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What Courage Is—And Is Not

Courage is slippery—a moving target.

It feels like opening your eyes and letting the world come into focus. It sounds like truth. Courage it moves like something soft yet sinewy, one paw in front of the other, each step purposeful if unsure.

It is the deep breath that moves your shoulders away from your ears. It is the stillness that gives way to a sense of clarity that allows us to make that next small move.

Courage is like learning a language—gaining new vocabulary for what we’ve long felt and haven’t been able to articulate. Summoning our courage doesn’t need to look like writing a whole novel. It’s just turning that new word over on our tongues, feeling how it vibrates when we speak it out loud.​​

Courage isn’t tackling the whole thing at once. Sometimes it’s clearing out one stack of clutter so give yourself the spaciousness you’ve been craving.

It’s not about changing your whole life. It’s making a dentist appointment or eating some vegetables or taking that bag of clothes that hurt your feelings to Goodwill.

Sometimes it’s doing the thing you know that you’ve been avoiding. You already know what you need to do, and yes, it might not feel like pleasure. It might not be a joy to do it. Courage is knowing that you’ll be glad once you’ve gotten it done. it’s taking action so that you can wash your hands of that thing.

Courage is getting rid of that cloud that’s been hanging over your head, even if it’s just for today.

And sometimes courage is not doing something. Because if your tendency is to try to be all things to all people, to say yes to it all, and to shoehorn just-one-more-commitment into that glorious life of yours… courage might be not doing just one of those things. Courage might just look like sitting on your hands in the discomfort of not-doing and being with that sensation. (Not that I know anything about that!)

It’s changing a pattern that isn’t serving us…

…the way placing a rock in a stream changes its course ever-so-slightly.

Courage is not simply saying that things are going to be different this time. Courage is the act of enforcing those boundaries you know you need. It’s speaking up and offering up your truth, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Courage is treating your truth like the sacred gem it is, not burying it away.

When I talk about self-advocacy, this is what I’m talking about.

These acts of courage on your own behalf add up. They create the felt experience of knowing yourself and taking action on your own behalf. Even if it’s small, the experience of flexing your courage can be eye-opening. Our courage stretches what we know in our cells as possible.

It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t feel heroic. It might not even feel like it’s big enough to make a difference. But these small tastes of courage will bring you closer to your heart, and with practice, can transform your life. Really.

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