The Truth About Courage (Courage Isn’t What You Think!)

By March 25, 2014 Thought-Revolution 4 Comments


Last week my friend Erin Trafford, a news anchor on Global Television in Halifax, gave me a shout out in her fun DIY blog for my courage. It was a flattering surprise and I appreciate it.

My understanding of courage (as a person who has been called courageous over the years, be it for my recent HIV-disclosure, or quitting my lucrative job in finance so long ago, or just always going for my dreams and goals) contradicts the false premise within many people’s understanding of what courage really is.

Most seem to pay the courage compliment with a sense of, “Wow, you’ve got something I wish I had.”

I have even been asked “where” I got my courage from. says courage is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear”.

This definition of courage isn’t true for me. Courage is not something you own, that you tap into, or access. It isn’t something you are born with.

And it certainly comes with fear.

I don’t “have” courage. Most of my life I have felt more Cowardly Lion than Lion King. Much of my ride, my heart has been thumping in my chest. Often, as I continue to climb in my life and face new problems and challenges, I become aware of how shallow my breath is.

As I grow my business and my life, I constantly step into unfamiliar arenas. Stress, nerves, anxiousness and fear are often greatly amplified. Every day exclusively feels new, no roadmap, nothing predictable. Change is always in the mix; I still feel like a kid who knows nothing. I bite off more than I can chew, and I deal with all kinds of personalities, all kinds of people who know more than me, are older or wiser than me, or have more perceived power than me, or who are bullies. I have had phone conversations where my voice shook because I was so far out of my comfort zone; I’ve hung up from calls so intimidating that my head was spinning.

In the cab heading to CBC to publicly disclose my HIV status live on-air last summer, I had to fight to breathe deeply and calm myself. You can see in the video of the interview that I almost can’t speak for a moment, and I vividly remember forcing myself not to just get up and run out of the studio.

Which is why I feel people have courage wrong. All they see is that I did tough things – and think I “had the courage” to do them.

Courage isn’t something you access, and then do what needs to be done.

You do what you fear doing, and then you have been courageous. >Tweet this.

It takes courage to tune out those who tell you you are wrong, or you can’t, or you should not. When you do that, you are courageous.

It takes courage to feel fear but to face it anyway: the intimidating conversation, the larger-than-you business call, the WTF financial risk, the letting down your walls in a relationship, or the leaving a relationship that no longer serves you.

Courage is staying when everyone else leaves. Courage is following your gut when everyone else is following each other. Creativity takes courage – but you have to be creative first. Getting back up after you fall takes courage – but you have to get up first. Dreaming takes courage.

Only once you have done such things, have you been courageous.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s not some kind of bequeathed confidence. That is the illusion many people are under about courage, the false premise.

There cannot be courage unless you feel intimidation or fear or weakness. Courage is the gold medal you get after you find it in yourself to go forth – anyway – despite how awful the idea of doing what scared you made you feel.

Courage, therefore, is accessible to all. I’m not unique, nobody you think is courageous or brave is any different than you. Except they quit their job, they made the call, they took the risk, they walked into the space that frightened the crap out of them them – anyway. Courage is an act of love – for yourself, your life, those around you.

Courage, simply, is asking yourself who you want to be – and then doing as that person would do.>Tweet this.

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  • Jeannot says:

    Thank you….Well said… You are my Gay White Oprah

  • Tracy says:

    Thank you. Very interesting how things come to you. A friend had posted on Facebook , and I had seen it before, ” If you were standing in front of you as a child what would be the two words of advice you would give.” Mine were, be brave. I think being brave and having courage are very similar and something I need a bit more of. Thank you so much for writing this – it is inside of me but for some reason its hesitant and that drives me insane. Thanks again.

    • Shaun Proulx says:

      I understand the hesitancy and I’m not sure it goes away. With time you recognize that once again it’s just that old hesitancy getting in the way (almost with boredom?) and you just push through it, ultimately believing that well-being is the order of the day. Which, I continue to discover, is the truth.

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