Over the past twelve months, all of us have had our lives thrown into chaos and every day brings with it the unknown. Now more than ever, on any given day, we all have a moment where we struggle with our fears and this struggle is real as we come to terms with the new normal.

In this episode, we are going to unpack courage and go through five important steps that will help you start stepping up your courage, boost your confidence and begin to live a full and meaningful life alongside your fears. You will learn that moving through life with courage, allows you to see the world from a different perspective.

Courage gives you the power to chase your dreams and seize opportunities as they present themselves. Embracing courage broadens the experiences you have in your life and most importantly, making courage a part of your life equips you with the ability to empower others to do the same.

In this episode:

0:58 – Introduction

05:32 – How to step up your courage

06:03 – Number 1. Acknowledging your fears

11:40 – Number 2. Owning your fears

18:28 – Number 3. Living your life to others standards

23:54 – Number 4. Asking for support

27:44 – Number 5. Avoid the negatives

31:25 – Conclusion

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:58

Over the past twelve months, all of us have had our lives thrown into chaos and we have had to navigate a life lived out of our control. Everyone’s experience of COVID 19 is different depending on where you live in the world. Despite where that may be, everyone has been impacted on some level by the pandemic, but it is true to say that everyone has experienced some kind of loss. Some of you may have lost family members, some of you may have lost your livelihoods, your businesses, your physical and mental health has been in decline, but everyone has experienced some form of loss that has caused us to experience fear and anxiety.

Every day brings with it the unknown and this can be really frightening. We are all having to come to terms with the fear of the unknown. Now more than ever, on any given day, we all have a moment where we struggle with our fears and this struggle is real as we come to terms with our new normal. We might be considering a career change, wanting to step up order to help others in the community, or just needing to stand up for what’s right when we experience injustice. But then a tiny voice pipes up within us and says “there’s no point”, “I don’t have the courage to speak up” or “It’s all too hard” and “this is too much for me”. Can you relate to any of this? Are you struggling with fear? Are you lacking the courage to overcome those fears? What are the voices in your head telling you? What are you fearful of and why is this keeping you from moving forward in your life?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 02:58

In this episode we are going to look at ways you can step up your courage, because now is the time more than ever to stop listening to those voices, the very ones that are holding you back from leading your best life. Don’t let these voices dictate your life. To be honest, I thought I was courageous till this pandemic hit and then I realised that I feared letting go of control. Ask anyone in my family, I am such a control freak and not being in control scared me incredibly. I had to acknowledge that fear, not be hard on myself and have the courage to stop listening to those voice and roll with the punches. This has taken some work. It’s important to understand that all of us have the capacity to live an extraordinary life of joy, success, vitality, and achievement. We can’t let FEAR stop us from what we want and what we truly deserve.

So we need to move forward and let go because living a courageous life is one of the best ways to succeed in every aspect of our lives. But if you’re like most people, you probably equate courage with fearlessness, but that’s a faulty interpretation. Courage is that moment and that willingness to step up and speak up despite fear? So courage is engaging with and not avoiding fear. Aristotle once said that courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.

Whether you call it “fear” or you want to call it discomfort, life challenges—look whatever you call it, don’t allow fear of what might happen keep you stuck in life. People may think I am courageous, but I can assure you that I have been guilty of this in my life. I have let my fears get in the way of living the life that I dreamed of because I was worried what others might think, I was fearful of the unknown, but mostly I have feared failure. I had to learn to step up and be courageous if I was ever going to run my own business, complete my PhD, write my first book, start this podcast, have the career that I wanted, be the role model to my children, my students and others in my community.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 05:32

So how do you step up your courage? In this episode, we are going to unpack courage and go through five steps that will help you start cultivating the courage you need to live a full and meaningful life alongside your fear. I am going to share some ways to help you embrace the virtue of courage and how to implement it into your life.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 06:03

Number 1 — You must acknowledge your fears. This makes total sense, how can you overcome your fears, if you don’t know what they are? So you must acknowledge you have these fears before you can have the courage to face them. And acknowledging fear is scary and it can be really difficult to identify the fears that are holding us back, and admit to ourselves that they are affecting our lives. But it’s only when we do that, that we can start to conquer those fears.

