A friend commented yesterday that she admired my courage in having left my job—and having done it without support. Although I’ve heard that before, it always surprises me because I don’t think of myself as a courageous person. In fact, I suspect that there are many people would see me more as a foolish coward who ran away from a bad situation rather than someone who dealt with the situation courageously.
So what is the truth? Did I run away from a bad situation like a foolish coward? Or did I display courage in removing myself from an unhealthy situation so I could move forward toward a healthier, more fulfilling future?
As I pondered this, I was reminded of a conversation we recently had in my yoga teacher training class about a chapter on courage in Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. In our reading, she had been talking about the crucial distinction between “doing something foolish just to appear brave and doing something that actually required courage.”
“But how do you choose action? How do you differentiate between taking care of yourself and your need to overcome resistance or fear? […] Whatever you decide, know that courage is not forcing yourself to do something because you want to be accepted, or don’t want to look like a coward or be embarrassed. You express foolishness when you simply acquiesce, unwilling or unable to find your voice to object or decline.” ~Judith Lasater
As one of my teachers put it, sometimes running away from something that you know is not right for you is the most courageous thing you can do, especially when you know that this may make you look like a coward to others. If you are doing something only to impress other people, that’s not true courage. That shifted my whole concept of what courage really is.
By that standard, I absolutely acted with courage. Maybe that’s why it so often doesn’t feel like courage to me. Yes, it was (and is) scary. Yes, I had to overcome some significant fear to act. But at the end of the day, I knew with unfailing certainty that it was absolutely the right thing for me to do in that moment no matter what anyone else thought. It felt more like a necessity to my soul than an act of courage.
Maybe I have more courage than I ever dreamed. I just didn’t know what I was looking for before. It gives me a whole new lens for viewing courage and for viewing myself. How might I live differently if I know myself as a woman of courage.
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