Are you a Courageous Woman?
Most of you will say no.
Unless, of course, you’ve been working with me for a while, in which case you know better by now. :)
But the simple truth is that most of us, when push comes to shove, would never think of ourselves as Courageous. “Oh no, not me!”, you’ll say, with a nervous laugh and a toss of your head. “I’m really not what you would call a brave person at all….”
Well I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you.
Because, see, I know you. Really well.
I know how many of you have fought and won serious battles with illness or injury that threatened your life, or the life of someone you love. Some of you have kids who’ve broken your heart, and you’re doing everything you can to save them from disaster.
Some of you have mothered soldiers – or are soldiers yourselves – and have experienced the trauma that serving our country can mean. Some of you are caught in relationships that just aren’t working, yet you’re doing everything you can to heal what’s broken.
Many of you are taking care of pre-schoolers AND an elderly parent AND running a business AND still being the one who keeps everything running at home.
For many of you, rest is a rarity. Freedom rarer still.
And I know that it doesn’t matter what kind of home you have or car you drive, what kind of career you have or how perfect-on-the-outside your life may look. You, too, cope with the hidden hardships, self doubts and fears that are often invisible to others.
I know how hard it is. I see how brave you are in the midst of it all.
This year, 2014, is the 21st anniversary of the practice I started so long ago in our small, East Tennessee community, Cove Mountain Counseling.
And after 21 years of being a humble witness to the Courage you carry so deep in your soul, I’ve come to love, and treasure, the lessons you’ve taught me about what it means to Live a Courageous Woman’s life.
I’m sharing those lessons here. If you have others that you want to add to my list, tell me about them below.
So here you go.
1. Claim your Competence. You have a lifetime of experience. And chances are that you’ve learned things along the way that come easily to you now, though they’re completely mysterious to others. Whether it’s how to make the perfect pie crust, paint a portrait, or grow a business, you know what you’re doing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
2. Feed your Curiosity. There is SO much more to the world than what you see on your TV. An active mind and a full life is yours for the taking, just by exploring what’s outside your door. Drive down roads you’ve never traveled. Read a book or take a class in something you know nothing about. Jump into a volunteer experience just to see what it’s like. Exploration reveals your Courage, and builds your confidence.
3. Honor your (natural) Creativity. I know a woman who draws almost anything she sees so realistically it’s like a photo. It is amazing to watch her work. And she turns that talent to everything she does, creating gifts and treasures that literally blow me away. Yet she often discounts her skill, thinking that – because it comes easily to her – it is somehow less than spectacular.
Honoring your Creativity is an act of Courage. And if you’re like me, and you can’t draw a circle or wrap a gift without half a role of tape, that doesn’t matter. You, too, are Creative. No matter what kind of obstacles you run into, you somehow find a way past them, don’t you? Of course you do. And if you can’t find a way, you’ll make one. :)
4. Realize how much you are Capable of learning. No one knows how to do everything. And heck, who would want to? But you can learn anything you are determined to learn, or have to. I am perfectly capable of learning how to change the oil in my car, but I don’t want to. On the other hand, if I need to brush up on my German, or want to learn to play the fiddle, I can. What do you want to learn how to do?
5. Practice clear-eyed Compassion. For so many of us, offering comfort and caring for others comes naturally. Call it maternal instinct, feminine connection, whatever you like. There’s a fine line, though, between helping, and enabling, and it’s a line we don’t always recognize. Express the Compassion that’s in your heart, but learn to recognize when helping is not always in someone’s best interest.
6. Nurture purposeful Connection. Deeper emotional connections with others, and with something greater than ourselves, can carry us through the toughest times. Build strong, loving relationships with family and friends in whatever way is healthy and good for you. Seek out a faith community that fits your values, or explore personal spiritual practices that deepen your awareness of a Love that is greater than all of us.
7. Own your (well-earned) Confidence. You and I have been on this planet for a while, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. You know who you are. You know what you can do. Isn’t it about time you started believing in your Self, no matter what? Why waste a singe minute more in self doubt?
8. Respect your (proven) Courage. If you thought about it half a second, you could make a list of 100 times in your life when you’ve overcome a hardship, faced a fear, achieved something remarkable, done something you’d never thought you could do. In big ways and small. Don’t believe me? Try it. :)
It’s time to quit pretending that those times don’t count. They do. Were you scared to death some of (most of) those times? Of course. Were you proud of yourself and a little surprised at what you were able to do? Of course. Did every one of those moments require something from you? Of course.
That’s Courage in Action. And it’s yours. Don’t blow it off.
9. Know that you are Complete. The best part about getting older, to me, is that one day we wake up and realize that we’ve somehow magically grown into our own skin. What starts with restlessness and questions in our 30’s, moves through exploration and disruption in our 40s, and settles into a place of knowing in our 50’s and beyond.
One day, we just know. We are Enough. With all of our perfect imperfections, we are Complete exactly as we are. We stop trying to prove anything, and start living authentically from the place that feeds our souls.
And suddenly, others begin seeing you as a Courageous Woman, and start to tell you so.
It surprises you at first. But then, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
I did. :)