As kids, most of us were taught that the notion of courage meant overcoming extreme adversities and fighting larger-than-life battles, and having no fear against whatever comes our way. By all means, those aren’t untrue.
In fact, those very perceptions of courage stayed with me as I grew older. This created a ripple effect on how I perceived the things I feared – I felt lesser of a person because I felt that my battles were deemed socially inconsequential compared to others who had ‘bigger problems’.
For instance, when I was younger, debating with my friend on who should be talking to our class teacher and who should be knocking on her door seemed like a huge deal when it wasn’t to a lot of people.
However, following the years of my tertiary education and crossing paths with diverse groups of people, I realised that I couldn’t have been more wrong about my initial perception of courage. What may have seemed small to me may seem big to others, and there was no way for me to judge their fears without being empathetic.
Nelson Mandela demonstrated what it means to be truly courageous, not only through his actions but his words as well: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Why is courage necessary?
1. It is the key to great leadership
Time and time again, we have seen how courage has played an important role in many major turning points throughout history, from Martin Luther King Jr. fighting for the equality of African Americans during the civil rights movement in the mid-1950s to Malala Yousafzai advocating education for girls at this present time.
Likewise, those who step up and voice their opinions in organisations and communities today are the very ones to ignite change. Courage and self-confidence are interconnected, relying on one another to push us to achieve the results we want. Courage provides us with the confidence to pursue a goal, whereas confidence helps us believe that we can bring about change.
2. It contributes to the development of oneself and the organisation
At Leaderonomics, I was fortunate enough to learn and be part of their cultural beliefs. One of them is “Be Courageous”, where it centres on being open to honest and authentic conversations and feedback.
There were three focus areas whilst carrying out activities to bring awareness in relation to this belief:
- being open
- speaking up
- seeking feedback
It’s tough to face what we don’t really want to hear, although oftentimes, these are the very things that we need to know for self-improvement. We must be able to bring up hard-hitting conversations no matter how tough it may be.
By embodying such openness, not only do we improve ourselves, but we also gain greater insights about our surroundings because of these honest and authentic conversations with others.
Speaking up is an integral part of being courageous, and being vocal about your thoughts and values may very well strike a chord with another person.
How do we muster up the courage to face our fears?
1. Acceptance is key
It is important to acknowledge and accept that fear is a universal emotion. What you are fearful of may be different from others; however, it is the emotion itself that is an underlying common ground we have as human beings. Understand that having fear does not make you a coward; it is not something to be ashamed of either.
2. Find the root cause of your fear
By imagining various scenarios of where you think that particular fear might be present, it can help you find the source of your fear. Once you’ve discovered the reason behind your fear, you’ll be able to think through of effective ways to deal with it.
3. Take baby steps to overcome the fear
Once you’ve figured out the cause of your fear, let’s put them into courageous actions!
Let’s say you’re afraid of speaking to a new client who is more senior in terms of age and experience. What would you do to prepare yourself to face him/her? A helpful suggestion would be approaching the person to talk about one’s organisation or making small talk to get those nerves out of the way.
Creating actionable plans to overcome your fear, even if they are on a smaller scale, can be incredibly a great step forward in the right direction. A little progress each day goes a long way, adding up to create great results!
4. If all else fails, don’t overthink it. Just do it!
Often, the presence of fear is due to the constant overthinking process that happens in your own mind. Taking risks is part of being courageous too. At the end of the day, it’s better to have said you tried and failed than to have not tried at all.
This helps me every time I’m overwhelmed with anxiety-driven thoughts.
An example would be when I was tasked to come out with an icebreaker game for people twice my age (professional corporate people, mind you!). What made it more challenging was that it had to relate with the module of a two-day training under Leaderonomics, which I had little to no knowledge of.
In the end, I could only briefly read up on the module and do what I’m supposed to do with no time to freak out at all. Well, you could say that it actually worked out just fine.
Keep in mind that you’re never alone, no matter how silly and invalid you think your fears are. Remember to be kind to others too because you don’t know the battles they’re currently fighting.
With these in mind, I wish you well on your continuous journey of courageous self-discovery!