“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Being courageous does not mean that you take action without fear. Being courageous is having fear and doing it anyway. So, how do we muster up the courage to stand tall, open our hearts and risk failure (and success)?
1) Recognize it’s just fear: The first step is acknowledging that it’s just your good old friend, fear, knocking on your door. Remember, we all have fear – it’s completely normal. Take time to notice what happens in your body when you are with fear, so that you can begin to recognize and name it more readily. Sometimes you may not know why you are feeling fear. That’s ok and normal too. Go to step 2 anyway…but first this reminder:
Reminder: Fear is often a future worry that manifests in the present moment…so try using conscious breaths to help center you back into the now. Focused breathing can soften the discomfort of this powerful emotion.
2) Befriend fear: Instead of resisting fear, which is a natural human reaction (remember: humans, when unaware, avoid uncomfortable feelings at almost all costs). Try looking at the fear head-on, acknowledging its presence and maybe even shaking its hand (metaphorically, of course). Without fear, we aren’t alive. So, fear is simply our friend who reminds us of our humanity and our vitality. Yay, fear!
3) Decide how to manage each fear: Now that we are friends with our fear, we can decide how much time we’d like to spend hanging out with fear. If we are trying out a new experience that is intimidating, but it will potentially yield wonderful results (i.e.: a job interview for our dream job; asking someone out on a date; public speaking; learning a new skill; speaking up for something really important, etc.), we may choose to spend some quality time with fear, because the cost-benefit is worth it!
4) Feel the fear and do it anyway: Most of the time, yes! Go for it! Be courageous! Living fully is so much about stepping into the uncomfortable, because we all know that nothing much happens inside of our comfort zones! However, every once in a while we might decide that the risk is not worth it (i.e.: speaking up at work about something we believe in, knowing our boss often fires people who go against his/her ideas; taking a motorcycle ride when we forget our helmet; saying something that we know could do irreparable emotional damage to someone’s self-esteem, etc.). The decision to feel the fear and not do it anyway requires a radical honesty with ourselves, in order to be sure we aren’t shrinking to avoid the discomfort of our fear. Hiding from fear can do damage to our own self-esteem and put us at odds with our good friend, fear.
5) Choose your support system carefully: If we are challenging ourselves in new and exciting, but scary ways …our support systems can make a huge difference in taking on fear courageously. People who love us, of course want the best for us, but they may also be scared themselves. Maybe they aren’t facing their own fears, and us facing ours is a glaring reminder to them of where they are shrinking in their lives. They may try to talk us out of things or into things that collude with us hiding from our fear (then they get to hide from theirs too!). We need to be selective about who we share our dreams with…and choose people who stretch us toward living our biggest, best lives…encouraging us to face our fears and go for it! Strong supporters are there for us in the times of failure and the times of great success…!
When we have a lapse: When we forget our friendship with fear and we doubt and we feel our bodies go into fear-protective mode…read the my favorite quote of all time (below)…and strive valiantly…be the (wo)man IN the arena…and go out and dare greatly!
Rachel Shanken is a Mind Bodywise Therapist in New York City, U.S.A.
You can read more of her articles at www.mindbodywise.com
Middlesex Counselling Services Limited.