Courageous Action: How To Find Your Courage
Courage. It takes courage to look at your life and to say, “I want to do this thing differently,” and to then take the steps needed to get you there. Because without taking new actions, how can you live the life of your dreams? Same old thoughts, same old feels, same old actions, same old life.
If you feel stuck, frustrated, overwhelmed, stagnant, resentful, or if things feel good but you know they can feel better, then thought work and courageous action are the prescription you need.
It takes a lot of courage to do this work. To engage with your own healing, when you always have the option of staying just how and where you are, no matter how miserable or stuck or unhappy you feel.
Webster’s Dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens one, or strength in the face of pain or grief. Brené Brown writes,
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is core. The Latin word for heart.”
In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart. Over time, this definition has changed and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. I also think of this quote from the amazing and profoundly inspirational black lesbian poet and author Audre Lorde.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
The concept of courageous action is the actions we take to make our lives better each and every day in the face of old self-defeating stories, fear, and worry. In the face of the stories so many of us were taught by our family of origin, society, our culture, the patriarchy, capitalism, about what it means to be a good human of any gender, of every gender in this world today.
Humans who are assigned female at birth and those socialized as women are often taught to put ourselves last. To take care of others first, to not prioritize ourselves because that’s selfish, and being selfish is wrong and bad. That our goal should be to get married and have children, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just saying it’s a thing that we’ve been taught to value with some intensity.
It can be a really challenging thing to wrestle with if it’s not what you want or hasn’t happened by some magical age, like 30. Many of us have been taught to deny our emotions. You wouldn’t want to have feelings at work, god forbid. That things like thinness and beauty should be our priorities, which once again, always and forever, I’m not opposed to beauty. I’m a huge fan.
But often, we’re taught that if we don’t measure up to a specific social norm around looks, figure, et cetera, we’re failing.
That the focus of our self care should be to meet those standards. Humans socialized as men are often taught these really problematic frameworks about masculinity and what that means, which is often something quite limiting.
Again, not to show emotion, to not cry or be sensitive, and to have a specific body as well, and to prioritize and act in our social norms of masculinity above all else. Above the true desire of your heart.
It can be challenging to take action in the face of all of this. To take action that puts you first in a different way than what you were taught, and I want to encourage you to breathe into it and to begin to make space in your heart for living in a different way. A way that is aligned with your true dreams and desires for your life. Not just what the patriarchy or your family or whatever tells you is the most important.
Doing so takes courage.
So courageous action is possible when we live a life grounded in powerful thought work.
When we use breathwork to connect in with our feelings, to connect in with and move old stuck energy in our bodies that keeps us from moving forward. When we recognize that our thoughts create our feelings and we take action based on those feelings.
You can take the action of letting life pass you by, of not living into your confidence, of not speaking up or snapping at folks from a place of annoyance or irritation. You can take the action of spinning in stories like I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or you can get clear in your thinking and can take courageous step after courageous step to live the life you dream of in every realm.
Family life, relationship, work, nutrition, self-care. This is applicable everywhere. It takes courage to say, I’m going to start an online business. I’m going to be a life coach. I’m going to ask my boss for a raise. I’m going to tell my partner or partners — I see you, poly babies — that I have these boundaries, these limits.
It takes courage to know in your heart, in your body, not just in your mind, that you are valuable and worthy and to live like you know it.
It takes courage to begin to heal yourself. All of these actions are moving you towards the life you envision for yourself and taking courageous action means you are operating from a place of empowerment, where you run your life instead of letting fear run it.
In my practice, I work with a lot of folks, women mostly, who want to be life coaches. Who have something to share, who want to write a book, who want to put themselves out there, but feel fear and worry about it.
I share with them what I’ve practiced believing for myself. No one can share your unique way of thinking about and experiencing the world, and if you hide all of your magic, all of your beauty because you’re worried that someone may judge it, then no one will get to experience the singular gift that is you.
Let that sink in, my love. No one can share your unique way of thinking about and experiencing the world.
Courage is when you feel fear in your body around taking certain actions or doing a certain thing, and you do it anyway.
You decide in body, mind, and spirit, that the risk of not doing this frightening feeling thing is greater than actually making the move for your current and future self. Your dream self. Living your dream life.
That brings to mind the Anaïs Nin quote,
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
I had this thought, this idea about wanting to do this podcast for a solid decade before I started doing it, but there was something inside me that kept me from just doing it.
That something was fear. I love the old acronym that fear is “false evidence appearing real.” I connected deeply with the scared and fearful parts of me. Child parts. Protector parts. I gave and continued to give those parts of love and tenderness, compassion and caring, while they still whisper, no, don’t do it, don’t be seen. It’s scary to be seen in the world.
I turned to those scared parts of me, acknowledged them with love, and let them know they’re safe. That I’m choosing the thought, “I’m going to do this scary thing,” because what is this life if we don’t take risks? If we don’t say yes to the constant invitation to take courageous action for our one human life?
I think this may be one of the most important things to learn, that you can feel fear and can take action anyway.
You can be courageous while showing your wise body love and care.
You can also get things done that totally petrify you by making a promise to yourself and keeping that promise.
