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Courage

Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Pushing Out Doubt

I’m really tired of wrestling with Doubt. He’s not particularly strong by himself, but he’s like that little scrappy rascal that just won’t shut up. His high-pitched voice is hard to ignore & he squeals over and over again!

This isn’t right. You’ve made a mistake! Take it all back. You’re the crazy one. Everything would’ve been just fine. You didn’t need to make such a drastic change. Why weren’t you just happy with the way things were? Why can’t you just sit still and stop over-analyzing? You think way too much into things. No one else is this particular. Get it together.

He’s a little difficult to fend off because he comes back with the slightest memory, any little trigger, every quiet moment.
So how do you fight back something this feisty?

Match it. 

Match it with positive thoughts, even if they’re fake. Even if you totally made them up because I told you to. 

I used to read magazine articles advising the reader to write positive thoughts on a piece of paper and tape it to the mirror each morning.

Of course I don’t mean to offend anyone who has been doing this, but I honestly used to think this was a ridiculous idea. How could a piece of paper with words on it really change your thinking?

Now I’m eating my words. I’m writing a blog post about why you should tape a note, write in lipstick, or whatever to fill your mind with inspiration.

If the tapes in your head are playing messages of doubt, take a minute to rewind and tape over them!

(If you need to literally use a tape player, I don’t blame you one bit. Except…maybe lose the tape player-there’s gotta be an app for that.) 

Write down 4 or 5 positive mantras & put them on repeat in your head. Break down that Doubt with a broken record of positive messages. He’ll fight back for a while, but he’ll tire eventually.
Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Shopping in a Different Grocery Store is Annoying

How frustrating is it when you need to stop for groceries in the next town over?

First of all, it looks a little like your grocery store, but everything is in the wrong place! You sense something feels a little familiar, but you’re still lost.

Before long, you’re confused, frustrated, and walking around in circles. You are starting to really miss your grocery store, and you remind youself never to shop here again. (Why is the bakery next to the freezer section anyway? It just doesn’t make sense here.)

But, you need groceries, so you turn your cart around as many times as it takes. You eventually make it to the check out aisle, and you feel a sense of acomplishment. You stuck with the uncomfort and made it through.

It might be a farfetched analysis, but my trip to a neighboring grocery store reminded me a lot of my life right now. Uncomfortable, unsettled, unfamiliar, and frustrating.

Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Tough Decision? Flip a Coin. Seriously.

For me, this was a decision between being able to predict my life or not having any control over what happens next.
Did I want to stay locked in a place where I knew what to expect day in and day out? Where it was unhealthy and unstable, but at least I knew it would follow a pattern? I could expect the same ups and downs. Some years they’d be better, some years they’d be worse- but I knew what was coming. I was never surprised.

The other choice: Lose control over everything. Where will I go? Who will I meet? What’s the next step for me? Will I be Ok? All of it is unknown, and nothing can be predicted.

But, if my coin was in the air, I’d wish for change. So, I went for it.
Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Let Go, Let God/Faith/The Universe or Whatever Higher Being

I was raised Catholic- I prayed every night when I was little using the prayers my grandmother taught me. But I never had a really meaningful relationship with God. I went to church mostly out of guilt or to find peace and the comfort of routine steeped in my grandmother’s values.

Somewhere in adulthood I lost that Faith, but I know I’m ready to embrace it again.

Suddenly, I belive in God/Faith/The Universe (Something higher-whatever it is) whole-heartedly, and not because someone told me to. I know The Universe has given me certain circumstances I needed at just the right times.

I know He gave me “The Last Straw” in my relationship as a gift, allowing me to gather the strength to go.

He has given me the opportunity to meet new people I can gain insight and a deeper understanding from.

He has even led me to books, articles, and blogs I believe were exactly what I needed at the time.

I’ve been waiting a long, long time, but I believe I’m finally in a place where I can let go of my decisions in life and let that Higher Being give me what He will.

Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

What to do When You Lose Your Job: Survival Guide

Ugh. Losing your job just really feels awful. You’re headed in one direction, going one way, you have drive, focus, and passion. You’re good at what you do! And then all of a sudden you’re thrown completely off course.

I know… because I lose my job every year. Each year I think I’ll be safe from budget cuts, and yet every year I get the dreaded pink slip. (Which isn’t actually pink by the way.)

Luckily for me, I always manage to fly under the radar and get my position back after budgets have been passed, but every year I go through the Job Loss Blues. (Blues is an understatement actually. It’s more like JOB LOSS BLACK HOLE.)

