What is Personal Courage? How and when can you demonstrate Personal Courage? Rushing into a burning building to rescue someone, dragging a person out of a sinking car, going to someone’s aid that is being attacked; all these actions take incredible amounts of courage. These feats are admirable and astonishing. I hope that if I need to I will have the courage to help someone like that but these are not the type of courage I mean when I speak of Personal Courage.
These outstanding acts of bravery are birthed out of a person’s character and from their deep held beliefs about the world and themselves. They move toward danger disregarding the chance of personal injury because they believe it is the right thing to do.
When I say Personal Courage I’m talking about the ability to face and walk through the fear. Personal Courage is about having that difficult conversation, about giving a talk in front of a room filled with people.
Personal courage is birthed from your personal fears. These fears are what keep a person stuck, limited and often very unhappy in life. Your personal fears are the starting point for you to gather and show your Personal Courage.
Courage – the ability to do something that frightens one.
So what are some of those fears?
- Leave a relationship that is hurting you
- Leave a job that is unfulfilling
- Flying on a plane to see a friend or family member
- Speaking up for yourself to a friend
- Setting boundaries for your parents
- Getting into a Uber car
- Going out to eat alone
- Speaking in front of people
Actually there are as many fears as there are people. What do we need to know about fear that can help us tap into our Personal Courage?
PERSONAL FEAR VS. PERSONAL COURAGE
We are not born with fears. All fears are learned. Yet fear is one of the most powerful emotions. It has a strong effect on our mind and body. It is a natural response to either real or perceived threats.
Fear is the single biggest obstacle that holds us back in life.
Fear and anxiety are closely related. Fear is focused on what is happening in the present, whereas anxiety is focused on the idea of a threat or disaster in the future. Anxiety is a nagging fear that persists over time.
Fear exists to keep us safe. It isn’t good or bad, but a tool to use to help us make better choices. Fear can have us hide in a closet during a tornado and is also an appropriate response to an intruder in your home. Some situations involve life and death decisions and fear is an asset in times like those.
We are going to examine fears and anxieties that cripple our daily lives and discover how to find our personal courage to overcome these fears and anxieties.
Fears that interfere with our happiness
- Loss of love
- Loss of job and financial security
- Embarrassment and ridicule
- Rejection and abandonment
- Loss of respect from others
HOW TO RECOGNIZE FEAR/ANXIETY
- Heartbeats are very fast
- Heartbeats feel irregular
- Muscles feel weak
- Feeling dizzy
- Can’t eat
- Muscles get tense
- Have cold or hot sweats
- Frozen to the spot
- Brain shuts down
- Ability to act is effected – flight, fight or freeze response
- Stomach hurts
- Breath gets fast and or shallow
When your body senses fear it prepares you for an emergency. Your blood flows to your muscles, your blood sugar level increases and you have the mental ability to focus on the threat.
Anxiety can produce the same symptoms but because anxiety is a longer-term emotion you could;
- Have trouble sleeping
- Be irritable
- Have headaches
- Have severe stomach pain
- Have difficulty working and planning for the future
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Have difficulty with socializing
Everyone’s fears are different and how they handle their fear also varies from person to person.
If you were to make a list of your top fears and rate them on a scale of 1 – 10, then compare them to another person’s list and scale, you would be shocked to find your fear didn’t even make it on their list and you would look at their high rating fears and wonder what all the fuss was about.
Fear is based on an individual’s past experiences and the belief system those life experiences have built-in them. So what terrifies one person is a “no-brainer” to another person.
HOW TO USE PERSONAL COURAGE TO OVERCOME FEAR
VISUALIZE YOURSELF AS BRAVE
Picture yourself successfully and confidently doing what you are fearful of.
Example – I want to be able to speak in public, so I imagine myself in front of an audience – I am calm, smiling, able to move easily on the stage and even able to be funny.
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
This is a step beyond the visualizing action. This is when you are forced into a situation you are afraid of. You just act like you know what you are doing, as if you aren’t afraid.
- Walk confidently
- Stand up straight
- Act as if you already have the courage you want.
Here the Law of Reversibility comes into play “if you feel a certain way, you will act in a manner consistent with that feeling”. It also works in reverse “your feelings will eventually match your actions.”
