Human beings are remarkable. We are all capable of survival and regeneration, especially when the chips are down. If you want to be braver here are 3 steps to follow.
Courage is the ability to do something, even though it might appear frightening at first. Do you ever read biographies of amazing people and feel in awe of what they have done? Does that awe sometimes make you feel a little despondent because you don’t believe you could be so brave, or accomplish so much despite the obstacles? Do you ever feel your life would be better if you could just muster up a little more courage to pursue your dreams or exit a poor situation? Do you want to be Dorothy but feel like the Cowardly Lion?
If so, a little more insight into these human qualities may help you to access them. We all have courage inside of us. It is as human as the blood that courses through our veins. Courage is like an inner reservoir we can draw on when we need to, although many of us only discover our courage when we are in a tough situation or someone we love is in danger. Bravery, on the other hand is the action, behaviour or outcome of courage; it’s the active facing of our fears so we can step into the unknown, or even into the known!
If you lack courage, here are my thoughts as a virtual life coach and therapist on what you need to know.
Courage – It’s Not What You Think
Perhaps the biggest hurdle we have to navigate to access our courage is identifying that we’ve been hoodwinked by TV, film and the media. They make us believe that bravery and courage are only required for ‘big’ acts: climbing mountains or rescuing small children from burning buildings. The courage and bravery we see on TV, or hear about on the nightly news, often creates an impossibly high bar that we see as relevant to ‘other people’ living ‘other lives’.
The truth is courage is much less dramatic. Anything that makes you feel slightly scared – even if it’s getting a spider out the bathroom without just killing it – will require courage, especially if you hate spiders! Learning to ski in your forties because your kids enjoyed a school trip and want to go with you this time requires a little courage. Depending on your personality, you may need to call on some bravery to meet new people or attend an interview.
Embrace Your Fear
I was skiing recently in the Alps and was on a ski lift going up the mountain. Next to me was Frasier, who was six years old and part of a ski school. We were chatting and I said, “Frasier, if I get scared at the top of the hill what would your advice be to me?” He thought about it for a minute, then turned to me and said, “Always face your fear!” Frasier was only six, but that’s great advice.
We are creatures of habit and we generally don’t like change that much. Change, by definition, is moving from something that’s known to something that’s unknown. Most of us prefer the known because there are no surprises there; it’s our comfort zone. But there is also no growth in the comfort zone. If we are to harness the power of courage to face difficult situations and make constructive change, we need to be willing to move into the challenge zone.
You Need To Exit Your Comfort Zone
If you are constantly in your comfort zone, how fulfilled do you feel? Sure, it’s a nice safe (some would say boring) place, but are you really doing what you want to do and being who you want to be if you are permanently ‘stationed’ there? To move into the next zone, we need to access the courage to push out beyond our comfort zone and into the challenge zone. But that push doesn’t need to move us into the panic zone. If you are spending too much time in the panic zone, it means you aren’t in control of what you are doing. The panic zone is almost as immobilising as the comfort zone, only it’s fear not comfort that’s driving the bus!
The key with change is incremental ‘stretch change’ that pushes you past what’s comfortable and easy, but not into being overwhelmed, fearful and panicked. Bring yourself back into what you know and/or what you need to do to find your own inner resources to fuel and power yourself in the challenge zone. Embrace the challenge! The challenge zone is where we learn, grow and develop as human beings. It’s where we find the impossible possible, and surprise ourselves by the strength of our convictions and the courage we can muster to see them through.
Start with small things that push you out of your comfort zone for a few minutes. The more you embrace the challenge zone as a playground for your own development, the braver you will become, and the easier courage will be to muster when you need it.
Find Out More
If you find you lack courage in certain situations, I hope the above advice has been helpful. Remember, if you would like any help or advice please get in touch. I offer virtual life coach sessions, and help my clients with a variety of issues. These sessions are available to international clients as well as those based in the UK.
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Do you ever feel unsure of yourself? Like a failure? Do you ever wish you had more confidence? Do you put yourself down in front of others or resent other people’s success? Do you often find yourself saying “yes” to requests when you really want to say no? Are you constantly worrying about something, but don’t do anything to deal with what you’re worrying about? You could have imposter syndrome.
If so, have you ever wondered what would you do if you believed you could not fail? What would you try? Are there things in your life you’d like to change, or new adventures you’d like to pursue, but you’re too scared to take the plunge? If so, then your self-esteem and confidence may need a boost. Here’s my top tips to help you.
How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is closely related with our self esteem and confidence. In fact, most of us have some kind of confidence issue. Some people may be confident about the way they look, for example, but not about their intellect, or vice versa. Perhaps you are confident about a particular skill set, but that confidence doesn’t translate to relationships or communication skills.
No one is perfect. But we live in a world that tells us we should be. We are reminded daily what we should and shouldn’t look like. What our lives would include if we were “successful”. Social media, the press and TV all provide unrealistic, imaginary benchmarks for us to judge ourselves against.
When it comes to self-esteem and confidence there are some unusual paradoxes. On one hand, we are often told to behave “as if ”. In other words: While confidence is an internal belief about our abilities in a certain area, even if those beliefs are not rock-solid we can pretend to be confident. In turn, actually makes us feel more confident. It’s a physiological as much as a mental thing.
Why “Fake it ’til you make” Doesn’t Make You A Fake
You may have heard the statement “projection is perception”. In other words, what we project to the world is how other people will perceive us, whether that projection is true or not. So even if we don’t feel strong and self-assured, we can demonstrate that assuredness outwardly. As long as we don’t go overboard into arrogance, we can convince ourselves and others that we are confident.
However, the flip side (and, hence, the paradox) is something called the “imposter syndrome”. If we constantly pretend to be more confident than we feel, but don’t learn strategies to increase our genuine sense of confidence and assimilate our learning to move from “faking it” to “making it”, we can end up feeling like a fraud. It is also something experienced by high-achieving individuals who are unable to internalise their accomplishments. Those who live with the persistent fear of being “found out”. Women are particularly adept at the imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome In The Workplace
Too frequently, women in highly demanding jobs believe they got there by luck, or some other kind of subterfuge, and feel they have to be better than their male peers. However, imposter syndrome is certainly not an exclusively female issue, as plenty of men have it too. First identified by clinical psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in 1978, imposter syndrome is something I come across frequently in my work as an executive coach.
It can arise when someone is promoted into a role they don’t feel worthy of, or they land a job they never dreamed they would actually get. Or they enter a relationship with someone they believe is “out of their league”. Secretly, they believe that they are not intelligent/creative/attractive/likeable enough to be in the position they find themselves. As a result, it’s only a matter of time before they get exposed, marched off the premises or dumped for being the imposter they believe they are.
Everyone Feels Like An Imposter Sometimes
When it comes to imposter syndrome, it’s important to note that all of us feel this way from time to time. If we are learning new skills on the job or flying by the seat of our pants, it’s absolutely normal to feel out of our depth. But that shouldn’t stop us stepping out of our comfort zone.
If you find yourself feeling a fraud, remind yourself of the existence of the imposter syndrome and just how common it is. Also, take the time to remind yourself just how hard you have worked and how many times you have done a good job, been successful or helped others be successful. Or how much you bring to your relationship.
We don’t always know what we are doing – and that’s fine! We still need to do new things, embark on new relationships, take new opportunities and experiment with life.
Want to learn more about imposter syndrome? My latest book Your Life Your Way contains plenty of practical tips, advice, and strategies for living your life more fully and confidently.