A Call to Courage in Crisis
I was 11 when she first bullied me on the lunch line. “Cece,” one of the meanest girls in the seventh grade, yanked my long, bouncy ponytail.
At first, I ignored it, but when I felt another painful tug, I turned around to confront her. Before I could muster up anything to say, Cece nastily asked:
Why you lookin’ at me? You think I did it?!
Paralyzed by fear, I whipped around in silence, grabbed my lunch, and ran away. I felt helpless. As a kid, I never stood up for myself because I didn’t know how. Thus, I did what I knew, which was to let fear get the best of me.
On that afternoon, with hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I made a promise to myself — the next time I got frightened, I’d do whatever it took to get some courage.
Courage is crucial, because every day we all have to face big and small challenges that come our way, despite our fears.
So, in a world where crises continue to escalate fears and cause more uncertainties, how do we get courage?
Conventional wisdom like “feel your fears and face them anyway” stopped working for me back in 2015 when I was unemployed, pregnant, nearly homeless, and starting a business. So, I ditched that viewpoint and tried an alternative approach — curiosity.
There was so much I wanted to know: What exactly did my courage look like? How could I make courage less elusive and more concrete so that I could easily get it when fears crept in?
My curiosity eventually led me to my very own life coaching toolkit, and in there I rediscovered metaphors. Metaphors are magical because they are powerful tools that can help you make meaning of emotions that might otherwise be difficult to understand.
To find my courage metaphor, I immersed myself in a transformational activity that I take all of my clients through — a visualization exercise. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes, tuned into my heart, and imagined my courage.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but as soon as I relaxed, she appeared. My courage metaphor had kind brown eyes, wore ruby red lipstick, and rocked gold bangles. She also sat on an interchangeable lion-tiger, and held weapons in all eight of her hands. Who was she?
Her name was Durga Maa, one of the fiercest warrior goddesses and mothers in Hinduism. Whoa. I was blown away. Who knew that I could tap into something so much bigger than myself?
Yet, she didn’t stop there. Durga’s energy was so dynamic that I sensed her trying to send a message. When I listened closely, I heard her say this:
I am here with you. The courage, power, and strength you need is inside of you, with me. I got your back. You are more than enough, and you are not alone.
Whoa again! My courage was straight-up talking to me! I couldn’t help but get more curious, so I initiated two-way communication.
I spoke to my courage metaphor both in my head and out loud, especially amidst the depths of my distress. As long as I reached out, Durga showed up with reassurance and boosts of strength to help me overcome my difficulties. Ultimately, her encouragement transformed that terrified little girl on the lunch line into a brave soul unafraid to use her voice.
Over the years, my work as a life coach confirmed that I’m not the only one who could activate courage in this way — my clients did, too! Some of their courage metaphors included flying squirrels, pumas, little red spiders, drums, trees, and mountains.
Their unique metaphors offered insights that ranged from specific directives to sounds and vibrations. There was no right or wrong to what was shared, and it didn’t matter who or what my clients believed in, because their courage metaphors came through in cool and customized ways.
So, the next time you feel fear cramping your style, remember that you are resourceful enough to access your courage.
Take a moment. Tune in. Picture your courage. Listen to what it says. And don’t hesitate to talk back to it.
I believe that once we tune in, we can stand up to bullies and confront the scary unknowns…and maybe even ride a lion or a tiger somewhere along the way.
[Related: Secrets to Confidence for Every Woman Leader]
To activate your courage, I invite you to try my unique technique:
- Sit back, relax, and take a nice deep breath.
- Close your eyes if you like, and tune into your heart.
- Imagine your courage. What does your courage look like?
- Now, listen carefully. How does your courage sound? What or who does it sound like?
- If you want to say something back to it, you can simply whisper, “Thanks, let’s catch up later” or simply continue the conversation.
- When you’re done, open your eyes and take a deep breath to come back.
- Continue to call in your courage (in whatever form it emerged) and don’t hesitate to communicate and request support every time you need it.
[Related: Harnessing Courage to Overcome Fear]
Shanita Liu is the Chief Energy Officer at Coach Shanita, Inc. She is a veteran spouse, educator, writer, dancer, and mother of two toddlers.
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