The role of courage has been a recurring theme for me this week. Just as the Cowardly Lion in the Land of Oz, I too have come to realize how being courageous is not about having no fear, but acting despite the fear.
As adults we can avoid many things that we are afraid of or situations that may cause us embarrassment. We no longer have an outside party pushing us to join that soccer team or read aloud in class. It’s in our hands; we are the only one there to push ourselves to go past our comfort zone. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of avoidance – sometimes without even realizing we are doing it.
For example, I always have the best intentions of going to dance class (Ballet Wednesday, Contemporary Thursday). I make it to ballet most weeks; however, something always seems to come up on Thursday. The excuses always seem valid at the time – it wasn’t until tonight that I’m starting to see through them. Now, you would probably assume that I enjoy ballet more and that’s why I am more motivated to get there. However, it’s contemporary dance that speaks more to me; that I dream about, watch on youtube, and “practice” in my basement (when no one’s looking). All in all I get more out of it… so why have I been avoiding it? I’m afraid of it. Ballet isn’t better, it’s just a “safer” option. I’m less confident in contemporary class, so it takes more courage to show up, which means it’s much more susceptible to falling victim to the excuse-machine.
Funny enough I realized this after attending a Contact Improvisation Dance class (aptly named “The Art of Leaning In”) which is even farther outside of my comfort zone than a Contemporary class. Awareness is such a powerful tool. Sure, Contact Improv takes a huge amount of courage, but I’ve been aware and accepted that from day one. The hours leading up to class I still have to fight the excuses that bubble up and basically force myself to go (literally until I walk in the door- tonight it was hard to find parking and for a second considered using it as an excuse to go home); but the difference is I can see the avoidance for what it is and I preemptively put up my “no bullshit” shield. I know that being courageous is the strong and healthy thing to do. Even if I feel like I didn’t do anything right the entire class (thanks inner bully), I still feel stronger for having shown up.
Courage is quickly becoming the most important ingredient in this self-improvement journey. Everything worthwhile seems to take courage, and having courage day in and day out is fucking hard!
Being brave enough to reflect on the areas in your life that need improvement, and having the courage to sit with unpleasant feelings and emotions that come up are no easy feats. It takes courage to take the blinders off, courage to lean into what’s there, and courage to take the steps to change. Courage, courage, courage..
Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand. As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage”. When we truly embrace vulnerability we can authentically connect with others and ourselves, which is a magical thing – one of the reasons life is worth living (in my opinion). The catch? Putting ourselves in situations where we feel vulnerable require courage, sometimes A LOT of courage.
This week at an ACT group we did an exercise where we look into someone’s eyes, silently, for four minutes. I’ve known for awhile that I have an issue with eye contact, but WOW.. As soon as we started the defenses came out full swing; attempts to deflect being vulnerable with humour, the fidgeting, the fake smile, etc. Even writing about the experience, and sharing my struggles with vulnerability on here, is making me squirm. The courage that this required continued long after the buzzer went off; it’s taking courage to reflect on why it’s so difficult, and furthermore, it’s going to take courage to work on it. Knowing the importance of vulnerability is giving me the strength to continue to find that courage.
I’m making it my mission this week to keep my eyes peeled for times I am avoiding vulnerable situations, and focus on being courageous instead. To start, this dragon’s dragging herself to dance on Thursday.
How will you bring more courage to your week?