What is Courage?
Recently I have been thinking a lot about what the word ‘courage’ means to me. It seems like an essential trait to survive nowadays. From giving us the strength to pursue our dream job all the way to building boundaries; courage can be a driving force.
With this blog, I would like to share personal and collective experiences that highlight conversations with friends and family members who have enriched my definition of the word ‘courage’.
When I first picked up my pen to write this blog, I closed my eyes to visualise what courage looked like. I saw my mother who put her kids before her career, friends who work part time to balance work and home, mentees who went after their dream jobs and friends who became entrepreneurs to live of their passion.
From there, I tried to capture what sprung to mine when I thought of these individuals.
Redefining what courage means
My definition of the word ‘courage’ has evolved over time. Life lessons have enriched my understanding of this word. As a kid, I associated it to ‘physical strength’ like jumping of a swing. More recently, this definition has become more holistic by incorporating an emotional angle.
As kids, we sometimes believe that a failure can shape our whole life. As a kid, Will Smith describe himself as a coward due to traumatic life events. He then spent most of his life being a super hero to compensate for that one misstep.
But here is one thing to remember: courage can be learnt at any point in time. It can be taught in small ways by learning a new musical instrument or in big ways by jumping off a plane. My parents have cheered me on from a young age with words of affirmation: ‘You will succeed’, ‘Will is the first step to getting the job done’, ‘You got this’ and so on. They had understood that courage was linked to self-esteem.
Courage feeds of confidence. Simple YET constant words of validation built up my confidence. When anxiety could have taken over, my confidence turned the switch from ‘from flight to fight.’
Why is building courage important for a successful career
Courage is like fuel. It forces you out of your comfortable zone. It pushes your boundaries. It puts your dreams above your fears. In some ways, courage can be compared to a growth mindset. It forces you to look inwards to assess your strengths and weakness. You can then turn blind spots into strengths and skills which will build your self-esteem leading to being more tolerant.
But being courageous is also… asking for help. It means knowing what you know and what you don’t. It helps you face the truth even when it is though. The best leaders know their limitations. They recruit experts who excel at their craft and can cover their blind spots.
- Taking on a daunting project that taps into skills you have not gained yet but are willing to learn.
- Applying for a promotion and not listen to your imposter syndrome.
- Taking on evening courses to gain qualifications required for your dream job.
- Putting yourself out there when you have just gone through redundancy.
- Asking for a mentor to build a long-term career plan.
- Walking away from a job that no longer contributes to your growth.
- Going on maternity leave for a year and putting the brakes on your career to raise your kids.
- Going after your dream job even when your experience meets 50% of the job description.
- Listening and accepting to your Line Manager constructive feedback, and turning into a personal development strategy.
I could call out a friend or colleague for every example above. Most of whom do not consider themselves courageous. They consider that modelling the above behaviours is ‘the right thing to do.’ Truth be told: we take our courage for granted.
If you can relate to any of the above examples, please pat yourself on the back today and take a minute to celebrate your achievement.
Your gut is telling you something
Recently I have been wondering if our ‘gut’ speaks to us when we struggle to build the courage to do something. Many examples come to mind when my gut was telling me something that my mind would refuse to process because I had not yet found the courage to act upon my feelings. Does that sound familiar?
Below are some tools to build confidence and as one of my friends would explain it ‘self-love’ to grow courage over time.
- Set yourself goals supported by mini milestones. By creating an accountability system with check-ins to track your progresses, it becomes less about courage and more about discipline.
- Treat your friends like a network: You will only ever be as good as your ‘best friend’. Ensure your friends pull you up by inspiring you to be your best self. Be selective. Friends should add up to your life.
- Get a mentor to identify areas of development and build skills that plug those gaps. The LMF network has an amazing mentorship program.
- Practice affirmations. Affirmations build confidence over time. They bring you comfort and build empowerment through repetition. Here is the page of Shandel Short a great Life Coach who talks a lot about the power of affirmations: https://www.instagram.com/shandel_short_/?hl=en
- Stick post-it notes around your house with words of encouragement. Your brain is a muscle. It needs repetitive cheering. Eg: You got this! You were made for this!
- Journal your ‘courage days’: on ‘risk tolerant’ days, capture what motivated you to act on your emotions and thoughts. Refer back to those notes on days you feel ‘risk adverse’.
- Invest in your mental health: Being courageous means accepting your fragilities to turn them into unlocks. As I wrote this blog, my friend Ashley Hodges shared her definition of courage “Courage is giving yourself the permission not to dismiss your emotions.” Here are some tools: psychologists, taking on a new sport, doing a wellness retreat, taking a holiday…
- Get a Life Coach: If making decisions and confidence is a recurring struggle one-on-one coaching could be helpful. Real Kossie is a great platform to check out as they have a broad range of experts from career transition to relationship building. https://kossie.co.uk/
This time, I won’t end on a quote but share my biggest learning. Courage is not innate, it is learnt. And it is never too late. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
This blog contribution was made by Gaelle Couberes.
Gaëlle COUBERES is a French but Londoner at heart; she has been living in the UK for over twelve years.
She believes in the power of sisterhood; championing both diversity & inclusion and mental health.
Gaëlle works for Unilever as Sr Global Innovation Manager, taking pride in being a content creator, a mental health champion, and a mentor. She truly believes in the power of community and solidarity, the magic dust that makes a difference in life’s wild ride.
Besides crafting content for the Like-Minded Female Network as a Blogger, she leads Lean In London. Beyond that role, she is also a Mental Health First Aider and volunteer for the incredible #IamRemarkable initiative.
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