Small Steps to Courage

“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.” - Nelson Mandela

Short and sweet clichés that saturate our culture, like face your fears, tend to have some kernel of truth. With repetition, we learn to either reinforce our anxieties or learn to navigate the world with courage. Each step we take towards our intended selves, the selves that are able to triumph over our fears, leads us closer to gaining confidence over these fears.

We all have different fears that can hinder our ability to be our best selves. For instance, I have had a hard time expressing how I’m feeling about people’s behavior directed towards me. Sometimes it would cause me anxiety and lead to misunderstandings in my relationships with others when I was too afraid to say or ask what I needed to.

At the moment I realized that I had a problem at all, it was a pain to realize how much pain could have been avoided had I realized it earlier. I think it happened while talking with a friend over coffee that I was able to objectively look at myself. It was a moment of pleasantness in which the dots seemed to connect themselves for so many past issues–this is the area that needed to change for me, and this is how it can improve.

The more I avoid the issue at hand, the more difficult it becomes to deal with the emotional burden. That burden far surpasses any impact that could result from talking out an issue and making it clear where I stand. It feels like a drawn-out pain that has lodged itself in my entire mind and body, and only continues to worsen as I deny myself the opportunity to face my fears.

I started out with small steps. One of my friends had rubbed me the wrong way with a comment that she continued to make, but I was able to have a productive conversation with her which improved our relationship. I also communicated with a different friend with whom I had a more serious concern, and was able to feel relief despite the incredible difficulty of bringing up what had been on my mind in order to resolve it in a responsible fashion.

Over time, I hope that these small decisions will enable me to take bigger steps in terms of my emotional health and my personal life. With every decision you make, you have the power to either reaffirm what you’re afraid of, or triumph over it all.