Terrified courage

Folks that run into a burning building to rescue a child are regarded as brave heroes.  And we often think of brave heroes as folks who fearlessly do very dangerous things.

I’m thinking that anybody that enters a burning building without fear isn’t brave…I would think that’s more like a special kind of stupid.

That’s a dangerous risk to take…the bravery doesn’t lie in doing something dangerous without fear.

Bravery lies in feeling how terrifying something is, and deliberately making the choice to draw on your courage to do it anyway.

Burning buildings are scary things.  Relationships are scary things too. Relationships require doing very very brave actions.  It takes a deep draw on courage to:

  • say to someone, “I love you” for the first time
  • express more than one feeling in a tense situation, “Even though I’m very frustrated with you, it’s because of how much I care about you.”
  • say, “I’m sorry for how I blew your trust in me
Courage begets courage…and someone begot courage in me big time this week in an email that I’ve been given permission to share with you.
Maybe it will beget courage in you, too.  And we could all use a little boost of courage, methinks.
One of my colleagues, brilliant and capable, just gave a workshop.  She is wonderfully warm, captivatingly dynamic, and one of my all round favorite people.  She has been in the profession for less years than I, and I got to know her when I mentored her in the profession as a developing therapist. I wanted to go hear her workshop…but I’ve done presentations before where I really, really, really hoped that my mentors wouldn’t come because of that feeling of “I can’t do it like they can and it will flop.  And when they are there watching me, my ability to speak in full sentences will completely fail, and then I won’t be able to present coherently, al all, to anyone.”  That’s a terrible feeling, and I didn’t want to risk springing that on her by just showing up.

I didn’t say that feeling is rational, but it feels very powerfully real.  So, because of those memories, I emailed her to ask her if I might come to her workshop, wondering how she would feel about that.

A few days later, I received this email, which was one of those that made my cheeks cramp in that odd way when my face is laughing and tearing up at the same time, and my face can’t figure out which way to go:

Good morning,

I had noted your ‘maybe’ response for the event.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play of internal dialogue that followed, here’s the summary.

1. Panic – because I feel like you’re going to come and find out I’m a fraud, and that I really have no idea what I’m talking about.
2. Fear –  of judgement, of not being ‘enough’, and of you witnessing the obviously inevitable failure of the evening (ahh…hello shame!)
3. Mental head shake – where I reminded myself that you have not been a source or voice of shame in my life.  And while yes, you will likely have a million constructive thoughts for the evening, and while you may have done it entirely differently – you’re not in the business of making people feel like junk.  That doesn’t make sense, and isn’t a fit for who you are or what I know to be true about you.

So the answer to your question…yes!  You’re welcome to come if you like.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be a hot mess hiding behind a cute blazer either way, and to tell you steer clear means shame wins – and I don’t want that at all.

Yes, people, word-for-word her response.

Shame doesn’t win…doesn’t that ’bout bring tears to your eyes?
I love about her response because:
  • She names it…and now we can both chuckle over it…fear is kinda like going behind the corner of the curtain to look at the Wizard of Oz and seeing that when it is seen for what it is in the light of day-something a whole lot smaller and less scary–spoken-out-loud-for-what-it-is, its loses its power.  
  • She sees her catastrophization of how awful she knows the evening will fail, and reminds herself of who we are to each other. Sometimes things make so terribly much sense in our head, until we say them to somebody else…and then it becomes something that sounds a wee bit over the top.
  • She draws deep on her courage with a declaration that shame won’t win. 
  • Even after she names it, agrees to it…and is still scared…and is just prepared to go with it.  Leaning into the fear, and using courage to continue the experience regardless.
  • Her email tells me that she is frightened of my response…but does so in such a vulnerable and kind and gentle and humorous way, it actually feels the opposite to me…she fought the good fight to remember I am a safe person for her…and her writing it out to me has me feel validated at as a genuine friend to her. Sigh…oh my…that warms me from the inside out.

Quote by Carolyn Bergen stating: Authentic vulnerability shared between trusted friends is endearing, adorable, and an entrustment that enhances connection

I truly wanted to go to the workshop to learn from her, not to critique her…doncha just wish sometimes that people could see themselves the way we see them…wouldn’t that just change a person?  Maybe it would change you if you believed others when they tell you how they see you.
…and, no matter what…wear a cute blazer!

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