Courage

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

In the last few years, I’ve had to dig deep to draw upon my own courage. In the face of health challenges and multiple surgeries for endometriosis; difficulties in a workplace that despite being somewhere I loved to be, was demanding more of me than I could give; two significant mental health crises that meant that I had to be brave and seek help; the sudden and brutal ending of a career that I thought meant the end of my life.

Despite all of the challenges, I’ve always come through the other side, even when I truly believed that there could not possibly be a way to overcome or navigate the obstacles that were in my way. In the last few months, whilst working with coaching clients and also through my own coaching work, I have really reflected on what it is that has driven me to fight rather than curl up in a ball and give in.

Some people who know me well might say that I am stubborn and therefore I won’t give in, no matter what. I was born in February 1973, making me an ‘Ox’ under the Chinese zodiac and an Aquarius in the traditional astrological zodiac. Now, I am not someone who reads the astronomy predictions as a rule, but when I go looking at the character traits of these signs that I was born under, there are some things that ring true. Let’s see;

Every Aquarian is a rebel at heart. Free spirited and eccentric, they can often be identified by their offbeat fashion sensibilities, unusual hobbies and nonconformist attitudes.

An Aquarius woman is typically smart and independent. She’s a woman who marches to the beat of her own drum, requires the freedom to be who she is, as well as to think and do what she wants. She is typically a cool, friendly, eccentric and unconventional female.

People born in the year of the Ox are strong, reliable, fair and conscientious, inspiring confidence in others. They are calm, patient, methodical and can be trusted. Although they say very little, they can be very opinionated. They believe strongly in themselves, but are also stubborn and hate to fail.

The Ox:

Does things out of personal ideas and ability; always strive for their goals; diligent, motivated; extraordinary determination; great endurance.

Stubborn!

Tick, tick, tick and tick!

So, was it written in the stars that this is how I was going to be? Who knows? I tend not to dismiss anything that I cannot absolutely disprove, but equally I don’t accept things that I cannot prove or trust with my own intuition. I am a paradox wrapped up in bones and meat!

I do know that I am courageous, in my own quiet way. I don’t shout about it or make a fuss, but my courage is what has given me the strength to fight my way through the grief of losing my job and the sense of my own identity that was so tied up in it. My courage has given me the fuel to set fire to so many of the limiting beliefs that I held about myself. It’s the thing that sparks in my brain on the mornings where I really just want to pull the duvet over my head and stay there. It’s given me the power to look inwardly, to reflect on who I had become and to see the disconnect between that persona and who I really am at my core.

Courage is what is driving me to believe in myself and all of my abilities, the ones that I know about and the ones that are yet to be unearthed. I’ve discovered my voice and I’m using it in different ways, supporting others by lending my strength and power to help build them up when they don’t feel that they can.

This is a time where so very many of us are struggling with the everyday business of living. A global pandemic; massive schisms in society that are fracturing communities, families and other personal relationships; inequalities in so many aspects of life. For teachers, TAs and non teaching support staff (yes, you wonderful site managers, admin teams, midday supervisors, librarians, cleaning teams and everyone else!) the challenges of this pandemic are simply heightening feelings of anxiety and stress attached to the workplace. They are emphasising the challenges of our education system, showing the cracks and the inequalities and pushing a great many people to the very edges of what they feel they can take. There is FEAR and DREAD, where there should be joy, fulfilment and happiness.

If this is you – feeling that your courage has been drained away from you – then let me know. I know how it feels – I’ve lived it. I’ve felt broken, scared, defeated and trapped. I’ve learned that those feelings are just reflective of a state of mind at a point in time and we can change them – sometimes you just need someone to take your hand and shine a light into the darkness to show you the way.

If you have an experience to share or a story to tell about your own personal courage, please let me know. I would love to chat with you for my podcast series, launching soon.

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