Dare to Be Brave-Part 4: Engage Life with Compassion, Connection and Courage
What we know and do is important, but who we are is more important.
Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.”
The areas in our lives where we feel disconnected disengaged and struggle for worthiness challenge each of us to dig deeper into our reservoir of innate strengths to exhibit a greater measure of compassion, connection and courage. Only then are we willing to show up and let ourselves be seen.
Who Are You Becoming?
A common thread in the Dare to Be Brave series has been that we have to own and engage with vulnerability to transform our lives. There is a subtle, yet, huge spiritual and emotional cost that goes undetected for years, possibly decades when we shut down and disengage life by protecting ourselves with social masks and emotional armor. Any fear and erroneous assumptions we have about vulnerability prevent us from getting in the arena and embracing life wholeheartedly.
When this is the case, it is imperative that you ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who am I becoming as a result of the actions I’m taking?
2. Are my actions aligned more with my values or with my fears?
3. Am I proud of the person I’m becoming?
When your fears dominate your approach to life, your courage shrinks. When your courage shrinks, you begin to play small. When you play small, you lose opportunities to express the fullness of who you are. When you fail to engage outlets for the purpose of expressing who you are, you will begin to feel frustrated with yourself and life. And if you allow this state of being to define who you are, you are more apt to take on a victim mentality versus a champion mentality.
You don’t want to live life as a victim. The seeds of greatness within you yearn to be expressed. It’s your responsibility to stir up the gifts within you and express them passionately and purposefully. This can’t happen without flipping your script on the limiting beliefs and erroneous assumptions you have about vulnerability.
The Process of Becoming Your Bravest Self
It is difficult to own your authentic power without letting go of what people think.
It is difficult to cultivate self-compassion without letting go of perfectionism.
It is difficult to cultivate a resilient spirit without letting go of masks and emotional armor.
It is difficult to embrace the practice of gratitude as a way of life without letting go a scarcity mentality.
It is difficult to cultivate your intuition and trusting faith without letting go of the need for certainty.
It is difficult to cultivate creativity without letting go of the need to compare yourself to others.
It is difficult to engage in play and rest when being busy and exhaustion has become your status symbol.
It is difficult to experience calm and stillness when you’ve accepted anxiety as a way of being and living.
It is difficult to cultivate meaningful work without letting go of self-doubt and all the beliefs you have about what you’re “supposed to” be and do.
It is difficult to express laughter, singing, and dancing without letting go of your need to always be in control.
Becoming your bravest self involves the process of developing habits that cause you to feel empowered in order for you to embrace a new way of BEing that involves accepting uncertainty as a part of life, taking risks, and embracing and sharing the truth of your feelings and emotions and unique code of greatness.
Becoming your bravest self involves cultivating a strong belief in your worthiness and holding yourself in a positive light. Regardless of the struggles you face, it is imperative that you hold firmly the belief that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy.
Becoming your bravest self requires that you embrace vulnerability. It is through vulnerability that you discover the power of compassion, connection, and courage.
Many of the lessons I’ve learned and the insights I share as a coach, writer, personal growth, and self-leadership teacher and speaker has come as a result of overcoming disappointments, heartache, and adversity. I have discovered that this ability is what Business Strategist Tara Gentile refers to as my unfair advantage.
As a child, I was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to have a dream that inspires me to believe that I can serve my way to greatness by being intentional toward using what I have and know to make a difference in the lives of others. This sincere desire coupled with childlike faith that I will live out the divine plan and purpose for my life provides me with the necessary foresight to see how my most challenging experiences prepare me to serve others in a greater capacity.
Redefining My Strong Black Woman Social Mask
In my book, Get Unstuck Now I share how after the unexpected death of my son, Blease I protected myself by numbing my feelings. And, how no amount of partying, booze or emotional buying helped me to heal my soul wound. I expressed how I was so concerned with maintaining my distorted definition of a “Strong Black Woman” that it contributed to me getting stuck in the fear-based story I started to tell myself which only increased my despair and sense of powerlessness.
It was not until I begin to see and peel back the layers of fallacy in the story I was telling myself about my loss and engage the process of healing my heart wound in a healthy manner that I was able to recognize the need to redefine what it meant for me to be a strong black woman.
In the past, I would boast about how I could “turn-on” and “turn-off” my feelings. I wore this belief and way of BEing like a badge of honor. In the past, I placed a greater value on what I was doing versus what I was feeling. In the past, I suppressed a lot of my feelings in personal relationships to maintain peace and avoid conflict while I used sex, alcohol, and work as a way to avoid having difficult conversations. In the past, being a strong black woman meant doing whatever it took to help someone or reach a goal. Sometimes, my actions were not in my long-term best interest.
Today, I’m my #1 priority. I believe that being a strong black woman requires that I take care of myself first. It means that I honor my core values and beliefs. It means that I establish boundaries in all of my relationships. It means expecting others to treat me with respect. It means engaging a personal relationship with someone who has similar values and beliefs and with whom I can have a strong friendship and partnership. It means having the courage to have difficult conversations in a respectful manner. It means being very mindful of those I allow in my inner circle of friends.
Being a strong black woman means that I will not accept scarcity as a way of life. It means that I must make time on a consistent basis to sharpen my sow to increase my efficiency and effectiveness towards the goals I want to achieve. It means honoring the Sabbath and taking a day each week to tune-out the world so that I can tune-in to the wisdom of my inner guide, rest my body and rejuvenate my spirit.
It means engaging purposeful opportunities to stir up the gifts within me so that I am able to serve others in a greater capacity. It means expressing the truth of my feelings in a respectful manner and accepting that doing so increases my spiritual, emotional, and mental strength. Being a strong black woman means that I practice radical self-love and self-compassion because to do otherwise leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger. And I refuse to squander my life living bitter and angry. Instead, dwelling in a state of peace, love, and joy is my ultimate daily goal.
Although this is my ultimate daily goal, I miss the mark. However, the work I continue to do towards mastering the meaning of my experiences enables me to accept my imperfections while holding myself accountable for walking my talk. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asserts, “People who learn how to control their inner experiences will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”
Compassion: Healing Balm for Wounded Souls
There’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness,” writes Brené Brown.
Engaging compassion, connection, and courage certainly challenge us to dare greatly!
Recently I had an experience with someone who was upset about something that had nothing to do with me, however, the energy of the words she spoke triggered a visceral response that created a shift in my mental and emotional energy. Although I didn’t like the person’s response, I couldn’t figure out why I was responding to the situation from a protective state of mind. It was not until I begin to show myself some tender loving-kindness that I was able to see that the person’s outburst triggered my need to protect myself because the incident occurred in an environment that I did not control. So, I started to feel unsafe in the environment.
As I finish this article, I am writing these words realizing that there is most likely something deeper that I need to flush out in order for me to process the emotional trigger that led me to be in this defensive mode. Until then, I will extend myself compassion and do my best to see the individual from a compassionate perspective.
By no means does this mean that by showing this person compassion I will open myself up to a similar experience. No. It means that I will use the gift of self-awareness to begin the process of healing that place in my soul that was affected by this experience. I will maintain an emotional safe zone whenever I’m in this person’s presence and extend kindness towards the individual. For now, that’s the best that I can do. And I’m okay with that.
If you’ve been reading any of my articles for a while, you know I don’t subscribe to this notion that we should overextend ourselves for others to our detriment. I’m not a martyr. Nor should you be. That’s why establishing boundaries in our relationships is important.
When we see ourselves and others through the lens of compassion our hearts are more open and resilient. We are more apt to be mindful about balancing our perspectives on our experiences. Because I see this experience as a tool for helping me sharpen my sow, I’m grateful that it occurred so that I can shine a light on the beliefs and emotions that shaped my reaction. As I seek to find the treasure within this experience, I expect to become wiser, better, and stronger. Compassion s a soothing balm for healing the wounded places of our souls and the souls of others.
Quality Connections Increase Your Sense of Belonging
The two most powerful forms of connection are love and belonging. Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “…only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seemed to struggle for it: the belief in their worthiness.” She points out, “It’s as simple and complicated as this: If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.”
