Warning. There may be a mixed metaphor ahead. Or 73.

People tell me I’m brave all the time.

It’s odd really because I don’t see myself as all that courageous. I’ve been thinking about courage a lot recently. You know, really thinking about it.

What does it really mean? What is it? 

Is it the absence of fear? Is the absence of fear the same as courage? Perhaps not, but perhaps removing fear is easier than thinking to yourself ‘I have to be courageous today’.

What do you think of when you hear the word courage?

I think the word courage can be scary. Loaded. I envisage lion tamers or David squaring off to Goliath. Soldiers. Prisoners of war. That feels hard to live up to and makes me scared. Scared to start.

I’m not like that. I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. 

I was obviously a little scared to write this blog post. I kept telling myself I had to find, and read the right book first. If I just read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, then I’ll be able to write it. Only I didn’t read it and consequently didn’t start writing. Yet I’ve suddenly thought to myself ‘you keep having those thoughts about courage, you need to get them down on paper, before you forget them.

And what I thought would be jotting notes down, is me writing the blog post. So just starting to write removed ‘the thing’, the fear that had been holding me back.

I know I’m not a lion tamer. I was a librarian. I AM a trainer and soon I’ll be a qualified coach.

Mum said I was brave last week  because I went out onto the balcony of an apartment in a tall building. I replied that ‘it’s not brave if you’re not frightened’. (Mum is scared of heights, and I’m not. Apart from when I’m on ladders. Ladders are terrifying)

What does courage mean for you? What does it make you think of? What makes you feel brave? How do you stop being afraid?

So IS courage the absence of fear? Or is it like Susan Jeffers says, being frightened and doing it anyway.

I know that I’m filled with insecurities, imposter syndrome and doubt like everyone else. Am I good enough? Will I do this right? Will this be a good job? Should I even be doing this?

Yet some people perceive me as having courage. Perceptions are interesting aren’t they?

Sometimes, for me, the fear I feel of not doing something allows me to be brave.  I have a fear of sitting in my old age thinking ‘god I wish I’d…’. That often pushes me to strive further or to do things that I’m scared of.

I think that there are arenas of bravery too. Where your levels of courage go up and down. So professionally I think I’m quite brave and am relatively happy to push boundaries and I’ll regularly make trips out of my comfort zone, to stretch zone and sometimes, even to downright panic. (I mentioned the training in French right?). I’ll take risks. Albeit calculated ones.

Perhaps I am a lion tamer in my work. I’m starting to like it now as a metaphor for training.

I was talking to someone last week about her bravery. She’s just been through a really rough time with her Dad as he was dying. This awful, traumatic and negative experience has had one positive outcome and allows her to be brave. Because nothing will EVER be that bad again.

I think that there are levels of bravery. Things that I will do and that I won’t. I will speak in front of 300 people. I won’t throw myself out of a plane. My friend Hardy, used to throw herself out of planes all the time. But she might have more trouble speaking to a crowd. (Actually, no she’d do that too, she’s a complete BADASS) And neither Hardy or I think that living in a different place is all that scary. Because we met when we were living in Dubai.

But then living abroad is something that I’ve done. Something that I know and understand and something that I have done more than once. Which reminds me of Robert Winston when he talks about what happens when we learn something new. Our synapses fire and create neural pathways. The first time it happens it’s a tough route to take. The pathway is overgrown and difficult to get down.

But for me living in another country, in another culture, somewhere they speak a different language, is, if not a well-worn path, a smoother path for me to get down then others. So can we practice bravery like we can practice becoming adaptable? Does bravery create more bravery? Should we really do being something that scares us every day?

The other thing about my bravery is, all of my decisions have been made with a lot of thought and a lot of preparation behind them. There was research. OBVS. Consultation. Planning. Plan A and Plan B. I also have a lot of support from family and friends so that helps me to be brave too. Bravery in the professional arena is doable for me. Something I do things despite the doubts and imposter feelings….

But in my personal life? I’m scared. Being vulnerable in this arena, terrifies me. Worries me. So much so I’m paralysed. I don’t date. No. Why would I? Scary shit that. I certainly don’t date online – well why would you? The internet is full of lunatics. I put block after block in my own way. So I can stay safe. My comfort zone in this arena is tiny and my panic zone is the size of the Colosseum.

So if you want to do something but fear is holding you back, what can you do? How can you find courage?

What are the risks and how do you mitigate them? Can you research, consult, prepare? What would make this more comfortable? What would lower the bar? What are the small steps? Can you practice what you are doing?

Can you imagine yourself doing it? What does it look like? How do you feel?

Is it scary? Really examine what it is that makes it scary. Is it rational? If not, can you work out why? What is triggering this? If they are rational fears, then, what can you do to assuage them? What will allow you to take that leap of faith?

I don’t think there is one solution for everyone because we are all so different. I think we need to find our own strategies to make scary things easier to do. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts? Do you have any tricks? Tips? What makes you courageous?

I think I need to apply some of this thinking to my personal life. Small steps. Practice. Do something scary maybe. Every day.


Claire Bradshaw and I will be looking at courage in our confidence workshop, ‘Shine Brighter’ on Friday 3rd March in Didsbury. Book your place: http://bit.ly/2gLlNLP.

  • Brown, Brené (2015). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. London: Penguin Life.
  • Jeffers, Susan (2007). Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. London: Vermillion
  • Winston, Robert (2003). The Human Mind. London: Bantam