“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
― Mark Twain
At least once a week, I am told that I am brave. And my reaction to this praise, is to laugh. Me, brave? I am a person whose life has been dominated by fear, for way too long.
I’ve held back from trusting people, because I feared being hurt.
I’ve hung back in the shadows, afraid to stand out, because I feared rejection.
I spent 10 years in a situation that no longer suited me, because I was afraid to try something else.
I spend one year getting nothing more than one chapter done on my book, because I feared that it wouldn’t be good enough.
I’ve remained silent when I have seen other people being mistreated, because I feared that it would happen to me.
We’ve all let fear get the upper hand, and we’ve all acted in ways that we are less than proud of. I can criticize survival mode, because I’ve spent much of my life experiencing it. Fear has been a constant state for me, for most of my 34 years on this earth.
So what does it mean, to be brave? Does having courage mean that we’re never fearful?
I don’t believe that it does. I think that courage is simply a matter of making a choice. It’s a matter of realizing that the risks of maintaining the status quo are greater than the risks of making a change. It’s a matter of taking a situation that could destroy you, and using it to create something amazing.
There is fear involved. Great changes always involve some amount of fear. But courage involves understanding the fear, acknowledging it, but moving forward anyway.
I was terrified the first time I sailed through a storm, but the prospect of never being on the water again was even more frightening.
I was terrified when I requested autism testing for my daughter, but I was even more afraid of her not getting the help she needed.
I was terrified the first time I opened up to all of you on this blog, but I was even more frightened of not accomplishing all I can with my writing.
I was terrified when I quit my job and moved across the country, but I was even more afraid of staying in a situation that made me unhappy.
I was terrified the first time I rode my bicycle to work, but I was even more frightened of not discovering another source of joy in my life.
The risks of doing nothing, of staying on the shore, are almost always greater than the risks of trying something new. Stagnation should scare you more than failure. We humans have the amazing ability to get back up, after we fall flat on our faces, but we do not have the ability to turn back time, and to do all of the things that we wish we would have done.
We all experience fear, every one of us. But have courage–work through it so that you will not look back on your life, and see nothing but a list of things you wish you would have done. Our time here is precious, and it is up to us to make sure that we live fully.