When we feel seen, heard, and valued and believe that we can share our honest thoughts and feelings without judgment, we feel connected. People can be in the presence of “their people” and feel alone. Real connection is not just being in someone’s presence. Real connection is when you feel valued by others. And "feeling valued" is different for each of us.
We have an innate desire to be part of something larger than ourselves. Our yearning for belonging and purpose often leads us to try to be someone we’re not and engage in behavior against our beliefs and values to fit in and receive the approval of others. These are hollow substitutes for belonging. So often, they become barriers to the very thing we desire: a sense of belonging.
Brown writes, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
As you seek to live a more connected life, establish healthy boundaries in your relationships, spend less time and energy hustling for people’s approval, and more time with family and close friends who support you through their actions. You will feel a greater sense of belonging and connection.
Get in the Arena: Activate Your Courage
In her book, Find Your Courage, Margie Warrell shares, “The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning “heart,” and so the essence of courage is about living “wholeheartedly.” Therefore so long as you have breath in your body you have all that it takes to live a courageous life. In fact, your life is waiting for you to do just that-not because you might die if you don’t act with courage, but because without it, you may never truly live.”
My friend, courage is not just about the heroic acts that we read about or see on the evening news, it’s also a reflection of the choices we make on a daily basis. Such as, when we take responsibility for our lives, live with inner integrity, challenge our limiting stories, dream BIG in the face of daunting circumstances, persevere in the face of failure, say “No” to people, tasks and activities that are not aligned with the vision we have of the life we want to experience, speaking up for what we believe and taking action even when we feel afraid because of a compelling vision we hold in our heart about a new possibility.
In the introductory article of this series, I shared Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, “The Man in the Arena” which reads,
“It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
Becoming Your Bravest Self
Finding your courage to dare greatly challenges you to learn how to better manage your perception of your fears and self-doubt. Self-doubt is often a reflection of your fear of failure, being rejected, looking foolish, or just being inadequate. Finding the courage to dare greatly requires you to acknowledge and accept your fears and insecurities as a normal part of the human experience, while at the same time, refusing to allow them to define who you are, who you can become, and what you are worthy of experiencing in life. Finding your courage to dare greatly increases your ability to think bigger, live bolder, and create more rewarding lives.
Encouraging Words from My Book, Get Unstuck Now
Be patient with yourself as you embrace the process of this journey. All progress is a process. Be confident in your ability to make incremental progress towards transforming the beliefs and assumptions that limit you from believing that you are well able to walk boldly in the arena embodying your authentic power.
You are loved. You are worthy. You are valued. You may think you are weak, but God knows the strength dwelling in you. Even when everyone else sees only your faults, God still sees possibilities. You may make mistakes; God has not given up on you. You may feel you don’t know your way; God is able to help you find your way.
It’s never too late to tap into a greater measure of the seeds of greatness in your potential. One step taken today towards showing up and allowing yourself to be seen brings you one step closer to expressing more of your authentic power than you were yesterday. Trust in the wisdom of your inner voice which prompted you to read this article. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
As you exhibit compassion towards yourself and others, establish healthy boundaries in your relationships, cultivate relationships with individuals who got your back and consistently show you that they are for you, maintain a balanced perspective on your experiences, accept the reality that you will experience some measure of self-doubt and fear as long as you live and decide that you won’t allow this reality define who you are and who you can become and what you are worthy of experiencing in life, you will expand the territory of your life in ways beyond what you can imagine or think.
Hope is necessary to find the courage to dare greatly. Hope inspires you with gratitude for what is, while a compelling vision of new possibilities inspires a passionate determination to create what can be.
1. What actions can you begin to take to develop a practice of self-compassion?
2. Are you in relationships with people that you need to establish healthy boundaries? If so, script the crucial conversation that needs to take place so that you don’t try to wing it or allow the conversation to get hijacked by emotions.
3. What can you do to accept yourself which will increase your sense of connection and belonging?
Feel free to send me a private message in my chatbot on my website or social media about this series. I would appreciate your feedback.
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Go Be Great,
Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly. USA. Penguin Group. 2012.
Warrell, Margie. Find Your Courage. USA. New York, New York. Pocket Books. 1990. Print.
Brown, Jackie. Get Unstuck Now. USA. Createspace. 2014.