For the last few days, I’ve been obsessing over what courage really means. I recognize that courage has a number of different facets to it. There are so many ways to be courageous. I wanted to take some time to reflect on the times I think I’ve exhibited courage as well as the incidents or times I’ve seen others exhibiting courage. It’s an exercise in introspection…an exercise to distill the core essence that made something an act of courage. So here goes.
My own life
I was sexually assaulted in 2017. I think I showed immense courage that night to get out of the scene safely. More importantly, I showed unmatched courage after the incident. For three months after the incident, I kept myself positive, fed myself only empowering material. I kept going until I rose out of it all like a phoenix from the ashes. This period of relentless optimism was truly an exhibition of courage. Getting through and over a traumatic experience or difficult time takes enormous courage.
It took sh*t loads of courage to walk away from the startup I built from scratch. To recognize what my heart really wanted and that the path I was on wasn’t going to lead me to fulfillment took courage. Making the decision to part ways took a lot of courage. It’s akin to the courage needed to go through a divorce or a breakup. Leaving behind the good in the search of the extraordinary takes courage. Following one’s heart takes courage.
It took a lot of courage to break up with my ex-boyfriends. It takes courage to go through pain – it hurts even more if you’re inflicting it upon someone else. It takes courage to not hold on to the comfortable and familiar in favour of finding the excellent.
It took courage to start my startup. Needs balls to say, “yup, I’m going after an idea when I have no idea where it will end up.” I had no prior experience starting businesses or the pedigree that most startup founders have. So it took extra courage to decide to tread this path. It takes courage to be entrepreneurial and take the road not taken.
I did extremely well in my Bachelor’s. I was the gold medalist with the highest total score and the topper in Mathematics. I won a scholarship from the Department of Science and Technology, India which would make my master’s degree fully paid-for. But my heart called me to explore dance as the career path. So I decided to jump right into it while giving up the Master’s scholarship. That took courage. It always takes courage to follow one’s heart.
At the moment, I’ve decided to pursue the path of becoming an author. I’ve decided to go from an amateur to a pro in writing. This definitely takes courage. When you jump into the unknown trusting that things will turn out okay without the ability to actually see the outcome beforehand, you’re exercising courage. Trust takes courage.
I’ve done a lot of unconventional things. From going (and staying) vegan to deciding to be an author – it has been an unconventional path. People all around me protested and told me why all of this was a bad idea. I also was in sales, started my own company, explored my sexuality in very offbeat ways. It takes courage to not follow the herd and do what feels right to you. Actually it’s not even about not following the herd. It’s about honouring what your internal guidance system is telling you and following through on that.
Some acts of courage done by others that gives me the goosebumps
My dear friend A decided to leave a marriage which was mediocre to allow herself to be her best fullest self. That took a hell of a lot of courage. Making tough choices and not taking the timid route takes courage.
Another friend J had a traumatic past which could give anyone the chills. Seeing her bravely navigate her life and live it with abandon remind me that no matter what, we can control how life turns out for us. She’s an epitome of showing courage in the face of the darkest hardships.
My friend L lost both her parents when she was young. It takes courage to navigate grief and find equanimity.
Steve Pavlina is a role model. He was arrested three times before he decided to change his life around and pursue the path of personal growth. It takes courage to take one’s life into one’s own hands and live consciously.
JK Rowling was on government support when she decided to write the first book of Harry Potter. The rest, as we know, is history. What if she hadn’t taken the call to follow her heart to write these books and trust that it will guide her to the right place, she wouldn’t be where she is today. The world wouldn’t have the gift of one of the most read and loved fantasy books in the history. It takes courage to follow one’s heart in the face of adversity, not knowing what the outcome will be. It takes courage to do hard things.
I could go on and on, but it’s useful to see how courage has consistent themes across stories. As I ponder this subject some more, a quote comes to mind:
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”Ralph Waldo Emerson