Monday, April 13, 2009


Random House defines courage as:

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., with firmness and without fear. Bravery

2. to act in accordance with one’s belief, especially in spite of criticism.

The first definition of courage may conjure up images such as knights slaying dragons, pioneers persevering through the hardest of times or someone defusing a bomb in today’s world. These are examples of bravery that we have heard about. We all know stories of people who have performed feats of bravery. This is the type of courage I needed to begin racing motorcycles. I would argue, however, that often the act was performed despite the fear, not without it.

The second definition is the one I have been addressing in this book. It is the courage associated with acting on your convictions, despite others’ opinions or feelings about your behavior. What I talk about is following your heart and making your choices. This is the form of courage that is required. After all, others may not be as interested in your happiness as you are. They have their own lives to manage and sometimes a change in your behavior can be perceived as a threat to their world.

If others are used to having you at home every night and you decide to go out once or twice a week to visit friends or attend a yoga class, for example, they may take it personally and think you don’t want to be with them. Or they may resent the fact that you are not there to handle all the things you were doing in the evening. Sometimes they can’t identify a concrete reason but they may feel out of control because you have begun making decisions about your life which they may not understand.

Women are primarily relational beings. We don’t like it when those around us become upset. Because our self esteem depends upon our ability not only to make, but also to maintain, growthful, reciprocal connections we may feel threatened when someone near to us expresses their anger or fear about our choices.

This is a conundrum for women. We want to follow our hearts and do that which pleases us but, at the same time, we don’t want to make waves. We do not want to cause ripples in the smooth outer surface of our relationships. To avoid the conflict that we imagine will ensue, we cave in and put our needs either on hold or throw them out entirely.

If we do stick to our guns and follow our intuition, making self-loving choices and molding our lives as we want them to be, we may then compensate for having the audacity to put ourselves first by “over-caring” others. If we feel guilty because we are doing something we really want to do, one way to appease others and assuage our guilt is to put the others’ needs in the foreground the remainder of the time. This is unhealthy not only for them, but for us as well.

It is vital to learn ways to take care of our own needs without feeling guilty. If we do not, we make ourselves vulnerable and emotional eating will emerge as one way to soothe ourselves. So, be courageous. Take the very best care of yourself. This is your job!

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