Courage, bravery, heroism.
These aren’t words we normally associate with being afraid. But actually, when you think about it, it’s not possible to be courageous without fear. We also tend to think about bravery as doing large acts of heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. Well, it is that, but what is really interesting is when researchers have looked at everyday courage, and found that actually we’re all brave, in little ways, all the time. And it is a learnable skill.
Essentially courage involves perusing a worthy goal despite fear. It involves being fearful AND overcoming it. That might be rescuing someone from a burning building, or it might be making it to the grocery store to buy your groceries. It might be finding the courage to overcome social anxiety disorder. It depends what frightens you.
That’s what I like about this definition, that courage only requires that we overcome our fear, not conform to some objective standard of what bravery looks like.
The research is also pretty specific about what you can do to drum up your own courage.
Firstly, the goal has to be important to you. So for example if you’re afraid of giving a speech at your best friends wedding, think about how important that friendship is and how much it will mean to your friend.
Second, reassure yourself, alter how you talk to your self or use breathing exercises. Tell yourself it’s going to be Ok and remember to take some deep breathes.
Thirdly, if possible take some time to prepare. Rehearse the speech, or practice in your imagination how you will act, and what you will say.
It might sound easy, but it requires plenty of practice, and again the research is clear as people practice courageous behaviour it gets easier.
It can also take a bit of work to move away from being judgemental of the struggles you have as being things you “should be able to just do” to think of overcoming your social anxiety as an exercise in courage. But it is.
My program builds on these strategies and gives you some very specific exercises to help you overcome your social anxiety and shyness.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.