You develop the courage you desire by disciplining yourself repeatedly to do the thing you fear until that fear eventually disappears or becomes manageable.
LISTEN TO YOUR THOUGHTS
A person’s thoughts produce their emotions. Emotions are most often behind a person’s behavior. When you become aware of your thoughts you can begin to change your negative fear-filled thinking into positive courageous thinking.
What you believe about yourself, your abilities, the situation and how the world works all play into what you have learned to fear.
CHALLENGE THE VALIDITY OF YOUR FEARS
First off is your fear based in reality?
Gain a sense of proportion concerning your fear.
- Will it really “kill” you if it happens or you have to do it?
- Do you have all the facts about the situation or course of action?
- How big a deal is it?
- What is the worst that could happen?
- How likely is this worst-case scenario to happen?
BE OPEN TO CHANGE
If it didn’t work the first time, figure out why it didn’t work and try it from a different angle.
EXPERIENCE YOUR FEAR AND PANIC
When you start to feel the fear/anxiety, recognize that your heart rate is going up and your breath is getting shallower.
- Don’t fight it
- Breathe through your panic
- Simply feel the panic without distracting yourself
- Sit with it for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Place the palm of your hand on your stomach
- Breath slowly and deeply
- Repeat to yourself “it’s OK if feels awful but emotions ebb and flow like the ocean”
- This will help your mind grow accustomed to coping with panic which in turn will take the fear of the fear away.
CONFRONT YOUR FEARS AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN
Fear changes sizes.
As you identify a fear and move toward it, it will grow smaller and more doable. As your fears grow smaller your courage grows.
The flip side is when you back away from a fearful situation or person, the fear grows larger and stronger. Soon it will control your thinking and feeling. It will fill your thoughts during the day and keep you awake at night.
Don’t put off what you fear. Confronting, dealing with and acting in spite of how you feel is the key to happiness and success. So if something is looming, resolve to deal with the situation now. The dreaded phone call, or conversation – just have it. Don’t allow that dread and fear to make you unhappy for another minute.
NAME YOUR FEARS
Write a list of things you are afraid to do. Not a list of things you are afraid of like snakes. After you have your list written do this exercise.
- Restate your fear like this.
I want to ______________ and I scare myself by imaging ______________.
Ex. I want to talk to my husband about money but I scare myself by imaging that it will cause a terrible fight.
- By completing this statement for everything you are afraid of you will see how you are the one creating your fears by imaging negative outcomes in the future.
- Now flip the negative outcome into a positive one.
Instead of scaring myself by imagining _______, I will __________.
Ex. Instead of scaring myself by imagining a huge fight, I will approach the subject with no judgment or accusations and I will be patient and adjust my expectations of the situation.
See yourself successfully confronting your fear.
(This process is taken from Jack Canfield’s Weekly Newsletter)
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR COURAGE
Enjoy the feelings of accomplishment and pride when you successfully call upon your personal courage to overcome your fears.
KEEP A GRATEFULNESS LIST
Write down things, people, and situations you are grateful for. This practice will help you gain and keep balance in your life.
COMBAT LONG TERM ANXIETY WITH PERSONAL COURAGE
Sometimes we can’t tackle our fear immediately. The situation is in the future (going to the doctor) or out of our control (waiting to hear about a job). For those times that anxiety builds up here are a few ideas to help reduce and control it.
Move your body
- Take a walk
- Turn on some music and dance
- Go to the gym
- Turn on a yoga video
These actions release feel-good endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
Find ways to add relaxation to your day
- Get a massage
- Get your nails done
- Take deep breaths
- Take a long bath
- Visualize a happy place or time
Cut back on foods that contain lots of sugar or that quickly turn into glucose in your body. Sugar weakens your body’s ability to respond to stress, which can trigger your anxiety and prevent you from dealing with the cause of the stress.
Remember that your body’s reaction to fear is to increase the sugar level in your blood. When you add extra sugar to the situation it spikes your blood sugar which is already elevated and when this spike eventually drops it directly affects your mood. This low leads to feelings of sluggishness, uneasiness, and can at times mimic a panic attack. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/sugar-and-anxiety/
Caffeine can increase anxiety levels.
Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation
The after-effects of alcohol can make you feel more afraid and anxious.
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