We have all found ourselves in situations that feel impossible and may even be unhealthy, we feel stuck and afraid, yet we cannot see a way out. There is one critical step that might change everything. However, to take this step requires an act of courage. It’s the thing you believe you could never do. Even though it will change everything.
If this is the way you are feeling right now, know that you are NOT alone. After 25 years of coaching, these are the ways I have seen clients get stuck −
· A toxic or abusive relationship where you are hiding to keep the peace
· A career that feels miserable
· Stress that leads to drinking (or eating) to relieve the pressure
· High levels of anxiety and worry about the welfare of loved ones
· Feeling overwhelmed yet not asking for help
· Exhausted trying to make everyone else happy
· Questioning your self-worth and feeling insecure
· Feeling bullied, undervalued or controlled
I know exactly how it feels. I was there too. Losing myself a little bit more each day until I felt like a shell of my former self. This showed up big-time for me in how I kept my feelings to myself to prevent a reaction or conflict. I thought that by hiding my true feelings I would improve my relationship. By ignoring my own truths I unwittingly was giving up my power.
Learning to LOVE FEAR, to appreciate and harness the energy of fear is a critical tool in the world we live in. I used to avoid feeling fear; I would do anything to run away from it, usually by getting busy doing something, as a distraction. I believed that if I accomplished something, I would squelch the fear; productivity would make me feel good and then the fear would go away on its own. Fear that isn’t felt and faced, remains in the body and can cause stress, ill health and pain.
Now, when I notice that I’m feeling fear, I realize that there is something important that I need to do. I see fear as a blessing. Fear is just the energetic preparation for something that is important to do. Fear can even be harnessed and used to increase confidence. Fear can pull us out of our thoughts and into our body. As Martha Beck says: "Fear is just a path to take us home."
If you feel inspired to be more courageous at home, at work, with your children, with your partner, and you want to show up and be SEEN, turn your fear into courage.
1. NO DISTRACTIONS. Stop doing; stop eating (or drinking,) and stop distracting yourself from the fear. Before you reach for the door handle on the refrigerator, stop, take a breath and ask “Am I hungry or am I feeling a difficult emotion?” If you aren’t hungry, sit down and practice the next step. Do the same thing if you find yourself looking for what else you need to get done. My old pattern was to check my TO Do list to see what I needed to get done. Pause between each task and just FEEL.
2. FEEL THE FEAR. Create a regular practice of quieting the mind. Notice the sensation of your breath coming in and out of your body. Really feel your breath expand into your lungs and abdomen, then out through your nose or mouth. As you feel your breath, notice how it expands beyond your torso into every cell of your body. If you get distracted at any point, bring your attention back to your breath and body. Bring your attention deeper inside to your inner body. Now notice any fear or anxiety. Notice where you are feeling it in your body. Just ALLOW it. Don’t panic and run away from it by allowing your mind to get distracted. Keep your attention on it while breathing until the fear starts to expand. It might start to feel like it is getting softer and yet larger in size, almost like steam as it billows and dissipates. Sit with this until you feel a sense of deep calm and peace. This is the ESSENTIAL YOU from which you can create whatever your soul desires. This is courage.
3. SET GOALS. Thucydides, a Greek philosopher during the 5th Century, B.C., said “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.” Do you have a vision for your future? It is critical to set your goals from a place of heart or love. When you think about your goal, does it feel joyful and fun? Does it come from a place of love rather than fear? When you imagine your ideal life, ideal relationship, ideal career, what do you see? Write down what it feels like. What is a reasonable timeframe for you to get there? Once you have a goal in mind, working backwards, break it down into small steps that will get you from where you are now to the goal. Small, doable steps will boost your courage to move forward. Using the energy of fear to move you into action is what creates COURAGE. What is the smallest first step you can take today? I tell my clients to find a step that it is so ridiculously easy; it would be absurd not to do it. If the step feels too daunting, break it down further.
4. GET SUPPORT. Make a list of the friends and family you know who can provide the emotional support and encouragement for you to take that first courageous step. Who can you call and talk about what is scary for you? Who is your TRIBE? Deliberately surround yourself with people who inspire you and believe in you. Ask for help in taking that one critical step that will change everything. Being vulnerable in relationships creates deeper connection and inspires others to be vulnerable and courageous also. I keep a list very near to me of my support team and on days when it feels like life is too much for me to handle alone, I reach out. Getting support is a self-loving act.
5. BE SELF-LOVING. Building our courage muscle means first and foremost being compassionate with ourselves. When we critique and belittle ourselves in our thoughts, we keep ourselves small. Doing something brave requires that we TRUST ourselves. Self-encouragement is critical to being courageous. What is the most self-loving thing you can do right now? Start with self-care – feeling safe is #1; getting enough sleep and eating healthfully. What makes you happy? Being in nature, getting a hug, spending time with loved ones and pets, singing, dancing, and writing? Make the time to do something that is just for you. Spend your precious time doing the things that YOU love to do. When I need a lift, I go outside and commune with my hummingbird buddy (yes I have one!) and the flowers in my garden.
6. CELEBRATE YOUR FAILURES. Acknowledge and celebrate how you are bravely showing up in your life – every small or large accomplishment, as well as your mistakes. Failures mean that you are putting yourself out there! Failure is essential to success. The most significant accomplishments arise out of failures. So whether you are posting your artwork online, telling a friend the truth of how you feel even though they may get angry or hurt, raising your hand to speak up in meetings, expressing your needs to your partner, showing your kids that you value yourself enough to take time for you… these are acts of bravery and will strengthen your courage muscle.
7. HAVE CLEAR BOUNDARIES. Saying “NO” to others often means saying, “YES” to you. If you think that you’re being a good person each time you say “yes,” think again. Each time you agree to something that doesn’t feel good in your gut, you are giving away a little bit more of your power. Notice all the places in your life that you aren’t saying YES to yourself. Turn anything that feels like “I should” into “I choose to.” Every where you choose to give your energy and time, consider if it is in alignment with what is most important to you. Are you doing it for approval? The only person you need to receive approval from is YOU. Using discernment in where you CHOOSE to give of your energy is living your truth. This is honesty. Saying NO to others when you need to prioritize your own needs is an act of courage. Tasks become pleasing, done with love rather than resentment. After years of taking care of everything and everyone else before myself, I now make my own health and happiness my highest priority.
This is how I show myself that I am worthy. This is how I have the courage to stay with my fear. Fear never goes away, we just learn how to use it.
“Here’s what is truly at the heart of wholeheartedness: Worthy Now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is. There are no prerequisites to “I am enough.” - Brené Brown
Find the freedom that comes from harnessing your courage and believe that you are ENOUGH exactly as you are. Welcome fear as the catalyst and motivator to do what is difficult and essential for you to do.
Tricia Acheatel, AHG, CCN is a Certified Martha Beck Life Coach who works with people who are inspired to be more courageous in their lives, at home, at work, with their children and with their partners. To apply for her complimentary Living A Courageous Life Clarity Call, go HERE. You can find her at triciaacheatel.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org