Boost Your Courage

Many situations in life call upon us to do something we find scary, upsetting, uncomfortable, anxiety provoking, or distressing, in other words, to display emotional courage by stepping outside our comfort zones and do what we know is right or healthy despite the trepidation we feel.

Unfortunately, our natural inclination in such moments is to avoid the situation or procrastinate, or to find excuses and justifications that allow us a graceful and sometimes, not-so-graceful exit, so we continue avoiding the situation.

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So here are 4 ways to boost your emotional courage: 

The following suggestions are ways to minimise your fear and apprehension before and during critical moments that require emotional courage so you can maximse your chances of taking action. Although I use specific examples in each, you can apply each of these principles to most situations.

1. Don’t overthink it: Anxious about asking out someone in your social circle? It might be natural to avoid situations that have the potential for rejection but the more you ruminate about whether you should, the scarier the idea becomes. Our emotional courage is prone to leaking, which means, the longer you wait, the less of it you’ll have. Therefore, once you’ve decided to ask someone out or do anything that requires emotional courage, don’t wait—act.

2. Focus on the threshold not the act itself. Apprehensive about bringing up a complaint with your spouse or family member? Figure out what you want to say ahead of time (read Complain to Your Spouse without Starting an Argument) and then focus on saying, “we need to talk” rather than on worrying about how the talk will go. In this as well as many other scenarios, ‘entering’ the situation is half the battle, so pushing yourself through the threshold (e.g., by saying “we need to talk”) takes that pressure off and makes you extremely likely to have the actual conversation.

3. Commit yourself ahead of time. Scared of going to the gym because you’re out of shape? Make an appointment with a trainer (most gym’s offer a free training session or two when you join) as you’re much more likely to go once you have an actual person waiting for you. Worried about going to your first twelve-step meeting? Tell others when and where you plan to attend. Committing yourself ahead of time or voicing intentions to loved ones will make you feel more likely to follow through and the declaration will also boost your determination and courage.

4. Do it with a friend: Social anxiety makes you uncomfortable about signing up for a class or joining a meetup group? Recruit a friend to do it with you. Interacting with another person is a tried and true way of managing fear and anxiety—which is why people waiting for job interviews often strike up conversations in the waiting room.