"Only if you stand on my lab table in the front of the room and sing 'Joy to the World'," said Mr. Sneider, my science teacher.
It was the first week of freshman year of high school. I'd forgotten my homework and asked if it could be turned in the next day. I looked him in the eye and smiled as I pushed back my chair. As I proceeded to the front of the silent room, I could feel 25 sets of eyes on my back, many of them belonging to students I had not yet met. I climbed on the high, black table and stood in my Madonna-inspired outfit, with a mesh bow in my badly permed hair (it was 1986...) I took a deep breath and proceeded to belt out every verse of the "Jeremiah was a bullfrog..." version of "Joy to the World." I received a standing ovation.
This silly display of bold behavior led to unexpected blessings in my life. Two girls whom I didn't know came up to me after class, said it was the bravest thing they ever saw and asked me to be their friend (which I still am today.) Mr. Sneider was dumbfounded as he apparently had been saying that line for 20 years with no takers. He gave me credit for the homework and spread the story like wildfire amongst the teaching staff. As I went to my other classes, my teachers would say, "Aren't you the girl who... ?" This event resulted in the teachers taking notice, and encouraging me to become involved in activities such as student government, cheerleading and A'Capella choir...
In my adult life, I continue to consciously choose to push fear aside and to live courageously. This has welcomed much growth and opportunity into my life. As an entrepreneur, I've relied heavily on courage to survive episodes of great challenge over the past 10 years, as my practice has grown to a team of nearly 70 therapists practicing from six locations (i.e. the loss of a business partner, extreme financial challenges, etc.) Some of my staff recently thanked me for being their "fearless leader," a term of endearment that hit me deep as it honored an aspect of myself that has been carved from the challenges of my mission met by the resiliency of my spirit.
On a very personal note, I recently made the enormous and terrifying decision to get divorced after spending 25 years as a couple, 18 years of marriage, and having two incredible daughters together. There was no major flaw and many wonderful strengths to our relationship, but for some years there was a disconnection in my heart that wasn't reconnecting despite valiant efforts from both parties... Having those honest conversations was the scariest thing I have ever done, hands down. Now on the other side of the decision, I feel deep peace, relief and gratitude for having the courage to be honest with myself and those whom I love. Although painful and sad, I trust that living truthfully will bring growth, goodness and blessings for all involved (Amen.)
Over the past 20 years of working as a psychotherapist, I have been awed and inspired by the fierce courage of my clients. I've been honored to accompany them on their journeys as they have tapped into their power and emancipated themselves from abusive and toxic relationships, oppressive religious and cultural practices, exploitative or meaningless jobs or careers, and other dysfunctional dynamics. I've supported them in connecting with their highest and greatest selves and opening themselves up for love, learning, and living in a whole new way.
It's critical for each of us to detach from fear and tap into our courage. Happiness can only occur if we are leading our life in a way that is congruent with our authentic self, and authenticity requires courage. Center your mind/body/spirit through a few minutes of deep breathing, yoga, stretching or meditation and practice the following are affirmations to strengthen your courage:
1. I claim my personal power and refuse to give it away to others.
2. I share my talents and gifts openly and brightly. I refuse to make myself small or less-than for the sake of not threatening others.
3. I shine the unique light of my spirit with brilliance and magnificence.
4. I use my voice to speak honestly and directly for my mind, my heart and my gut.
5. Because I love myself, I regularly ask for what I want, need, hope, desire and dream.
6. I trust I will survive and manage all that comes and refuse to succumb to the fear of rejection or failure.
7. I express love openly and freely with awesome vulnerability and joy.
8. My sexuality blossoms and I express myself with freedom and love for self and others.
9. I free myself from the masks I wear and openly share my authentic self with others.
10. I set healthy boundaries personally and professionally and say "no" as needed.
11. I say the difficult things that need to be said, as long as they are kind, necessary and true.
12. I actively seek work, hobbies and relationships that are meaningful to me and nurturing to my soul and free myself from commitments that bind my spirit.
13. I welcome new experiences, relationships and opportunities that will expand my comfort zone.
14. I practice self-compassion and self-acceptance and lovingly melt away any shame, embarrassment or insecurity to prevents me from being my highest and best self.
15. I free myself from the powers of fear, uncertainty and doubt. I choose love, faith and courage as my guides.
You deserve a bigger and better life. Tap into your inner power and access your higher support. Start that life today.
"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen... The willingness to show up changes us -- It makes us a little braver each time." -- Brene Brown