Many of us think that when we have courage we don’t have fear, and vice versa. We believe that the two do not, and cannot, coexist, but in reality, courage doesn’t mean ignoring or eliminating fear. Courage means choosing to acknowledge fear and allowing the two to live side by side.

This may sound a little woo woo, so what does this really mean? Ok let’s say you’re afraid of flying, and you are invited to go on an amazing fun weekend away interstate with your family. You don’t want to miss out on the trip, so you go. Does finding the courage to fly so you can go on this amazing trip mean that you’re no longer fearful of flying? No it doesn’t. You are still scared, but you do it anyway. Any time we take action in spite of a fear, we’re showing courage and the two are coexisting inside you in that instance.

We’re choosing, whether it’s subconsciously or not, to acknowledge the fear, but we don’t give in to it or let it control us. There are some fears we do outgrow or learn to overcome, while others stay with us for a lifetime. I am really embarrassed to say that I am so scared of spiders and here in Australia we have the huntsman spider which can be the size of a dinner plate in some areas. My worst nightmare would be having one crawl along the windscreen in my car, while I’m driving along the highway at high speed. Just because I fear this, doesn’t mean to say that I avoid the highway, it means that I acknowledge my fear and I have courage that puts me in the driver’s seat. I think you get the idea.

It’s even harder to acknowledge fear when it’s on a deep emotional level. Many people have a fear of loneliness or abandonment, but because they are not in a place where they are willing or ready to face this fear, they don’t acknowledge it. They deny its very existence so they don’t seek help. The problem is, just because you deny something, it doesn’t mean that it magically disappears and worse still, by not acknowledging the existence of your fears, they can become your reality.

Here’s how it works, let’s say you fear loneliness and abandonment. If you refuse to admit you are afraid of those things, you won’t be able to work through them in a healthy way. So how you may respond is by becoming really possessive and clinging to the people that you care about because you’re afraid of losing them. Taken to the extreme, this could lead to you becoming controlling or manipulative, maybe even to the point where it’s all too much and those people don’t want to be around you anymore. And what ends up happening? You end up alone, feeling lonely and abandoned and you only have yourself to blame.

Don’t allow your fear to become a constant, lifelong companion. You need to shift your mindset and instead of assuming that fear is a weakness or a bad thing, look at it as an opportunity to learn more about who you are and why you might be afraid about stepping out of your comfort zone. You might find that if you take the time to acknowledge your fear and understand why it’s there, that you will find ways to overcome it or dare I say, be courageous in spite of it.

Voicing your fears doesn’t make you weak. Instead, it makes you courageous. Research shows that putting your feelings into words, helps curb your negative responses to fear. SO, rather than minimising your fear or denying that it exists, recognise what it is that is holding you back. By acknowledging your fear—either by writing it down or by sharing it with a supportive person—you are empowering yourself to be courageous in spite of feeling fearful. Only by displaying that courage to acknowledge our fears, that we can start to create a happier, more creative, more fulfilled lives.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:40

Number 2. Own your fears. You need to own your fears, so once you’ve acknowledged them, you can own them! Owning up to that fear takes courage and does open the door to scary possibilities. It’s ok! Everyone is afraid of something and when you face your fears, you’re admitting that there is something inside of you that’s holding you back—and let’s face it, that’s a hard thing to admit.

In my case, launching this podcast, put me right inside my own fear zone. This was a huge deal for me because I’d never done anything like this before and the fear of failure was real. I didn’t know what I was doing when I first started and I feared anything and everything that could go wrong. Besides that, I had to own up to the fear of what others would think about the podcast. This was massive for me as I am an extremely proud and private person. But I just owned my fears and allowed myself to be totally vulnerable and here we are all these episodes later.

