Hi! I'm Carrien.

Don't Measure Your Courage By What You See Someone Else Doing

Published 10 months ago • 3 min read


Parenting Coach & Writer

Dear Reader,

Last week my daughter showed me a video last week of a man speed climbing a cliff face with no safety gear. He looked like he was practically running up the side of this mountain. (Here’s the link, if you want to watch it.)

I was fine watching it until he jumped. While hundreds of meters up in the air on a vertical cliff face he leaped, his whole body in flight for a few seconds, before his hands gripped the edge and he hauled himself up. It was that moment when I felt the fear in my body. I felt muscles that I forgot I even had clench in response, my stomach lurched ever so slightly, and I found myself backing away from the screen.

Just, no.

Something about watching a person launch themselves into the air like that, somewhere so high where one error leads to death, makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. I don’t like it.

But that climber? He had done it a hundred times or more. He knew that climb, he knew the holds. He knew what he could do. For him, it was not only possible, it was something he had already done. How much courage does it take to do something you have already done before?

How much courage does it take to try something new?

Courage is not measured by what is accomplished. It is measured by what is overcome.

Because we don’t have to be brave if we aren’t doing something that scares us.

For one person that thing that scares us might be climbing a cliff face. For another, it’s walking into a room and starting a painful but necessary conversation.

Every Day Courage

There is the everyday courage of choosing to get up and face the day; of showing up and doing your best, even when you would rather not, because your life at present is filled with pain.

In fact, I think that often the things that require the most courage don’t look remarkable at all from the outside. For example:

  • Allowing yourself to be seen and known.
  • Feeling those feelings you keep pushing down, the big ones that you're scared to unpack.
  • Confronting the truth about yourself and admitting your mistakes.
  • Apologizing when you wrong someone.
  • Getting up and trying again after a set back.
  • Telling the truth.

These are unsung acts of courage, remarkable feats that require us to be truly brave. Few will ever see it, or know how much courage it took for you to do those things. But you know. You know how much your knees shook when you took that first step. You know.

Measure your courage by how deep the fear was that you had to overcome, not by what you see the person next to you doing. We all have different struggles. What is easy for you, like walking out the front door, might require another person to use every ounce of courage they have.

But the more we practice to be brave, the easier it gets. We can look back at past moments of courage and remind ourselves that we can in fact do things that scare us, and we have survived and become stronger as a result.

“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it by use.”—Ruth Gordon

To think about:

Is there something you’ve been putting off because it scares you a little? Or a lot?

Maybe you don’t characterize it as fear. Maybe you just feel overwhelmed when you think about doing it, or exhausted, or flooded with feelings.

Get curious. (I know, I say that a lot. But it works.)

Ask, what about this bothers me? What story am I telling myself about it? What am I afraid will happen when I do it?

Disarm your fear by looking at it head on and really trying to understand why you’re scared.

I have often found it true that the thing I am most afraid of is the exact thing I most need to do. If it weren’t worth doing, it wouldn’t scare me, because there wouldn’t be any stakes.

Courage looks different for everyone. Take the brave steps that require courage of you, and don’t compare them to anyone else. You, and you alone, know how much courage it requires to move yourself forward. Give yourself all the credit for doing it scared.

Love, Carrien

PS. Is there anything you have done recently that required you to be brave? I'd love to hear about it.

Is there anything you know you need to do, but fear has kept you from taking that first step? If you're willing to share it with me, I'd like to hear about that too. Maybe telling someone about it is your first brave step toward actually doing it. I'll be here cheering you on.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this, please share it with a friend.

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Hi! I'm Carrien.

I help parents raise resilient children, without feeling overwhelmed, so that they can be brave to try hard things.

I'm a writer, parent mentor, and resilience coach. My passion for helping parents to protect their children and raise them to be resilient has extended to creating resources that have helped thousands of refugee and migrant families on the Thailand/Myanmar border through my work with The Charis Project. - I am also the mother of 6 amazing and rather resilient humans, who have managed to thrive in spite of their unconventional upbringing and being dragged around the world by their parents. - Join me here for words to heal and fill your parent heart and shape the words you give to your children.

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