Her courage was her crown and she wore it like a Queen. - Harper Lee
It takes great courage to become who you really are and do what you really want. When you expand your courage, you expand your life. The world opens to us when we stop clinging to safety, security, and control -- all fear-based reactions that block our ability to be authentic and to take authentic action.
Cultivating that courage means finding and showing yourself to others and learning to manage fear.
Find & Show Yourself
It might not seem like you need grit to pursue self awareness, but we’re all broken. Looking at our flaws, accepting and acknowledging the pieces of ourselves we wish to change, and then acting authentically takes bravery and great effort.
Many don’t bother to make that effort, but they often regret it. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” is a top regret of the dying, according to palliative care expert Bronnie Ware.
Researcher and professor Brene Brown says we don’t show ourselves to others because it requires ongoing courage. “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about what you’re feeling. To have hard conversations….The core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable.”
Manage Your Fears
Courage is fear walking. Meaning that we can’t just eliminate fear; we take our fears with us on our courageous journeys. Doing what we really want in life is about learning to manage fear.
We must acknowledge if our fear has merit and call out its lies. Then we must answer the questions fear asks -- what am I really afraid of and why -- so we can deal with our fearful emotions and keep fear out of the driver’s seat.
We can’t just intellectualize this process, however, and expect to move forward. We have to take action, get uncomfortable, and face our fears about acting authentically. As Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.”
But you don’t have to tell your mother-in-law you’re done taking orders. Courage is a muscle. Practicing it builds its overall strength so you can "get used to" the fearful emotions. Which means you just have to start with a small risk that takes you out of your comfort zone. So simply tell your mother-in-law that this year you’re traveling for the next holiday and don't think you can make it.
Scientists back this up and have pinpointed the exact part of your brain responsible for courageous acts. Their evidence shows that we can boost this activity in this brain region simply by winning small battles of courage.
If your stomach turns at prospect of facing fears, even little by little, consider this Brene Brown wisdom: “You can choose courage or comfort, but not both.”
Ultimately, what the courage to be authentic requires is a willingness to be uncomfortable, afraid, and to move forward anyway. You don’t have to be perfect or whole or enlightened to be courageous. Quite the opposite, really. It is about daring to let yourself be seen, warts and all, and managing all the fears around acting from a place of authenticity.
It’ll be worth it.