I found myself unable to write last week. As I sat with this and felt the inertia, the realization dawned that there was a level of vulnerability I was feeling, about my need to write something that would be profound and impactful. The pressure of it felt like an impenetrable wall.
During a dinner conversation with friends, in which we were discussing our shared belief that we feel compelled to make a difference in the world, I recognized another pressure. The one where I tell myself that my worth is squarely centered in my ability to help others. I got curious about this – is this belief creating more joy and freedom for me? The answer was both yes and no. Yes, when I can sense a positive shift from a client or student. Also, no, because it’s a tremendous amount of self-induced performance pressure.
I continued to be curious.
What if making a difference begins with me?
What if saving the world means we save ourselves first?
What if what we need to save is how we create our own suffering with our thoughts?
I recalled an important lesson learned last year while I was on a spiritual quest in Mexico. That the important work I need to do in this lifetime is to save myself. I need to serve my own inner peace first. My writing need only be for healing myself. This might sound selfish at first glance. But if we don’t love ourselves, we are incapable of truly loving or helping another. If we don’t live from our own authenticity and magnificence, then we aren’t offering who we truly are to the world. Without this authenticity, our way of being in the world is one that was manufactured by the mind–most likely for recognition, reassurance, power, fame and followers.
This felt apt for me to write about this week. To write for myself first and foremost and then maybe, just maybe it will be helpful for someone else. But that cannot be why I am writing it. I have no control over how my work should or could impact another. That’s not my business.
This kind of self-integrity requires courage. Way more courage than minding my editorial calendar. We are so programmed to view everything we do and say from the perspective of how it will be perceived by others. It takes immense courage to live from the inside out. To admit to ourselves where we need to do our own work. This is vulnerable and vulnerability is scary because it risks being seen as we truly are, with our faults and insecurities and weaknesses.
We must risk being socially exposed to be true to ourselves. This requires showing up and being seen instead of staying safe behind a shield of protective armor or a mask that only shows how we want the world to perceive us.
Our real work is about revealing ourselves as we truly are, not just the outside but who we are on the inside. The parts of us that are messy and broken.
Courage is required for this work of living in integrity and alignment with the true self. The root of the word courage is “cor”—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage originally meant “To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.”
Can I risk sharing my heart? Can I not?
If being courageous means having the ability to do something that frightens us, then somehow, we need to find a way to be okay with feeling the fear and doing the thing anyway. That shows the most courage of all!
As I moved through this landscape of noticing, being curious and feeling scared to show up and be seen in this vulnerable way, putting my writing out there just for me, even though it might be criticized and admitting my own raw and tender beliefs, I watched my avoidance tendencies. It was quite entertaining to observe all the ways I was avoiding just sitting down and writing. So many things that required immediate research on the computer. Emails that I just had to respond to right away. Cleaning. Calendar organization. Meal planning. Organizing my closet. List making. More research. I was avoiding by doing!
Think of something that you really want to do but are avoiding it because it feels scary. In what ways do you avoid by distracting yourself?
3 Ways to Build Courage
1) Stay With Your Fear
For me, I must stop the doing, just sit down and quiet my mind. Try this with me.
Find a comfortable place to sit. Now just observe the sensation of your breath coming in and out through your nostrils. Feel your breath expand into your lungs and belly. Notice the rise of your body with the inhale, the sinking and relaxing with the exhale. If you get distracted at any point, bring your attention back to your breath and how it feels coming in and going out.
Bring your attention deeper inside to your inner body. Keep breathing. Now notice any fear, anxiety or tension that you might be feeling. Where you are feeling it in your body? Pay attention to the physical sensation of it–the shape, the intensity. Keep your attention on it and ALLOW it. Don’t panic and run away from it by allowing your mind to get distracted. Keep breathing into that area until the sensation starts to shift. It might start to feel like it is getting softer or larger in size. Sit with this until you feel the sensation move through and out of your body and you sense a new level of relaxation and peace take its place.
Sitting with ourselves in this way and allowing emotion to move through requires courage. When we do the courageous act of acknowledging and allowing fear, we are pointing ourselves in the direction of truth and freedom. It is from this place of truth that we can put our true authentic selves out in the world, even when it feels vulnerable.
2) Acknowledge Your Acts of Bravery
Allowing fear and building courage so that we can speak our mind and show our hearts demands being compassionate with ourselves. Self-encouragement is critical to being courageous. Acknowledge and celebrate how you are bravely showing up in your life – every single day. We all demonstrate bravery every day. We deal with a variety of obstacles and a multitude of fears as a part of our daily lives. And for the most part, we dismiss our ability to overcome these as not worthy of acknowledgement. What I’ve learned is that recognizing bravery, no matter how insignificant the situation may seem to you, is empowering. It fuels self-confidence as well as personal and professional power.
3) Seek Encouragement and Support
It is incredibly helpful to have the support and encouragement of a friend or mentor. Deliberately surround yourself with people who inspire you and believe in you. Share your vulnerabilities and ask for help in doing the important thing that feels scary. Being vulnerable in relationships creates deeper connection and inspires others to be vulnerable and courageous also. I keep a list 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.
We must start putting our work out in the world regardless of how imperfect we might think it is. We’ll screw up and that’s okay—actually, more than okay because it gives us the opportunity to feel vulnerable while also seeing that the world didn’t end because of it. This is how we build courage and get rid of the armor and the perfectionism that are the obstacles to living authentically, from the inside out. Don’t allow your scars to act as tough, resistant guards against future damage. Life shapes us. Let the world see the magnificence of who you truly are.
I believe in you.
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I would love to hear from you. In what ways are you showing the world your vulnerabilities? How are you pressuring yourself to be something you’re not? Please share your comments below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org