As I was driving yesterday, I turned on a playlist called “Loving Me” that I had created on my 2009 Ipod Touch (yes, it still works!). As beautiful songs by Beyonce, India Arie, Keri Hilson, and Kirk Franklin played, there was one word that truly stood out:
I’ve been burying myself in a mountain of self-doubt recently. Do I really have what it takes to reach and inspire others? Despite having coaching clients who are reporting tremendous successes, I’ve learned that my ego will never really let me feel as if I am doing enough. I’ve been overwhelming myself with everything I think I have to do, which in turn, is impeding my progress.
As I continued throughout the day, the word courage came back to me on two more occasions. Sometimes, I like to visualize a message that is coming to me. The image that I came up with was the Cowardly Lion from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I always thought of him as a silly character. I mean, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow seemed to be fictional characters, so it was feasible to understand that they would need a brain and a heart respectively.
What is a lion without courage?
But, a Cowardly Lion? What is a lion without courage? He ceases to be a lion. He is not proud, he does not hunt, he does not roar. Curator James Comisar, who now possesses the cowardly lion costume from The Wizard of Oz valued at over one million dollars, states:
” Most of us cannot relate to not having a brain or a heart; we can all relate to not having enough courage, and it is for this reason that I believe the Cowardly Lion is the character we respond to most.”
Growing up, I did not relate to the lion at all. It is only as an adult, when my own inner fears and anxieties have to be potential to be crippling, that I understand the message of the Cowardly Lion and how he relates to my life.
In listening to my own inner critic, I had begun to absorb fears that only pumped up my cowardice. I was ceasing to operate out of my own talents and gifts because I was convinced these negative messages were real. I had forgotten all about the value of courage in overcoming fears, and what it takes to build up courage from the inside.
What is courage?
Courage is defined as “the quality of mind or spirt that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear; bravery.
Carly Simon, who overcame a stutter to become a Grammy and Academy Award-winning singer and songwriter, said in a 2009 article, “I had to learn that the first devastating lesson was to learn to have the courage to face life”.
We are increasingly less courageous, if the books we write are any indication:
This chart created by google shows a gradual decrease in the use of the word “courage” in books written between 1800 and 2008. In our instant gratification society, is the art of building courage lost on us? Is the road too demanding, or does it require too much transparency and vulnerability? Every day, we hear stories of people who are revealed to be someone other than they proclaimed themselves to be. They did not have the courage to live their truth.
How does one become more courageous?
There is a song in the Broadway play Wicked, called “March of the Hunter”, in which the Tin Woodman says: “And the lion also has a grievance to repay! If she’d let him fight his own battles when he was young, he wouldn’t be a coward today!”
You become courageous by learning to fight your own battles. The latin root word from which courage is derived is cor or “from the heart”. This means that you must develop courage from the inside out. It is not something that you can fake. You have to talk back to your fears and take action.
I have learned the value of discussing not only my past struggles, but my current struggles. I am convinced that all of us struggle in our lives, but we rarely have the forum to talk about it. We need a place where we can be real about the problems we minimize, gloss over, or try to conceal on a daily basis. We need to discuss our fears in a way that brings us relief and allows us to tap into the courage that so often eludes us.
For me, this is my faith. I have taken cover in my spirituality to remind myself of who and whose I am. I have also tapped into my social support network, being transparent with my family and friends in helping me to deal with recent grief and other life events. I realize that I am not an island, and that I will not succeed alone. However, the good news is that we can succeed together.
You are courageous. You are brave. You are an overcomer. I believe in you.
How can you be more courageous in your everyday life? What gets in the way?