Courage is a virtue that you probably already admire. But you might not see it as something that is attainable for yourself, let alone something you already have. This article is about remembering the courage that you were born with, that you demonstrated in the past, and which is accessible to you now.
Your view of yourself matters
In my practice as a psychologist, I see my clients as already having everything they need to live their lives to the full. When I listen to their stories, I’m in awe of the courage they’ve already demonstrated in their lives. But it’s not unusual for them to see themselves as weak and cowardly. Yet this negative self-view is one of the factors that holds them in a difficult place. So therapy is often about identifying and accessing the courage that they already have, in order to move forward.
Courage is a virtue you were born with
Consider that you, along with all human beings, we’re born with courage. In fact, you’ve naturally demonstrated courage ever since you were a tiny baby.
You used your courage to learn things
Even if you were the timidest of kids, you learned to walk all by yourself, probably between the ages of 9 – 14 months.
No matter how many times you fell, got battered, and bruised, you kept getting up and trying again until you got it right. Even toddlers who are missing limbs or who have some other kind of developmental problem aren’t daunted – they find a way to (physically) be in this world. That’s a lot of courage at a very young age.
After you learned to walk, you learned to run. You learned to play, talk, amuse yourself, and engage with others. You went to school. You learned to read and to write. Maybe you played a sport or many sports. Or attempted to master a musical instrument. Maybe you engaged in cultural or community activities.
You overcame things and you made it to where you are now
You overcame loss – loved ones died or moved away, pets died, friendships ended, relationships broke up. There were disappointments and times that you suffered intense pain. Yet you made it through the minefield that is childhood.
Courage is a virtue that you’ve had all your life. As the famous saying goes, no one escapes childhood unscathed. You used your courage to survive, overcome, and make it all the way to adulthood.
Courage is a virtue
Aristotle considered courage to be the first virtue because it makes all the other virtues possible. For Aristotle, when you’re faced with any decision, you can either rush forward in a reckless way or respond with cowardice. He considered courage to be “the golden mean” – the middle ground between these two extremes, and the factor that will enable you to make the correct choices.
There are always difficulties
There are always obstacles and barriers that get in the way of your journey. That’s the way it is, the way it always has been, and the way it always will be. Nothing is forever: whether bad, sad, and painful times; or good, happy, and stable times.
You need your courage to live your life
So you need to use your courage to help you to negotiate the twists and turns of your personal journey. You need courage to overcome the internal and external factors that crop up in your life, that prevent you from being (becoming) the best version of yourself. It takes courage to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you in life, and courage to walk away from the things that no longer serve you.
Success Formula: Do this exercise to better understand how courage is a virtue you already have
- Get something to write on, and something to write with. This exercise is better done with paper and pencil, but you can do it on your phone or laptop if that feels right for you.
- Gently silence your inner critic, and get ready to brainstorm without judgment. Your examples can be teeny-tiny or big, it really doesn’t matter.
- Quietly and non-judgmentally reflect on your journey. It can be for the last year, the last few years, or all of your life. You can absolutely include the years in which you learned to lift your head, then roll over, then sit, then walk and talk.
- Think about the times you used your courage to survive or overcome hard things in your life. Write them down.
- the times you made a difficult choice that you believed was the right one. Write them down. (Even if it turned out to be a mistake later, acknowledge that you used your courage to make a decision based on the information and resources you had at that time.)
- If you feel blank, ask yourself this question: “And what else?” Then just wait for a while. There’s always something else.
- When you feel that you have enough examples to prove to yourself that you already have courage, you’re done.
- Regularly affirm to yourself that you have the courage you need.
If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful in some way, please let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email, I love to hear your stories! And please go ahead and share it on social media.