So here is my Survival Guide.

FIRST.
Feel sorry for yourself. Cry, eat junk, drink wine, watch sappy movies, and crawl under the covers. If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’m a big proponent of pity parties. Just limit the partying to a weekend at most.

SECOND.
Dust off. You might be going where you thought you were headed, but you’re in a new and exciting place. You just need to embrace the fear of the unknown. You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose the attitude you have about those circumstances. Will you wallow forever in a sea of sadness and denial, or will you look at this as part of your bigger plan?

THIRD.
Make a list. On one side, list all of your talents. Every little thing! What are you good at? Can you sew or paint? Write? Listen well? Organize? Plan? Garden or cook? It doesn’t matter how small it is or how it might be related to a job. Just list it! If anything, at least you’ll start to feel a little better about yourself.

On the other side, start to write down the job or jobs you’ve had since you were younger. Cross out the jobs you hated- Waitress – and circle the jobs you loved. Make some notes about what parts of those jobs you loved. If it was babysitting, did you love being around the kids? If it was clerical stuff, did you like using the computer?

NOW.
Think back to when you were little. What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m not saying you have to move to NYC and become a fashion designer if that was your thing, but going back to your original dream may give you a little direction now. Write everything down on your list.

NEXT.
Get online. Even if you’re just dreaming, see what’s out there. My favorite job search site is www.indeed.com. I’ve always wanted to work in the non-profit sector, so I also spend a lot of time on www.idealist.org.

Keep a journal of the jobs that peek your interest, even if you don’t qualify for them right now. It will help you decide where to go next. At the very least, this part of the recovery process will show you there is a direction for you to go in. Losing your job really is not the end of the world, even when it feels like it.

If you can wrap your head around where you might go next, you’ll feel a little better. Start to draw out your map for the next part of your life, but keep in mind you just won’t be able to plan everything.

AND OF COURSE.
Dust off your resume. Look around online for examples and help with making your resume fit the job you may be working toward now.

FINALLY.
Realize you don’t have much control other than these steps. You can look around for jobs, use this as an opportunity to find a job you love, and work on your resume. Other than that, you just don’t get to have any say! Let go of that. It will be scary and it will be new, but you won’t be able to mold it to fit the plan you thought you had for yourself, so don’t waste energy trying.

The whole situation reminds me of my FAVORITE inspirational story. It is meant as a story of encouragement for people who have a baby with special needs, but it also applies to all unexpected situations. I try to keep it in mind every time I deal with a life change.

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

It’s like planning a fabulous vacation to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make all your wonderful plans: the Coliseum, Michelangelo’s David, the gondolas in Venice. You may even learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland ?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy”

But there has been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you go out and buy new guide books. And you learn a whole new language. And you meet a whole group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there awhile and you catch your breath, you look around and begin to notice Holland has windmills- and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone one you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they are all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, and very lovely things about Holland.

DON’T FORGET TO READ.

Why Losing Your Job/Boyfriend/Mind is the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to You

AND REMEMBER YOU’LL BE JUST FINE. IT’S ALL IN THE PLAN.

Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Fighting Fear With Fire

I can’t say I really had a relationship Fear until about 6 months ago. I didn’t know him, had never noticed him, but he’s been with me all my life.

And then all of a sudden, I saw him, and I knew he had been there all along. He was to blame for so many of my choices and life decisions, but I had never seen him there before.

He was lurking in the shadows, peering over at me, whispering in my ear.

“Don’t do that, you might get hurt,” he’d snarl.

Now that I know he’s there, convincing me all the time, I can stand up to him. I’ve been starting to speak up for myself.

He doesn’t hold up well to scrutiny.

“It might hurt a little, but what’s the absolute worst that can happen?” I ask Fear.

His reply is never as scary as his threat.

I’m so glad I noticed Fear 6 months ago because now I can see him more clearly. I can hold him up in the light and really pick him apart.

And you know what? He isn’t so scary any more. I won’t tell you he isn’t there because he most definitely is. The difference is now I make my own decisions even when he’s right by my side.

Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

A Tale of Anxiety

I was talking to a mother of one of my students who has anxiety. She was telling me how hard it is for her to envision what it must be like for her daughter to be so genuinely afraid all the time. I, of course, was able to relate all too much with this feeling! I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life. I never considered someone who is not an overly anxious person might not understand what it’s like to be consumed by fear everyday. Here’s how I would explain it…

Imagine you’re surrounded by thorns. (I’m picturing something straight out of Sleeping Beauty.) If you stand really still and close your eyes to block out what’s around you, you’re fine. You feel comfortable and peaceful. You actually wouldn’t mind just sitting very still, but there’s a beautiful castle waiting just outside all of the thorn bushes, and you can see it’s glow from your little spot inside the thorny branches.

