Courage is not
the towering oak that
sees storms come and go;
it is the fragile blossom that
opens in the snow.
~ Alice Mackenzie Swaim
As a culture, we often think of courageous acts or courageous people as ones that are larger than life: a good Samaritan who risks his or her life to help someone, a war hero, Doctors without Borders and other aid organizations that operate in war zones, or someone who engages in extreme sports. We may feel intimidated and small in comparison. How could we measure up to that towering oak that withstands storms easily and gracefully? How is it that some people seem to embody courage and appear fearless?
Maybe the secret is in that there are many kinds of courage, many different acts of courage, many distinct ways to be and feel courageous. If you are feeling depressed, it may be a great act of courage to get up and face the day. If you live with an abusive partner, it is an act of courage to tell someone, stand up to them and/or leave. If you are anxious, it is courageous to not succumb to the anxiety but to develop some mindfulness and know that it is not all of who you are. If you have a substance or other addictive problem, it is a courageous first step to acknowledge this, talk about it and seek help or take those first baby steps to change.
If you are unhappy in your job, it may take courage to acknowledge this to yourself and begin to take whatever steps you need to take to decide where your passion in life lies. If you think you are supposed to be a certain way, yet your true self is calling out to express itself, this is a great act of courage to begin to allow yourself to be who you truly are.
Like the fragile blossom opening in the snow, every act of allowing yourself to be more truly yourself, of living your life as genuinely as you possibly can in each moment, are huge acts of courage. Courage, by the way, comes from the French word for heart: COEUR.
Call me for a free phone consultation if you are ready to explore your courage
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley