When you think of courage, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s superheroes like Superman or Wonder Woman. Perhaps your thoughts go to war veterans or police officers. You might think that bravery is this grand character trait only reserved for an elite group of people, but everyone has that power inside them. In this article, we’ll be talking about some of the biggest problems people face with accessing their own personal brand of heroism and giving some tips on how to push aside those mental blocks and start living in spite of doubt.

One of the biggest misconceptions is the idea that, to be courageous, you must also be fearless. Let us let you in on a secret: everyone is afraid of something. Daring people just know how to make their dread work for them rather than against them. While unease may seem like an inherently negative emotion, a little bit is both normal and healthy. It’s a survival instinct that keeps you from doing things like sticking your hand through the gate at the zoo’s lion exhibit or jumping from a plane without a parachute, but it can also be useful in less life-and-death scenarios. For example, if you have a job interview or a presentation at school or work, your apprehension can motivate you to work harder and make sure you’re as prepared as you possibly can be on the big day.

Instead of trying to erase the things that scare you, embrace them. When worry creeps in, remind yourself that everyone is afraid sometimes. You are strong, and you can push through that emotion and do what is necessary. Let that thought become your mantra when doubt threatens to overwhelm. Tell yourself that even if you fail this time, you will learn from the experience, and you will do better in the future. By keeping this sort of positive attitude, you will feel more prepared to face whatever obstacles land in your path.

Another way to dispel the myth is to talk to some of your role models. Ask them about times when they did something you admire, and if they were scared in those moments. Chances are, their answer will be yes. You’ll feel better knowing that even the people you look up to experience fear, and it will encourage you to do what they do and put yourself out there despite your concerns. Remember, you can show just as much tenacity with small actions as with large ones. If you finally make yourself ask out that person you like, you are being assertive. When you decide to hit send on that job application or email that’s been sitting as a draft for weeks, you are doing something courageous. Little acts like these add up. Use your worries to your advantage instead of pushing them away.

Maybe your struggle with being brave comes from your own self-image. Perhaps all your life, you have been the shy one, the one who avoids risks, the coward. You have been told that so many times that now it’s part of your self-definition. This mentality can be hard to break out of, but with effort, you can do it. Start by taking a moment to list some adventurous things you’ve done that you’re proud of, whether in your head or on paper. Remember, these acts can be small. Any moment where you did something that you were afraid to do counts, regardless of how insignificant you may think it was. Most likely, you do something difficult at least one time every day without giving it much thought.  As you compile your list, you will realize that you do a lot of gutsy things in your everyday life. 

Once you disprove your cowardice, you are ready to start being a more actively courageous person. Set yourself goals—small ones, to begin with—to do something outside of your comfort zone at least once or twice a day. Start with the things that give you little trouble, like maybe trying out the new restaurant in town or buying a different brand of milk, and gradually work up to activities that might be very far outside of your normal realm, like traveling to a different country or starting a new relationship, while being careful not to stray too far and end up in dangerous territory. The line between bravery and recklessness is very thin and if you are careless, you can easily slip over the border. 

Each little step takes you closer to becoming the tenacious person you want to be. We believe in your ability to achieve that goal, and we want to guide you in every way we can. If you’re interested in learning more, you can listen to our radio show on breaking out of your familiar box by going to livingfullout.com/radio-show/ and clicking on the episode titled “Discover How to Harness Courage to Limit Fears And Live Full Out.” This show features inspirational guest Justin Willoughby, who, weighing 799 pounds at age 16, struggled with depression and worried for his life. Through determination and hard work, he lost 600 pounds and wrote a book to assist others in changing their lives too. By learning how to unlock your heroic nature, you can live full out.

Contributing Author: Ariel Zinkan