Tag Archives: self awareness

The Courage To Be

When I search my soul for the answer to the question what is courage, this is what comes up.


Facing fear.

Facing Life.

Facing death.

Facing risk and uncertainty.

Facing choice.

Facing truth.

Facing abandonment.

Facing pain.

Facing me.


FacingWhen I reflect on these words there are two things I notice.

Firstly, there is no requirement to do anything other than just be in the face of anxiety. Standing quietly, not running away is all that is required to be courageous. In a world that mandates that we run away from ourselves, to stand, on our own terms, taking ownership and responsibility of our lives, is indeed courage. It is enough.

Secondly, whenever I remember these words, that seem to have come from somewhere else, I feel profoundly calm. They offer a challenge but it feels good and right. They provide me with strength.

I wanted to share them with you x


Escaping from the Prison of Anxiety

There is just one thing that stands in the way of courage, and that is anxiety. If we could somehow manage our anxiety we could stop the way it holds us back. Clearly, this is not going to be quick, it is going to take effort and determination. It is possible to break through.

I have probably mentioned before that fear is built into the human brain. It is the most important response in survival terms and therefore the first thing to get triggered if there is any hint of danger, however slight. This is not going away, it is part of being human so our anxiety will continue to be triggered. But don’t lose hope yet.

You don’t need me to tell you that life these days is hectic. We are constantly stimulated and distracted, so we delegate a lot to our subconscious. We have to in order to cope with all the information we have to process. But by doing this we allow our barely conscious feelings of anxiety to guide our behaviour. When we feel the beginnings of our anxiety stirring, we cope by not doing, not going, not speaking. The feelings subside and normality is resumed. Over time, our anxiety increasingly limits our behaviour until it becomes a prison.

To gain mastery over anxiety we have to face it.

Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling, not painful exactly, but unpleasant. It might be experienced as a gnawing sensation in the pit of the stomach, or a pounding of the heart, a feeling of heat, a feeling of disorganized energy, a feeling of fragmentation. Our muscles tighten and our breathing becomes shallow as we prepare for fight or flight. We might visibly flush, sweat or shake, which only compounds our discomfort, knowing that others can see how anxious we are feeling. Our thoughts become disorganized and we fixate on negative outcomes, tapping into our underlying fears of failure, ridicule and rejection

When we start to face anxiety and really understand what it feels like we are able to recognize its beginning. We can counter anxiety at a physical level if we catch it early. This means being more tuned into our physical state, turning our senses inwards instead of being always outwards.

We learn our early warning signs of anxiety being triggered, and consciously do the opposite. We consciously relax our muscles and deepen our breathing. Calm the scattered energy by imagining it coming together and taking it down lower, into the abdomen or base of the spine and in doing so feel more grounded. Gain control of the negative spiral of thoughts by reminding yourself that the negative thoughts that spring from anxiety are not rational and are rarely true.

Feel the edge, stay there, hold it, breathe. Realise that anxiety is a feeling, an experience and is a necessary part of being alive, just like all the other various feelings and experiences, good and bad. Gently and quietly pass through those prison walls.

As you ground yourself, become more centred and together, your anxiety loses its power to hold you back. You still feel the symptoms but you are back in control. You can now choose how you want to act.

As you practice you get better and better at controlling your anxiety. In doing so you become more clear, more courageous and you become free.




Strength in Vulnerability

It is so hard to show ourselves as we really are. Most of us have a suspicion that deep down we are not really ok. This is a real problem because it condemns us to a lifetime of struggle to hide who we really are. So much so that most of us don’t even want to look there ourselves for fear of what we might find. It also condemns us to a life of solitude because we can never let anyone close enough to see who we really are, to show ourselves in all our human frailty and imperfection. We imagine that such a rejection of our heart and soul would be devastating. So we pretend and we hide.

