Search for more Everyday Power
In January 2011, I tried to end my life. Numerous corrosive and false core beliefs guided my decision although I was barely aware of them. As major depression steadily dimmed the light of hope, reasons to care became harder to find. Finally, a sense of utter worthlessness shrouded any purpose for staying alive.
Recovery involved therapy, where courage to take charge of my life took root. I learned it is my responsibility to get my needs met. Rather than waiting for rescue from some uncertain hero, it is up to me to live by my values. I have the power to believe in my worth or not, to allow for imperfection or not, and to decide who I want to be.
Start Where You Are
Eventually I had to change my entire worldview. No one has to be as low as I was before looking up, though. Regardless your perspective, the concept of growing your courage may feel overwhelming. Traversing the distance between where you are and where you wish to go may be beyond your imagination.
Upon hearing my story, a woman struggling with her sense of identity asked, “How did you get to where you know who you are?”
It is so simple; it looks like a magic formula. What works for me is the same as for anyone. An adjusted mindset is an outcome of taking one step, the next, and the next. This is also true of finding success in your work, standing up for yourself, and squarely facing the conflicts of life.
You can grow your courage! Imagine finding and using your voice. Picture a day without self-defeat. Smile at the idea of a whole week outside the status quo. These five strategies break down a potentially daunting task into manageable chunks.
Ascertain where you are mentally, spiritually, and physically, and make note of it. One day you will look back in pride at how far you have come. Where you are today is the best starting point for you.
Plant a Seed of Courage
Even the tallest Sequoia tree was once a seed. You need a seed of courage. You will find it in strategy one.
1) Ask yourself what you want. Is it fear? Do you want to accomplish what you dream of doing? What kind of person do you want looking back at you in the mirror? Take the time to write down your answers.
The result: Clarity of focus will surprise you and others.
Stan is a young adult whose parents paid his bills. One day he announced, “I do not want you to help me. No money, no rescue. I want to know I can make it on my own.” With that, he moved to another city alone. His struggles included homelessness and loneliness. Because he knew who he wanted to be, this motivated him until he earned financial independence.
Water That Seed with Action
Dry seeds blow in the wind but do not produce anything. Your seed needs the water that strategies two and three provide.
2) Define what needs changing, and come up with some creative ideas to follow through. No idea is too weird as this is just brainstorming. For example, if you want to be more assertive, practicing in front of the mirror is a step forward. If you want to stop procrastinating on a tough decision, ask a friend to give you a deadline.
The result: You will begin to feel and think differently.
Edgar lost his job. As an older man, he began to feel useless. Hopelessness finally paralyzed him until it was difficult to tackle small chores. He said, “I feel as if I am only waiting to die. This is not good.”
Edgar began cleaning up around the house. This led to building a birdhouse for his wife. Soon, he was speaking differently, and believing he could contribute. He said, “I’m going to volunteer at a charity. I’ve plenty to give.”
3) Ask, “What step(s) will I take today toward becoming who I want?” Make at least one quality decision. So what if the step is tiny, who cares? You are the one stretching your courage, do what is fitting for you today. Amaze yourself over time, as one step leads to another, then another.
The result: You will know you are a winner
Julie is extremely overweight and unhappy about it. Walking across the lawn at a nearby park is too strenuous, so she does not go there with her children very often. She decided she wants to be healthy and more capable, so she sought appropriate support, and is changing her behavior around food.
In the mirror, she sees obesity. In her mind’s eye, she recognizes a fighter. Her boldness and self-respect grow.
Enjoy the Harvest
An apple seed becomes a tree that yields nourishment, beauty, and more seeds. Your seed abounds with ripe courage. Strategies four and five will prevent it from rotting on the tree.
4) Celebrate the victories, which are each step! Pay attention as your confidence muscles bulk-up. As change develops, you will inspire yourself.
The result: You will reap success after success
For a long time, my mantra was negative and self-loathing. I turned down compliments, and denied myself the joy of victory by counting only mistakes.
A therapist recommended I write down each success without judgment. I remember beginning one list with “got out of bed”. The battle lasted for three years as automatic thoughts routinely dismissed even significant gains. The process worked! Today, attagirls override should’ves because I see success instead of failure.
5) If you fall back, do not worry. Everyone falls back in bigger and smaller ways. Start again, even if it is from scratch, and congratulate yourself for being so bold! Most people remain stagnant. You are a champion just for trying again.
The result: Self-defeat is defeated.
Cheryl moved to another state, grateful for the opportunity to start over. Her intention was to avoid making a fool of herself this time, and to hold her temper.
Her job requires she speak up and share ideas. The first time someone criticized her words, she snapped back in defense. The next day she stayed home nursing her wounds and regret. She was embarrassed. Practicing the first four strategies over the last two years had built her confidence and all but eradicated her displays of temper. Now old doubts refueled her shame.
It was difficult to return to her new co-workers, apologize, and try again to win their trust. Nonetheless, she did not run from it or make excuses.
You are brave with each step you take- even for reading this and thinking seriously about change! Every movement counts.
At the time of my attempted suicide, no one could convince me my life held purpose. A blanket of old wounds, preconceived ideas, and unmanaged major depression obscured truth. From despair to a slow crawl, from standing to walking- my task has been to listen to wise counsel, retrain my mind, and take one step each day. My primary motivation from the start has been to honor God in how I think and with my choices. I now pursue a mission of bringing hope to others who cannot see beyond their pain.
It is your turn to name what you want and to decide what kind of person you want to be. Engage in brainstorming ideas to reach these goals. Start moving. You will astound yourself, and your courage will blossom, one step at a time.