I recently just finished a memoir called My Year With Eleanor by Noelle Hancock, which features a ton of fantastic quotes about change and facing your fears. The book is about relating one’s every day goals to the life of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, since Eleanor famously overcame her shyness early in life in order to become a famous orator and successful activist. The author uses a lot of Eleanor’s analogies as incentive to change her own life, since she has found herself insecure about her future and in need of a boost of confidence about her life.
One line that struck me as important at the end of the memoir is when Noelle is reflecting on her “Year Of Fear,” in which she faced one of her fears, big or small, every day for twelve months. She states, “I’m not presumptuous enough to think I’ll ever be as fearless as Eleanor [Roosevelt]. But she taught me that courage is a muscle. It needs to be exercised often or it’ll weaken.” This quote made me pause and reflect on the idea of what “courage” really is, since many people associate the concept with everything from animals in the wild to firefighters or public speakers. What is “courageous,” in reality, when most people have very set ideas of what constitutes having the guts to do something? Is there a way to gauge “courage” based on a specific traits or mannerisms? Most importantly, why is it vital to practice “courage” daily?
Courage is something I have often struggled to maintain, yet in the end when I actually do channel it, I rarely regret the situation. For example, if on a particular day, I find the guts to speak up during a meeting at work or start a conversation with people I don’t know well, usually I am proud of myself for being direct and social in that moment. Courage has many degrees, however, and the more often you go out of your comfort zone, the farther you have to go to exert similar courage again. What’s courageous for one person might be an easy feat for another person and vice versa. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to becoming more bold and brave, but it’s ultimately what you make of the encounters that makes courage what it is. You have to learn from the moments in which you exert yourself to actually add them to your life for good!
While many of the things that Noelle accomplished for the memoir were fears that many of us would never attempt, such as skydiving, mountain-climbing, and shark diving, she also conquered many social fears such as talking to ex-boyfriends and even doing an on-stage comedy skit. Courage is not necessarily the stereotypical definition of “facing your fears” like going to war or jumping out of a plane, but an inner peace that makes it possible for you to do something that scares you. Even just walking outside could be courageous if you live in a dangerous area or you might be brave in telling someone how you feel about them if you are unsure of their reaction. Courage is a relative concept that transcends physical and mental arenas in order to give people a reason to challenge themselves in life. If everything in life was easy, would we really have a reason to go on living day-to-day? Life can’t be completely predictable or we might get restless in our own skin. In order to display true courage, you have to be comfortable continually evolving and open to developing into the person that you were meant to be, even if that person you become is very different from who you were before. Embracing a “new you,” even if that was really who you were underneath your insecurities, is a crucial step in accepting a fresh start into your repertoire! The more you make courage a normal part of your existence, the closer you are to it becoming your overall reality.
Exerting courage every day might be a difficult task, but even just adding little things into your life like talking to new people can be just what you need to gain confidence in yourself! Just like Noelle Hancock banished many of her insecurities through giving herself goals and ideals that she had to follow, make up your own rules for how you live your life. While you don’t have to scale a mountain in order to find your true self, you can always create your own cliffs to conquer by adding a bit of courage and solidarity into your usual routine. Be the strong, independent individual you were meant to be and change your life for the better by spicing up the predictable!