“Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage means we face our fears. We are able to say, ‘I have fallen and I will get up.’ ” —Maya Angelou

As I began the journey of reclaiming my right to choose, I wrote this in my journal . . .

“I am scared because I feel like I have so much to learn and so much healing needs to take place, but I don’t know where to begin or how to heal myself.”

When I read this now, my heart aches for what I was experiencing then. I was scared, afraid, lost, directionless, feeling inadequate, broken, and helpless. I had fallen.

I was feeling sad, hurt, alone, and overwhelmed.

I was also being honest, vulnerable, and courageous. I will get up.

Despite being stuck in the mud—feeling worthless about the choices I had made and where my life was at—I somehow, someway still had courage, a little umph. Some sort of silent grit that said—I will get up.

I have a workout shirt and it says – “Triumph is try with a little umph in it.”

So, the question is how do we manufacture courage? Or try with a little umph in it?

Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says, “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant . . . to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

Now, I love this definition AND I hate it. Because it pre-supposes I am aware of what my heart and my mind are saying.

After escaping a series of destructive choices, I had lost touch with what my mind and heart were saying to me. To make matters feel gloomier . . . whenever I had some semblance of an idea of what they were telling me—I doubted those instincts. The reality was that I didn’t trust myself. I was confused.

The first courageous step is to look at our situation as it is. Without minimizing, denying, judging, fabricating, or pretending. Just choose to view it purely and objectively.

This reminds me of the egg scene from Runaway Bride. Richard Greer’s character challenges Maggie (Julia Roberts) because she doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes. She always preferred whatever the closest person to her liked.

The deeper side of the egg scene is that she had lost touch with who she was and what she liked—she didn’t know herself. She had spent her entire life bending every which way and performing emotional 15 gymnastics to convince herself and others she was exactly what THEY wanted.

I did this, too. As human beings, we are created for connection— so before we start judging—we have to acknowledge this is human nature. Our nature wants to feel connected and feel like we belong— we desire to be wanted and accepted. So, it’s only natural to search for common ground with those around us.

Now that we’ve acknowledged our humanness—let’s also recognize the perils of it. Not having the courage to look in the mirror or evaluate a destructive situation is dangerous.

It’s dangerous because we lose touch with who we are. When we lose touch with ourselves, we morph into what others dictate for us. Eventually, we are unhappy because we are operating incongruent with who we are and if continued we end up not knowing who we are.

Not knowing who we are and trying to please everyone around us—aka, chasing a moving target—makes us feel beaten down, lost, confused, and insecure.

Why? Because deep down we know we are not being authentic—we know it’s all a lie. And if anyone ever finds out that we have been faking it—we feel our world would fall apart. This is exactly why I hate the saying, “fake it til you make it.”

Thus, we continue to bend, morph, and convince others and ourselves that we are exactly what THEY want. They want to believe we’re perfect. We have it all together; we don’t show emotions, and it’s simply not true.

Not only is it not true—it’s not sustainable.

Psychologists tell us nothing creates internal stress & trauma more than when what we are doing on the outside is incongruent with our values on the inside.

Further, the truth always finds a way out. Lies don’t last. And we intuitively know that, so we stay scared.

And scared requires courage to overcome. The people who are the most scared are the ones who say they’re not.

Maya Angelou says, “Courage may be the most important of all virtues, because without it one cannot practice any other virtue with consistence.”

In my experience, this is true. Numerous times, I short-circuited my healing process because I started with choice 8—changing my habits, applying the popular mentality fake-it-til-you-make-it . . . BUT it just doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work because I know I’m still living a lie and when the truth comes out, I feel defeated and like a fraud. Then I have to startall-over . . . again!

It’s simply not sustainable to pretend to be something we’re not.

Change is a process. Courage is a practice. Just like eating right and exercising—consistency is key. We don’t change overnight. Our circumstances don’t change overnight. Overnight success is a myth. But we can change our direction overnight.

The first step in changing our direction is having the courage to say this works for me, or this doesn’t work for me, AND I’m willing to find a better way.

The opposite of courage is pretending everything is hunky-dory when your heart, mind, and gut are screaming otherwise. The opposite of courage is making excuses for how people treat you, how you treat yourself, or how you treat others. Denial is not courage. Courage doesn’t pretend. It doesn’t fake it. It calls a spade a spade WITHOUT judgment, and then figures out a better way.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably ready to figure out a better way.  You might enjoy reading the ebook.