So, you try to carefully maneuver and control the thorns by moving them around just a little bit while wiggling underneath them, but you keep getting pricked. The more you move methodically, the more entangled you get. You hate nothing more than getting pricked. To end the pain, you stop and sit still again.

But you can’t stop thinking about the castle, and sitting still makes you feel empty inside. So you become consumed by the thoughts of visiting the castle. You remember the feeling of being pricked, though, and the fear of the pain keeps you from making any moves. Inside, you’re tortured by the never-ending battle between your desire to go to the castle and your avoidance of pain. Your thoughts become obsessive and frequent. Soon, sitting still is just as painful as moving.

If you didn’t know better, you might sit still forever just going back and forth between the two thoughts. But, after a while you begin to recognize what’s happening, and that might be the key to breaking free.

You see, the thorns don’t feel good at all. In fact, they stick right into your skin and the pain lingers for a while. But, they won’t actually kill you. Once you make it through the thorns, your reward will be worth the trouble they’ve caused.

So how do you break through? You feel the pain, feel the thorns sinking in, and in that moment also recognize the pain won’t last forever. Notice your fear is keeping you stable, but it’s keeping you from being happy and truly alive.

You walk knowingly into those thorns, feel the pain, realize you’re not dying, and keep pushing through toward whatever little bit of light you can find. Don’t let your mind talk you into turning back. Push right through that voice telling you to stay in your safe, still spot.

Because if you wait here in the thorns to avoid the pain, you’ll never reach your castle.
Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Looking Back- What I’d Tell Myself Before I Left For College

I’m way past my college days, but I’ve been thinking a lot about college after seeing my nephew off to his dorm room last week.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could go to college at 28 instead of 18? What a difference 10 years makes. If the confident, experienced me could return to college, I’d be so much more successful and productive. (Not sure I can say I’d have quite as much fun…)

What would you tell your 18 year old self if you could go back in time?

1. Open your door.

Throw your inhibitions out the window. Everyone in college is in the exact same boat. They’re looking for like-minded people and new experiences. This isn’t high school. No one’s here to judge you or make you feel different. This place is for finding the niche for the real you, not trying to squeeze into one mold. So wear what you want, do what you want, be the real you, and keep your door open for those who respect that.

2. Try something new.

It’s going to feel weird, it might be uncomfortable, you might look like a total fool. But this is the time in your life when opportunities are placed in your lap, change doesn’t come with any strings attached, and you can dive into something you never thought you’d try. Maybe it’s running, basketball, or some sort of club. You only have to commit to showing up on the first day and giving it your best. This is the only time in your life everything lasts just one semester. If you hate it, you can try something new in the spring and chalk it up to experience.

3. See another city.

Most of the kids I know pick a college based on the sports program, the reputation of the campus, the proximity to home, or the academic lineup. You might be lucky enough to be in a beautiful city like Boston or New York, or you may end up just a few small towns over from your home. Either way, be sure to get to know your new city. Walk around, check out the coffee shops and tourist attractions. Take bus trips to other nearby cities. No one tells you how hard it is to pick up your life and move to a new place once college is over. You might as well make this your second home in case life makes it too difficult to explore like this again.

4. Use the resources.

Never ever in your life will resources be so readily available to you as they are in college. But never ever in your life are you so afraid to use them as you are when you’re 18! Did you know your college most likely has a department to help with your computer troubles, an office to help you edit your papers, and a place to work on your resume? They have an office for information about clubs, food, and activities going on at school.

I know the library may seem boring, but you might be surprised at how good it feels to sit in a comfy chair in the corner and read by yourself for a while- especially if your roommate is getting on your nerves. Go to all over campus. You won’t be inconveniencing anyone, all of these resources, and all of the people working in those offices are there just for you- keep them busy! Get your money’s worth.

5. Talk to your professors.

Hopefully one of the main reasons you’re in college is to pursue your career. In the first few years of college, I hardly knew my professors and probably couldn’t name one of them now. But, once I got into classes for my major and started actually talking to my teachers, I realized something special about them. First of all, they’re REALLY smart. They’re experts in the field of work you’re interested in. They probably have tons of experience and connections.