When I talk about the think-feel-act cycle, I talk about not lying to yourself with BS fake positivity and this is vital. Brains don’t believe lies from ourselves or anyone else. So there’s no need to say, “I’m not scared here. I’m not worried or concerned or feeling fear about taking this step.” I feel it. It’s a real sensation in my body coming from a thought and I’m going to feel into it. I’m going to accept it.
Awareness, acceptance, action. And I’m going to sit in that acceptance. Okay, I’m feeling this fear. There’s no need to judge it. There’s no need to change it until I’ve really felt into it. And when you’re ready, when you’ve felt it all the way through, processed it through your body, when you felt your feeling on purpose, then you can begin to pick a different thought so you can take action.
To not just think about the action you want to take, but to be the person who takes the action, to do the things that frighten you, recognizing that they frighten you. That’s okay. You can commit yourself to those things and get them done. This is courageous action.
What it all comes down to here is the courage to say “I feel fear.”
But I know the path that is right for me and I’m going to proceed in that path anyway. I’m going to do the thing that scares the shit out of me because I know I can live a better life.
A more fulfilling and engaging life. A life of service. A life without codependence. A life in which I value myself and I don’t say yes to things I don’t want to say yes to because I know that’s a one-way ticket to resentment town. I know my worth and I live like I know it, even when that feels scary.
I live a life in which I’m living up to my potential and feeling the very best I can within my human body. For example, when we’re talking about healing our physical bodies, I recommend that folks start with their nutrition. It takes a lot of courage to start an elimination diet where you take out all of the most inflammatory foods you’re used to eating, including the foods that you believe bring you comfort.
That’s a freaking scary thing to do until you do the thought work to recognize that you don’t need food to bring you comfort. You feel comfort when you think that you are comfortable. Not because of the food. The food is neutral. It just is.
Shifting your thoughts about either could help you shift how you feel and thus dictates the actions you can take.
The point is if you want to live a life full of radiant health, you get to recognize your fear, acknowledge it, give it love, and then you can decide you want to do the thing anyway.
Say I want to live a healthier life. So I’m going to do this thing that feels really scary like not eating gluten or sugar one day at a time for 30 days to get started for my own wellness. Comfort is always mine because I make it in my mind with my thoughts.
So let’s also pause here for a moment to give some praise to fear. Because fear doesn’t come from nowhere. Our lived experiences have led us to tell the stories that create our current feelings. The feelings we had as children, teenagers, young adults are valid and shaped us, and are also in the past.
These old stories and thought patterns can flood us with feelings of fear and can stop us from taking the actions we know are in our own best interest until we pause and learn to rewrite them. It can be challenging to see these old stories on our own, which is why I recommend working with a certified life coach such as myself. Someone who can help you see the stories you’re carrying and can help you to rewrite them.
I want to acknowledge here that many of us learned as young people not to cry or not to really feel what was going on inside of our bodies.
It makes sense that you would have put up defenses like fear to keep yourself from feeling or expressing those feelings that led to a caretaker making fun of you, mocking you, ignoring you, or not giving you what you needed in that childhood moment.
We know that often, these old feelings and experiences continue to live in our bodies and get connected to a story that we stay subject to until we’re able to create a new thought story that will lead to a new feeling, that will lead to new actions, and a new experience of life. A new result.
It’s hard to take action, particularly courageous action when you’re living in that old story.
Rolling around it in. When you don’t create the space through practices like breathwork and thought work to deeply feel the old wounds, to heal the hurt, and to recognize, see, and then change the old story that’s creating your fear.
Breathwork meditation has been my best and most powerful tool. My ally. Feeling my feelings in my body, not just telling a story about what I’m feeling, but really getting deep on my underlying feelings. I can then take that work to my thought work.
Using awareness, acceptance, and action of my own thoughts and the feelings they create, I can then use our thought work protocol.
Courageous action means recognizing your old fear around something that’s not actually life-threatening and deciding that you are going to do it anyway.
Courageous action means you’re going to go to grad school. You’re going to ask that person on a date, you’re going to travel alone, you’re going to tell your mom you can’t be her therapist anymore. You’re going to launch your business. You’re going to heal yourself. You’re going to maybe start your own podcast.
So my darling, you may be asking, all of this is well and good, but how do I begin to take courageous action?
You know that I’m obsessed with starting with awareness. I know you want to jump to action. We all want to jump to action, and yet we use the framework of the three A’s in this family. Awareness, acceptance, action.
You cannot change what you cannot see.
Your homework this week is to bring awareness to the times when you feel fear, worry, concern about doing something new.
Something scary that isn’t actually life-threatening, and to be clear, I’m not talking about getting into a pit of vipers here.
I’m talking about asking your mom to not shit talk your dad, or to ask someone on a date, or to work with me as a life coach, to voice your opinion with confidence. That kind of scary. Not like, jumping out of an airplane without a parachute kind of scary.
Your homework is to be your own watcher. To feel into what’s holding you back. Really feel into it. We have to feel our feels in order to take the next step.
If not, you’re just spiritually, emotionally bypassing and that does you no good. So feel into it. See where the fear story lives in your body. And when you’ve gotten it, when you’ve connected with it, give it some love. Write the story down with a pen on paper and look at that old story in black and white. This step is so darn helpful.
This work of beginning to see your mind is scary at first. And it can bring up a lot of old fear, and that’s okay.
You can have courage in the face of fear.
I know you can. I know you can live the life of your wildest dreams by learning to manage your mind.