Courage is Contagious
You’ve probably gathered this from my whole “Little Miss Fearless” theme, but I am completely obsessed with courage. I read about it, dream about it, pray about it — it’s basically all I think about. I’m obsessed because courage looks different on everyone (i.e., what makes you believe in yourself?). Yet when we hear about or witness small acts of courage, sometimes disguised as mere confidence, it inspires us to be courageous, too.
While reading my usual lineup of mindset and self-improvement books (never complete without a few Brené Brown faves) this summer, I began taking notes on some simple concepts that have dramatically impacted how I think about and live with courage.
Here were the top five most compelling takeaways…
“I totally believe that we are called to do something during our time here. And that we all have very unique contributions that we need to make. I believe there are penalties for not making the contributions that you were brought here to make. I think it’s part of the mid-life thing. Mid-life is when the universe comes and grabs you by the shoulders and says: ‘I am not screwing around. You’re halfway to dead, and all the armor that you put on to protect yourself is getting in the way of you growing into your gifts. You have work to do here and you need to do it.
Part of my purpose is getting clear on what my contribution is and saying ‘no’ every time a request does not align with what I think I’m supposed to be doing. Because every time I say yes to something it is a no to something else.”
Nothing has required more courage from me than staying connected to what I believe is my purpose. It’s scary to fully commit to a prompting or impression because “what if we’re wrong?” If we’ve always been searching, sometimes it’s easier and more comfortable to just keep searching or ignore those impressions altogether and put it off for a later time. I started to get really clear on what I believe is my life’s calling when I noticed that it kept coming back up for me. I couldn’t put it off any longer because it was interfering with me living my life.
Whether it was my constant struggle with perfectionism and fear of being misunderstood, or moments of overwhelming joy and passion for a specific idea or cause, I finally found the courage to start taking action. I began rumbling with my self-limiting beliefs, started to embrace and lean into the discomfort of those thoughts and emotions, and began making changes. And that’s when my belief in my purpose began to grow — when I started doing the work.
“Once you learn what spiritual guidance feels like it will be easier to recognize. The more experience you have with those feelings the more you will trust them. Satan tries to blur reality and confuse you by tempting you to incorporate false principles into your life.”
It takes courage for me to choose positive thoughts about myself and sometimes others because I’m so comfortable with believing the negative ones. I truly believe negative thoughts come from Satan. He wants us to fail. He wants us to be miserable. God does not. God speaks to us through positive thoughts and inspiration, and sometimes through other people.
The only way to start recognizing when God is trying to talk to me is by listening to that first positive thought, acting on it, and then listening again and again. Usually acting on it is the part that requires the most faith and courage on my part. It’s uncomfortable because there’s no certainty that it will bring a different outcome. We just have to believe in the power of choosing faith over fear. The more we practice acting on our positive thoughts, the more we’ll start to believe them.
“It’s counterintuitive, but our belief in inextricable human connection is one of our most renewable sources of courage in the wilderness. I can stand up for what I believe is right when I know that regardless of the pushback and criticism I’m connected to myself and others in a way that can’t be severed. When we don’t believe in an unbreakable connection the isolation of the wilderness is too daunting so we stay in our factions and our echo chambers.”
There’s no courage quite like the courage it takes to stand alone. For me, this has meant holding true to my belief that we are all equals, even when cultural and societal norms want me to believe that life is better when you’re popular, pretty and rich. When I set my beliefs higher, I’m more willing to stand alone in my purpose, knowing that we’re all on our own path and that just because someone doesn’t value the same things I value right now, does not mean those things don’t have value. The courage it takes to stay centered in this noisy world is a courage unlike any other.
Book 4: Loving What Is – Byron Katie
“Reality for me is what is true. The truth is whatever is in front of you, whatever is really happening. For example, whether you like it or not, it’s raining now. ‘It shouldn’t be raining’ is just a thought. In reality there is no such thing as a ‘should’ or a ‘shouldn’t’. These are only thoughts that we impose onto reality.
Without the should and shouldn’t, we can see reality as it is, and this leaves us free to act efficiently, clearly and sanely. Asking ‘What’s the reality of it?’ can help bring the mind out of its story, back into the real world.
Where reality is concerned, there is no, ‘what should be.’ There is only what is. Just the way it is right now.”
The courage to love what is. It’s uncomfortable because it’s uncertain. If we allow others to just be, then we can’t predict how they will or won’t affect us. But the truth is we can’t predict or control it anyway. We can only control how we choose to live with the reality of it.
In my own life, I’m learning to live with the uncertainty of my infertility struggles, cultivating the courage to believe that it will all be okay. That whatever my reality is right now, it is as it should be, because it’s reality. Centering myself on courage helps me to believe that if I do my best, and believe others are doing their best, then we’ll all make it in the end. Practicing gratitude each day for all I have and truly loving my life the way it is now, gives me the courage to believe things will only keep getting better.
“Rather than driving us toward actually becoming better, perfectionism is a defense mechanism. I call it the 20-ton shield. It’s a shield that we carry with a thought process that says this: ‘If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect and do it all perfectly, I can avoid or minimize feeling shame, blame and judgment.’
Perfectionism is addictive, because when we ultimately feel shame, judgment or blame, our thought process is not, ‘This perfectionism thing is not worth it, it doesn’t work at all,’ our thought process is, ‘I wasn’t perfect enough. Next time I’m going to be really perfect.’ And we can never let it go.
I think it’s dangerous because one of the things that happens in families is that perfectionism is incredibly contagious. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve interviewed who have said, ‘Yes, I’m absolutely a perfectionist and it’s paralyzing for me, but I’m really working hard to not pass that down to my children.’ It doesn’t work like that. We cannot raise children who are more resilient to perfectionism than what we are.”
I knew I needed professional help to overcome my perfectionist thinking when I got to a point that I just couldn’t act anymore. It truly was paralyzing for me. I was so afraid to do anything because I knew it wouldn’t be perfect. Yet I expected everything I did to be perfect.
I started working with my therapist a year ago and I’ve made drastic improvements. But the perfectionism allure is always there. It’s just one emotional trigger, one thought away. And I have to practice the courage to be imperfect every. single. day.
Even in all my attempts to “overcome” perfectionism, I know that I’ll continue to slip up. So as my baby grows, the best thing I can do is be an example for him of self compassion, how to work through the slip-ups, and not be afraid to talk with him about it when I unintentionally let perfectionism drive my behaviors. Perfectionism may be contagious, but so is courage. And I’ll choose courage over perfect any day.
SHOP THE POST
Choosing Courage Over Comfort
I have been fascinated with courage my entire life. It is one of my top five core values because it constantly shows up in my life as an opportunity to choose faith over fear. I believe those challenging moments — when we’re faced with the decision to choose courage or comfort — are some of our most defining moments on earth and they go on to shape our character, our beliefs and ultimately, the quality of our lives.
I’d love to know if you value courage, too. Which of these books or takeaways resonated most with you?
And, moment of truth: Are you a fiction or non-fiction lover?
I think you can learn so much about someone by the books they read. (And for the record, I’m open to any suggestions for adding a little more fiction to my repertoire.) So share your favorite book(s) with me in the comments!