In that moment in time, I had a choice either to allow my fears to stop me from doing something that is so important to me both personally and professionally or live with regret. By owning up to those fears allowed me to work through them and step up my courage. Thank goodness because this is the first creative project I have seriously delved into since giving up my performance career. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do something that allows me to use my voice to serve others. It has become my passion and my purpose and I cannot tell you the joy and sense of fulfilment it brings me!

I learned throughout this process that owning your fear is a choice and when you do, you are more in control of your life and your destiny. Too many times, people assume that you are either born courageous or you’re not. And while it’s true that some people could be more predisposed to displaying courage, that doesn’t mean that you are a lost cause. So let’s think of courage as a muscle. While some people might be born with more defined muscles than others, everyone has the ability to improve their courage muscles with the right training and practice. The more you learn to own up to your fears, the more your courage muscles develop.

Owning it doesn’t mean that you beat yourself up over it. It’s important to maintain a healthy perspective. Fear does makes us feel scared and when this happens, please be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that it is human nature to feel fear. Don’t judge your fears as it’s important to recognise that fear is not a bad thing. There are times when fear is healthy. Fear triggers your nervous system and your survival instincts that are designed to keep you safe. For this reason, you might feel fearful when approached by a stranger in a dark alley or you might feel fearful during a terrible storm. Fear is sending us a warning sign and protecting us.

Likewise, when fear makes a decision for you, just own it, because this too is normal. Fear doesn’t mean you are a failure. Own those fears and seize them as an opportunity to learn and become better at what you do. Allow your fears to refine you, rather than define you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:28

In my lifetime, I’ve had to learn this lesson over and over. When I was in my mid-twenties, I suffered unimaginable loss in my life. My first husband committed suicide, I lost my father who was the only man who loved me unconditionally 15 months later and as a result of the shock and the loss I endured my body shut down. It was all too much so I decided to run away from my hometown with my daughter, who was seven years old at the time. The only way I thought I could heal was to leave that life behind me. I didn’t know anyone where I moved to. I had no support network. No income. I was scared, but I had to own those fears and be kind to myself and tell myself that I am not some kind of super hero, but I was human and anyone would have been scared in that situation. I was starting my life over again as a single mother in a town where I didn’t know anybody. I owned my fears and went into survival mode. I didn’t know how else to build the courage to survive my new life. Those fears did not define me, those fears defined the new version of myself in the next chapter of my life and here I am. I am no longer broken and some of those emotional scars help me to find the courage I need to deal with fears that I experience. I draw strength from those experiences. There are times, I can still feel discouraged; but these experiences of overcoming adversity and facing my fear are what keep me motivated and I will never ever give up.

In life, sometimes we make it; and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the day-to-day hustle of life that we don’t even recognise how our fears are controlling us. Give yourself time to slow down, step back, and acknowledge the role that fear plays into your life and own it. I understand how difficult it is to own your fear, but it’s time to stop making excuses. If that’s you, and you are full of excuses, it’s time for an honesty check. What is the fear underneath the excuse? What is the fear that is holding you back? What fear do you have to own?

There are many mindfulness practices such as meditation you can use to train yourself to recognise your fear thought, own it, release it, and refocus your attention on what matters most to you. Stop making excuses and own YOUR fear. Use it as a warning signal or a wake up call that invites you to choose courage over fear.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 18:28

Number 3. Stop living your life to the standard of others. Everyone has an opinion, omg! Don’t they what? And at times people may have your best interest at heart, and sometimes they don’t. Even those who do have your best interest at heart, may not truly understand what makes you happy and fulfilled in your life, so you have to have the courage to not listen to others and stop trying to live to their expectations.