I went to school for teaching, and I assumed I’d easily get a job as a teacher when I graduated. But, like so many other college programs, they seem to lead to one path where alumni are competing for jobs once college is over. It just isn’t that easy to get a job. This is where your professors come in.

Your professors will be your first reference. If you get to know them, they can talk to potential employers about your work and learning habits. Ask a professor in your major area to set up a meeting where you can talk about other avenues in which you could use your degree.

I always wished someone would have given me ideas about how to use writing in the education field other than as a teacher. Luckily, I got to know my professors, and I could still give them a call today for references or connections if I wanted to take a turn in my career.

It’s easy to see it all in hindsight- let go of your fears, try new things, meet new people, and dive right in to your new city and possible career paths.

But confidence is built, not given, so I guess they’ll just have to figure out this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime college experience themselves.

Courage Life Lessons in Fear Fighting

Let Go Of Control

Sometime about 5 months ago, I came to the realization that I am really, really controlling.

Maybe it’s a teacher thing, maybe it’s the way I was brought up, but for some reason I seem to think I have complete control over my life, and in some instances, the lives of those around me.

I know, I know. Get off my high horse! In my defense, I didn’t realize I was being controlling. I was using my fears to try to write the script of my life.

The scariest part is I’ve been trying to make my life fit these safe, pretty expectations for 28 years. The only way to break free of the control mode and be truly happy is to analyze all of these behaviors.

Join me! You might find you’ve been controlling a thing or two yourself.

There are a few fears that are a little more productive because they prevent me from actual harm. Like…

I drive carefully and cautiously because I’m afraid I’ll be in an accident.
I wash my hands and take my vitamins because I’m afraid of getting sick.
I exercise because I’m afraid of feeling less energetic or being unhappy with my appearance.

If it weren’t for these fears, I’d be in some sort of actual danger. But what about the fears that are happiness-blockers?

1. I choose my words carefully because I’m afraid of the other person’s reaction or impression.

Happiness Blocker! Let’s pick this apart. Anxiety and fear just don’t hold up against intense scrutiny.

I can’t control the reaction of others, and it’s egotistical to think I can. Short of being all out offensive or inappropriate, why can’t I give my opinion or set boundaries with those around me? I’m not responsible for controlling their emotions or reactions, and I’d be happier if I told my truth instead of holding it in.

I’m afraid of what people will say, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’m sticking to my truth because it will make me a happier person.

2. I’m afraid to put myself in risky situations because I think something terrible will happen to me.

You’ll be able to relate to this if you were born and raised in an anxious family like I was. We’re scared of just about anything. Robbers, accidents, food that’s been out too long. You name it, we worry about it.

I’ve gotten so much better at overcoming my anxiety, but I used to be scared to go on long car rides, and even roller coasters were out of the question at one point.

Who am I to think I can control my destiny by avoiding anything that scares me? Something could happen to anyone at any minute. Spending your life carefully navigating anything risky does nothing but limit you from feeling fulfilled in life.

3. I don’t try new things because I’m unsure of what it will be like.

It feels ridiculous to even list this one. I hardly even realize I’m doing it, but how many times do I turn down going somewhere or doing something because it’s just plain new and scary? I need to force myself to try it because I always, always feel good after I’ve done it.

4. I don’t do something because I’m afraid of feeling the emotion that comes along with it.

How many times have you avoided saying something or doing something because it might make you sad or angry? You might actually have to choose to feel something other than positive. Ugh.

I haven’t visited my Gram in a while because her memory loss makes me sad. When I really analyze that, it again doesn’t stand a chance. It doesn’t even sound right as a sentence.

I want to grab myself by the shirt and give it a good shake. “That’s crazy talk! So what if you feel sad? What is sadness? It’s a feeling. A FEELING! You’re scared of a feeling? So you’ll feel sad for a minute. It’s like a spider sitting in your lap. Not that fun, but it won’t kill you, will it? So just let it sit there a minute. Feel its creepy, disgusting legs crawl across your skin. Hate every minute of it. But when it crawls off, you’ll still be there, feeling stronger.”

Fear is a sly, tricky beast that creeps in and messes with your choices. If you let the feeling of fear be your guide, you may miss out on opportunities to be genuinely happy.

Make a list of your fears, and then set them on fire. Not literally! Jeesh. Analyze and scrutinize those fears. It may be cliche, but figure out really, truly, what’s the worst that will happen?

If it will make you feel good, then embrace that fear and choose to do it anyway.