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  • Writer's pictureLaura Burke - Coach

Courage Under Fire

In full transparency, I have not actually seen the movie Courage Under Fire! I know it’s a classic and perhaps I’ll watch it soon. My husband shakes his head in disbelief sometimes at the movies I haven’t seen. So this blog doesn’t actually relate to the movie Courage Under Fire.

I have, however, seen The Wizard or Oz… have you? Lion is the 3rd and final companion Dorothy encounters as she starts off to find the Wizard. Lion jumps out of the forest and starts intimidating Tin Woodman and Scarecrow – but when Toto runs out, Dorothy (who had been hiding in the trees) comes to Toto’s rescue, putting Lion in his place. Lion breaks down into a blubbering mess, confessing he has no courage. He joins the crew to go see the Wizard who he hopes will ‘grant’ him some courage.

I started thinking about courage as one important quality to authenticity. Being authentic means being true to our own individual values, personality, spirit, and genuine (often long term) desires. In other words, our words and our actions align with our inner being. In order to truly be ourselves, to be authentically ourselves, we have to have courage. Inevitably, being authentic will mean standing out. Going against the grain, or the crowd. This may be in small ways – like just saying ‘no’ to dessert when everyone else is getting it. It may be in big ways, like blowing the whistle on a gymnastic doctor who has hurt countless young women.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. Winston Churchill

If being ourself – authentically ourself – requires courage… what does courage mean and how do we cultivate it?

Definitions of courage typically include something like “the ability to do something difficult or dangerous.”

Some definitions of courage include “without fear” or “bravely.” I don’t think courage requires one to not have fear. There are techniques that can help quiet fear a bit – things like breathing techniques, self talk, EFT. But courage doesn’t require you to be overly eager to challenge or conquer fear, or even be good at doing so. Courage and fear can coexist. Courage doesn’t require fear either. Just because something isn’t scary doesn’t necessarily mean isn’t difficult and doesn’t take courage to tackle it.

Some people argue that you have to be confident to be courageous. Again I disagree. Confidence says “I know I can.” Courage simply says “I will try.” The space between these statements is huge and it takes much more effort to push ahead without confidence. Yet confidence and courage can also coexist. It can still be courageous to do something difficult even when you have confidence that you can do it.

Courage also says “I will accept the consequences.” This is one of the biggest reasons I believe courage is so fundamental to authenticity. When we listen to our inner voice, follow our values, pursue our sincere dreams… chances are we will fail sometimes. Chances are we are not going to please everyone. Others may get angry, ridicule us, be disappointed or even hurt. We might even get hurt temporarily by our own actions. I would never suggest you hurt yourself or someone else intentionally but that might be an unfortunate side effect of being authentic. As an example, imagine you are in a relationship with someone and your absolute dream opportunity comes up – in another country. This opportunity aligns with your very essence; yet relocating simply isn’t possible for your partner. Pursuing the opportunity may mean an end to the relationship, or at least a dramatic change in it. It takes great courage to make the decision to accept that opportunity despite the impact on an otherwise good relationship.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the silent voice at the end of the day that says “I will try again tomorrow.” Mary Anne Radmacher

I found this quote after declaring that my definition of courage meant “I will try” and think that Mary Anne Radmacher makes two good points when she add “again tomorrow” to the phrase. Courage doesn’t always have to occur in the moment. It can be the decision to get back up when we’re knocked down. It can simply be the decision to try again.

As we learn at the end of The Wizard of Oz, no one can grant us courage. It has to come from within. Lion realizes that he’s had it all along when his actions to stand up for Dorothy are pointed out to him. Courage only exists if we believe we have it. No matter how awesome you are (and believe me, if you are reading this YOU ARE AWESOME!!!)… there will be people who don’t like who you are, what you do or say. There will be people who criticize you or put you down, or worse. There will be times you question yourself, and wonder if it’s worth it. Please believe me: it is always worth it to be authentic. To “do you” so when you put your head down on the pillow at night you know you didn’t compromise your integrity.

Perhaps Brene Brown said it best as follows “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’

We cultivate courage by listening to our heart. By practicing. By trying again when we fail – even if the failure was that we couldn’t muster the courage to try the first time. You, my friend, can have the courage to “do you” – the real, authentic you – each and every day. I believe in you!

You are unique and you deserve to absolutely love your life!

This is why I love working 1-on-1 and in small groups to help you find ways to create beautiful, dynamic balance in your life! If you are interested in a discovery session to learn about working together, please contact me.

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