I am here to tell you that the opinions of other people don’t matter unless it is coming from someone you love or highly respect, or someone who is your mentor or someone who is very successful and is achieving the very thing that you are aspiring to do in your future. Why would you listen to those who live in the cheap seats who are throwing cheap shots at you? Listen, if they’re doing it to you, they’re doing it to others. Yes this is a little harsh, but sometimes those people you find the most intimidating are usually full of huff and puff. It’s usually a smoke screen for their own insecurities. They like to bring others down to build themselves up. They’ve probably never done what you’re doing themselves and they are the ones making the most noise about it. If that’s the case, they have no right to do that. They are school yard bullies living in the cheap seats. It is most likely they have never had the courage themselves to venture out in the true arena of life and until they do, they have not earned the right to pass judgement. Don’t allow others to make you fearful of expressing your true self to the world.

Some people may be jealous of you and they themselves are afraid of your success and are more than happy to offer you the wrong advice. Don’t pay attention to these types of people and don’t even worry about proving them wrong because that’s creating negative energy. It’s not helping you step up your courage. So don’t spend all your time trying to make everyone happy because it’s simply not possible.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 20:47

I have to tell you a story my mum used to tell me when I was little about a boy, his dad and their donkey. They were travelling through their town and both the boy and his dad were riding the donkey and there was a public outcry as everyone said how cruel it to the donkey for them both to be riding it at the same time, so the father hops off so the son rides the donkey on his own. Then Everyone in the town gets really angry with the boy, saying he should be ashamed of himself, that he is young enough to walk and should let his poor father ride the donkey. So the boy gets off and lets his father ride the donkey and he walks beside his father on top of the donkey and now everyone is angry with the father for making his poor boy walk. So they both get off and walk beside the donkey. The lesson here is that no matter what you do, someone is always going to have an issue with you or what you’re doing or how you do it. It’s a reminder that it’s simply not possible to please everyone

and the sooner you realise that, the sooner you will have the courage to do what you believe is right and fair. It’s time to focus on what you want.

As a child and woman growing up in the Italian community, I came to the realisation that I couldn’t live my life to the standards of that Italian culture. I realised that to be my true self and to live my most authentic life, I needed like-minded people around me who honoured the same values. Creating those communities gives us the support to face challenges and to face fear. It is so much easier to be courageous when we have support. To apply this in our lives, we must examine our relationships and distinguish between those that are toxic, from those where people share similar, courageous values such as kindness, vulnerability, optimism, and empathy. It’s time to start inviting those like-minded people into your life. This could be a compassionate family member, a friend, a coach or a therapist who provides the support and perspective you need to persevere during difficult times.

Sometimes, just having someone listen to you helps immeasurably, so make an effort to spend time with these people. A relationship with a positive, caring person is one of the best ways to reduce fear and build courage. Stick with those who build you up, not tear you down.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 23:54

Number 4. Ask for support. Now is the time to learn to ask. If you’ve ever been afraid to ask for help because of fear that you may seem weak, you aren’t the only one. It’s a sad irony that it’s during the times we most need help that we don’t have the courage to ask.

Usually when we are in serious need of help, we are living a fear-based life. We often have little or no confidence in ourselves and we are afraid of how others will perceive us. Most of us will not have the courage to open up, and feel even more vulnerable to ask for help when its needed. We all need to learn that It’s okay to need help and ask for it. Even good leaders know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of courage. In fact, when leaders can’t admit they need help, that lack of humility actually becomes an obstacle, that hinders progress and success outcomes.

Many of us were raised in migrant households where this struggle was real. We had immigrant parents who arrived with nothing and survived by being self-reliant. That sense of being too proud to ask for help is practically embedded in our DNA. Sometimes, we are ashamed to seek help, especially if our own actions have led to the situation we are in. This often happens when we need financial help, we’ve made a mistake that caused chaos, or have made a decision that has led to serious consequences. We’re afraid of hearing those crushing words, “You made your bed, now lie in it,” or “I told you so,” or “Serves you right.” We’d rather not speak up than be smothered by shame, guilt and the ridicule from others. The possibility of seeming needy, or even of being rejected, and to reach out to ask for help when we need it takes a lot of courage. But let’s look at it this way, by asking others for help when times are tough, gives others the opportunity to ask for help themselves if they ever need it. Those that you seek help from may need it themselves one day. So everyone is better off when we have the courage to ask for help. So whether you need someone to lend you a hand, or you just need to borrow an ear, consider this: by having the courage to ask for help you’re not putting them out, you’re pulling them up.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:37

