking to see if they are in line with "everyone else's" opinions and preferences.
Moral courage includes challenging others who are behaving inappropriately, or resisting exploitation of a weaker one.
Financial courage is taking risks that may bring you prosperity but put you in a position of losing your house.
Isn’t it really fascinating that you can have so much courage in one area but not in another. If you think about a salesperson who calls dozens of people every day, but does not have the financial courage to take on a loan for a home. Or if you think about a pavement worker who has the courage to do his work in the midst of ongoing traffic, but at the same time not have the courage to stand up in front of a group of 20 people and give a speech.
Courage can also be seen in tolerating uncertainty. I just read about this young woman who has packed her bags and moved to a different country 3 times to chase her ever changing dreams. Every time she had to face making new friends, getting a new job and finding her way of living in a new place.
I think asking for what you need is one of the bravest things that you’ll ever do. I see my daughter shyly lowering her voice and looking away, when I ask her what she really wants. Do you do the same? It is hard to put your wants and needs out there, because what if we do not get them? What are the feelings that we are scared of? Shame, failure, disappointment. Our mind tends to protect us from these and keep us on the safe side, on the settling.
"If you decide to stay there and keep making your decisions from a place of fear, you will not find your courage. If you do not find your courage, it will be harder for you to feel proud of yourself and you for sure will not get the perks either."
Facebook just reminded me about a 10 meter jump I did with a good friend of mine 7 years ago. And I am planning to do another one when I turn 40. So something has happened and I am more courageous physically than I used to be. I am also more courageous mentally that I used to be. I have actively built up this muscle, and it has worked! With this jump, and many other courage building activities, I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. You see, we need to build up the faith in the self and DO things that make us proud of who we are. That's how we get to the inner satisfaction that carries us everyday.
My point is that we are courageous in many ways, but these ways are not set in stone! We all have courage, and it is a muscle to be trained.
Here are some tips for you to start building up your courage and with that, becoming the person you really dream of being:
Identify your courage. Where do you find yourself doing acts of courage, (good thoughts don’t count)? Write these down and think about them, what enables you to defend a person or to invest in a new venture, or whatever your courage looks like?
Take a moment to really congratulate yourself for these moments of courage. Admit to yourself that you do have it in you!
Think about the areas in your life you would like to have more courage. Is it the social situations? Or maybe you have always dreamed of doing something crazy like an ice dive…Create a plan of tiny little steps that you can strengthen this muscle within this area of courage.
Renja is a love and transformation coach who inspires women to live lives true to themselves. Her strengths lie in listening and problem solving. She is the founder of Ahaa Helsinki, that aims to save the world by bringing down to earth coaching available for everyone. She believes in the power of the individual decisions, creating visions and taking action. She absolutely loves what she does, and she is always open for women who are willing and committed to create better lives for themselves.
Renja has a master's degree in Economics and is a proud alumni of Mentor Masterclass life coach training program.
Renja writes two blogs: one in english here. And one in Finnish here.