Courage is not the absence of fear but the decision to fight it.
The Oxford Dictionary defines courage as the ability to do something dangerous, or to face pain or opposition, without fear. Reality is no human being can really truly be without fear. We may squash the fear or show no signs of fear, but deep down it’s still there. We can however make a decision to fight the fear that cripples us. In Nelson Mandela’s words: “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” So how do we do that?
First let’s talk about fear. Fear is not a personality trait. No one is born with fear. Think about it. As children, we were daring enough to defy our parents when they would categorically tell us “no.” It’s only when we defied them (which took courage) that we would get hurt and learn our lesson. The biggest contributor to fear is our social environment. This could be in the form of a series of bad outcomes, growing up in a highly protected environment, watching your role models succumb to fear, a response to pain and a ton of other factors. Our decisions and responses to these factors either shape us to become filled with fear or with a ‘fighting spirit.”
With this I have to argue that courage = a fighting spirit. Don’t get me wrong – by no means am I suggesting an attitude of bickering or causing division and chaos but rather a spirit of choosing to be in control. Fear is an emotion, courage is an attitude. The fighting spirit makes a decision to refuse being gripped by circumstance or fear. It refuses to allow emotions to drive one’s actions and it chooses to act despite the fear and emotions that lie within. The fighting spirit says “I am terrified, but I am going to do it anyway” or “I may have been hurt but I am going to look onward and upward irrespectively.” The fighting spirit decides to remain more powerful than one’s emotions. The fighting spirit is the courageous spirit. It sounds easy – choosing to be courageous, but in reality it’s a lot harder than it seems. So here’s what may help.
The first thing that goes without saying is acknowledge the fear and decide to consciously fight against it. Assume the position and attitude of a conqueror, because truth is: that’s who you are! Some find it helpful to stand in the position of superman. Decide in your mind and heart to tackle and conquer this crippling disease that really has no hold over your life. Once you’ve done that, dig deep – find the root. Is your fear driven by insecurity and is that because of harsh words spoken over you? Is fear driven by a traumatic experience, or the inability to handle pain, or over protective parents? What drives your fear levels up? More often than not, there are multiple factors. Whatever the roots may be, it needs to be dealt with and its power on your life has to be broken. Sometimes we can deal with it on our own, other times we may require some one’s advice or counsel. Sometimes dealing with the root may require confrontation or creating distance, or eliminating things that bring destruction to your life rather than growth.
Secondly, create a vision of who you want to be. Envision yourself as a powerful, courageous being. What does that vision look like? Is it standing on stage and speaking or singing your heart out in front of a daunting crowd? Maybe it looks like you being the CEO of a huge company, or showing someone new your art or writing. Maybe it looks like committing to a relationship you’ve been running from, or forgiving someone that has caused you immeasurable pain, or going bungee jumping for the first time. Whatever it is, don’t dream small. Dream of what it would look like to be courageous and create a goal for yourself of where you want to be.
Now that you’ve done that, align yourself with the right people. One’s company matters. Find the person that mirrors what you dreamt of, and stick closely to them. Observe, ask questions, take guidance and mentorship from them. Make sure that you’re not aligning yourself to those that will feel sorry for you or allow you to make excuses but drive you and challenge you to work harder and be better. If there’s no one in your life that you can identify, great authors and online media may be good alternatives.
Lastly know your identity. Remind yourself of who you are constantly. Remind yourself that you are not weak, nor a victim. You are not powerless or driven by circumstance or emotion. You are so much more. You are a conqueror. You are powerful. You matter. You are significant. You are a world changer. You set the legacy of the generations to come. You are unique, gifted, talented and different. Neither people, nor circumstance can cripple you unless you allow it. Soak yourself in the truth and the reality of who you are and rebuke the lies that tell you otherwise. Only you can change you and only you can cripple you. The choice is yours… so what’s it gonna be?
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