The important thing here is that none of us has to do it alone. Once you find your tribe and those people you connect with life is richer for it. Cultivate your network and your relationships. Surround yourself with role models of quietly courageous people. Work at building those relationships. Invest time and energy into others, and they will do the same for you. Your friends can help you stay focused on growth and being your best self.

So you don’t need to feel that you are going through stuff on your own all the time. There will be times in your life when you will need to confide in someone you trust, or to seek a therapist or talk to a doctor. Give yourself permission to ask for help.

Knowing and living by your core values gives you the confidence to step up courage in your life – Living true to your values is really about living true to yourself. Learn to express yourself with real words, explicitly and consistently with people – ask for what you really need and become more consistent with this.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:44

Number 5. Many of us have a “negativity bias” that causes us to pay more attention to the negative than the positives. When is comes to fear, it’s easy to feel shame because after all, we’ve been socially trained to think it’s embarrassing. If you want to step up your courage you need to have a change of perspective from a negative to a positive mindset.

When you are struggling with fear and want to incorporate more courage in your life, it’s natural to focus on your weaknesses. But, by doing this, you will feel less courageous. So it’s really important to think about what you’re good at as a way of building your confidence and your courage. You need to start with the positives and that is begin by identifying your strengths. Research shows that people who recognise and develop their strengths not only feel happier and less depressed but are also far more resilient. How many of us actually focus on our Strengths? We have been trained to work on our weaknesses, but my whole philosophy in life, and I carry this into the teaching studio is to focus on building on strengths. I don’t believe in weaknesses, I think of them as imperfections and It’s ok to have imperfections and besides, no one is ever going to be perfect at everything.

By knowing what you’re good at actually helps to boost your confidence, which makes it more likely you will take risks and be courageous. And once you embrace courage, it leads you to believe in your abilities even more and this amazing cycle begin. Moving through life with Courage, allows you to see the world from a different perspective. It gives you the power to chase after things that are important to you. You’re more likely to pursue your dreams and seize opportunities as they present themselves. By choosing to focus on your strengths, you are choosing courage. You are choosing success because you dare to step out of your comfort zone to chase after the things that matter to you. Embracing courage broadens the experiences you have in your life and most importantly, making courage a part of your life equips you with the ability to empower others to do the same. Our lives are richer – not poorer – when we share our gifts with others.

It’s time now to start celebrating the positives in your life and become your own cheerleader. Recognise the effort it took to overcome your fear and celebrate those wins. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops or blast it on social media, just make a mental note of what you accomplished and how good that made you feel. You may even want to keep a journal of these little wins so you can reflect on them at times when you’re feeling discouraged or that you lacking courage. You will never want to look back.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:25

When you let fear keep you from doing something fun, going after something you want, or expressing who you are at your core, it can result in a life that is not truly lived. And if you want to change that aspect of your life, it’s going to take being intentional about your life.

Think of courage as a muscle and keep building your courage muscles. You build muscle by doing the same action repetitively. So when it comes to courage it’s all about you pushing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone consistently. You only have one chance at this life, so it is worth it. You are worth it. Without question, the life you want to live is worth the effort. It is possible, but it won’t be easy initially to achieve, but I am willing to fight for it.

With each action of courage – standing up for what you value, speaking out for those who don’t have a voice, taking action when too many people are afraid to step in and help, you are not only creating a better life for yourself and those you love, but others you may not even know about in your community.

As you begin to live more courageously in your life, know that your actions speak volumes. Now is the time more than ever to unlock that genie of courage.