Courage in the face of doubt

October 25, 2015

When we're facing difficult things in our lives, we often stay in our rational minds, trying to figure things out logically, wanting answers to impossible or challenging questions and a clear course of action to emerge to help us out of our discomfort as quickly as possible.  

Meanwhile our hearts are trying to reach us above the din, to suggest there's other ways that might work much better.  When we stop enough to listen to that, we usually get really scared because the heart wants us to stay in our truth as the way out of everything, the way to everything.  

Gulp.  Tell the truth?  

Blink, blink.  What if I don't really know my truth?  

For many of us, we quickly shut that option down, as we aren't willing to take that kind of risk - there has to be an easier, or less painful way, there has to be!

And in so doing, we actually prolong our misery and often cause even more complicated situations, and lose even more precious time, energy and other resources while trying to work things out.  

Telling the truth isn't always easy or maybe for some it's never easy, even impossible.  I've come to understand it takes equal parts of vulnerability and courage.  We usually don't want to feel vulnerable, because in general our culture equates that with weakness, and, especially for men, that is to be avoided at all costs.  At.  All.  Costs.  We often don't think we have the strength, fortitude or abilities to be courageous.  Or we think courage is for Important Special People doing Big Important Things, not for people like us, regular people with typical human problems (or, eyes averted, not for messed up people like me and my unique problems).

If you have never watched Brené Brown's TED Talks on vulnerability and shame, stop and take the 45 minutes to watch them both (view Vulnerability first).  I'll wait.

Whew, yes?

I cannot speak with as much humor and power about courage as she can and some of my other heros and mentors do, but I've learned that courage is really what a lot, if not all, of our choices boil down to.  

I knew when I decided to change my eating it would be hard on every level, and people in my life would have a hard time with it, too:  I didn't want to make others uncomfortable nor have people know all about my health issues.  Yet, my health and life were in the balance to a degree, and so I mustered up my courage, meal by meal, to eat in a way that would help me no matter what, no matter the discomfort of saying no to delicious things and to friends and family who were clearly not comfortable with my choices.  

I decided long ago to stay out of people's food, after (admittedly) spending years with a lot of judgment about what everyone ate, including me (mostly me).  Learning to let go of all judgment, eat what was right for me, and not care at all about what others ate took time and is where I drew my strength.   

I built a vulnerability muscle for being willing to be open about why I was eating the way I was, which meant being honest about my health and state of being.  I am in general a very open person, and yet I'm a very private person, too.  (I love and embrace paradox.) This was really challenging, for a long time, and yet with repetition it got easier, and after a while vulnerability diminished, and I felt a gradual switch over to strength and peace in its place.

I also built a courage muscle for having conversations time after time to reassure people that my choices were not a condemnation or judgment about what they ate and was not a rejection of them if I said no to what they offered me, so I could stay in my truth about what I needed to eat to restore my wellbeing.  This also took time, and also, shockingly, became a strength and led to real peace. 

Doing both has given me great freedom, too.  And, the weight came off, and my health returned, and my life is very different now.  I now see the courage in all sorts of actions I and others take throughout the day: Willingness to speak up for ourselves, state an unpopular opinion, risk disappointing someone, make a choice that will take us in the direction of a goal or habit change, countless things that have the ability to enrich us in big and small ways rather than staying in fear and making choices that hurt or diminish us and keep us stuck in our discomfort.  

Unlike willpower, I don't think we have a finite amount of courage to expend during our days.  I think it builds and builds and there's no limit to it, because it brings us in alignment with our truth, our true selves.  

And the more we live our truth, the happier and healthier we are.  That's not to say it's easy:  I just want you to know it's possible, for each and every one of us, and it is essential to living the life we really wish to live.  


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