So let’s imagine what if. What if we muster up the courage to look at ourselves, and keep on looking, finding our weaknesses, our vulnerability, seeing our real truth and beauty? What if we were to accept ourselves with compassion, warts and all? Then what if we were brave enough to share ourselves at this deeper level with those we love and trust? If they reject us, we still have our own acceptance of ourselves to come back to. But just imagine what if they were able to see us, accept us, love us not in spite of but because of our vulnerability?

We think that vulnerability is weakness so we hide it, but it takes great courage to be vulnerable, to show up as imperfect as we really are. We face condemnation and rejection. As we continue to deliberately and consciously live with our vulnerability on show, as we learn that we have nothing to prove and nothing to hide, gradually we become invincible.

The Two Words that Shape our Lives

The path of our life is dictated by what we say yes to and what we say no to. Our lives are shaped by what we accept into our life and what we turn down. Opportunities, activities, people and experiences come our way and the decisions we take have a critical influence on how the rest of our life unfolds.

However, we sometimes find that we get into a habit of saying yes, or of saying no.

Some people say yes to pretty much every request that comes their way. Their difficulty in saying no can be so extreme that they exhaust themselves to the point of burnout before realising that something is going wrong. Life is finite. Time is finite. Every time we say yes to something we are saying no to something else. People who say ‘yes’ too much are saying ‘no’ to themselves, to their needs and wants.

There are other people whose primary orientation is to say ‘no’. They say no to new opportunities, to new people, to change, to risk. It’s as if saying no keeps them safe, keeps them safe from challenge, from demands, from failure, from rejection. Change comes to everyone, it is an intrinsic part of life. The more we try to control this, the less prepared we are when it comes. By saying no we keep ourselves in our comfort zone, and we find that our comfort zone shrinks, until we fear our own shadow.

Either way, when things are out of balance like this, there are disastrous consequences for our quality of life. Given the vital importance of choosing what we say yes to and what we say no to, it is important to gain control over our decisions and choose wisely.

So what should we say yes to and what should we say no to? How are we to know what is right? The truth is that we can’t know how our decisions will turn out. But this doesn’t let us off. I believe that putting our lives in the hands of fate is an excuse. We have to take the responsibility of taking our life seriously.

We cannot know the consequences but we can still consider what we think will lead to the best outcome. What will give us pleasure and/or help us grow? What will take us out of our comfort zone so that we might grow and learn? What will give others pleasure and/or help them grow? What are the risks involved? Which of these considerations is most important right now?

We can also tune into our intuition. Taking a moment to check in with ourself, with how we feel if we are to say yes, and how we feel if we are to say no may give us the clear answer we need.

With practice, we can bring more of our decisions under conscious control, and so our lives become more deliberate, more self-governing, more our own.



The Reality Check

In my studies of psychology literature there is a constant theme.  The path to psychological well-being is a process of increasing self-awareness, whether that is a private journey or assisted by a therapist or coach.

As we start to reflect on our thoughts, feelings and behaviour, we start to see patterns that come automatically to us, that we haven’t noticed before.  We start to see the impact of these patterns on ourselves, our lives and on others.  They may be helpful or detrimental but as long as we remain unaware, they are always limiting.  Raising awareness means that we have to make choices.

If we continue this process of increasing awareness and choice, we will see more and more of our patterns, bring them into question, and choose to keep or discard them.  This ongoing process removes our biases, and allows us to see the world with greater and greater clarity.  When we remove our blinkers and distortions we are better able to see the world as it really is, and see ourselves as we really are.

As we face ourselves we gradually let go of our rigid thinking and defenses, and so we have more of our intelligence available to us.  We raise our ability to think critically and creatively about the situations we find ourselves in.  We become more flexible and appropriate in our responses.

The process of self-reflection releases us towards a healthier, more satisfying life.

Working with a therapist or psychologically trained coach speeds up the process considerably, as they can see our blind spots more clearly and lead us towards awareness, and support us through change.