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Change and courage

Coach Lucinda Shaw writes about finding the courage and the confidence to make the changes you want.

A narrated version is available at the bottom of the page

So, you want to make some changes

Making change takes courage. It can be scary and you need to be brave to deal with the tough issues that might come up. As is often quoted, the origin of the word ‘courage’ comes from the Latin word ‘cor’ or ‘cour’ meaning heart. Your heart is the seat of your feelings and emotions. As Brené Brown noted, the word originally meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’.

So having courage is about listening to your heart and speaking your truth, your pain, your joy – whatever is there. When you ignore problems or bury the emotions you don’t want to confront; you’re not doing yourself justice. In fact, while it’s easy to think that it’s better to hide from everything, it’s actually far more liberating to look at what’s going on.

There’s a quote I love by Deborah Levy that says: ‘To speak our life as we feel it is a freedom we mostly choose not to take.’

What does it take for us to choose that freedom? It takes courage to speak our lives from the heart: what you feel, what you want, what you don’t want. Summon the courage to let it out, to be open, even to painful issues. When you do, you’ll find out what you want, what’s really important to you and the changes that you want to make and that you can truly commit to.

So, what might happen if you decided to make those changes?

The elusive confidence that everyone else seems to have

I often hear clients say that they want to feel more confident. But what does that really mean? What does it feel like? How will you be when you have ‘more’ confidence?

For many people, a lack of confidence comes from believing that they’re not good enough. In their eyes, other people are confident and have got it all figured out. But this is to assume much about how other people are really feeling. It’s too easy to assume that others are in control and feel the confidence you don’t. You might believe that others don’t have an inner critic or a gremlin telling them that they’re no good, while yours is constantly berating you, but we all have that voice in some form.

What would happen if you told your gremlin to be quiet? Could you live your life without it and that negative voice in your head? Could you let go and step into your better, happier self?

Having the courage to change your story

When I work with clients, we often look at how their inner critic isn’t helping them. You might need to step outside of your comfort zone to do this. But surely that’s better than the uncomfortable feeling of having a voice constantly saying that you’re not effective at work, you can’t possibly apply for that new job or you’re not up to running that project?

The first step is to recognise that what your gremlin is saying isn’t the truth about you. It may be a voice that you’re familiar with, possibly from your childhood story, and it may even be protecting you from stepping out of your comfort zone. What helps is to recognise that you have the power over it.

Ask yourself ‘In what way does this voice serve me and encourage me to be the best? How does it help me to be happy and to have the confidence that I want?’ Or, admit that it perhaps isn’t serving you in any way.

We can all make choices. We can choose how we think about and, crucially, talk to ourselves. How often in a day do you say something negative about yourself? ‘I’m no good at this’, ‘I always mess that up.’ How helpful is this really? Stop putting yourself down with absolutes such as ‘never’ and ‘always’ and start to notice when you put yourself into a box. Believe that you can change the story and the conversation that you have with yourself.

How would that be? What could you achieve if you told yourself it was possible?

How you feel about yourself is everything

Many people tell me that they want to be more confident, but together we find out that it’s often a lack of self-belief and low self-esteem that are really the issue. We discover that the important work is to enable them to feel better about themselves. That’s the root problem and once that’s teased out, explored and addressed, increased confidence follows.

Many people feel vulnerable and not good enough. They worry that they will be exposed as someone who is not as good as they ‘should’ be – that they’ll be found out. This is often called Imposter Syndrome. Recognise this for what it is. Rather than feeling ashamed, don’t try to hide the fact that you feel vulnerable or worried. Acknowledge that you’re feeling bad and invest in coaching or therapy to help you with it.

A coach won’t rescue you, but coaching can enable you to find the courage and address what’s holding you back. Remember that we live in a culture that already minimises and disadvantages women and has some fairly outdated notions of manhood. You’re not alone, and there’s a great deal you can do to help yourself. What about a new year’s intention to find the courage to speak your heart and start the work that will lead you to believe that you are much more than good enough?

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